CRM stands for customer relationship management – an acronym that is no doubt new to you! The purpose of CRM solutions is to improve how you interact with your customers and do business. CRM software serves to help company’s like yours manage, maintain and grow customer relationships, and deliver data that result in critical business insights that drive decisions.
If you’re a growing SMB, you’ll need the support of a multi-faceted CRM solution to give you a competitive edge. The right CRM solution helps you to optimize your operating processes and make the most out of your sales leads and customer relationships. This article is going to dig into Microsoft’s CRM offering, its history and how it evolved to the solution we know and wholeheartedly recommend to SMBs today – Microsoft Dynamics 365.
What is Microsoft Dynamics 365?
Dynamics 365 is Microsoft’s wildly popular product line of cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) business applications. There are a number of applications for ERP and CRM that are tailored either to the SMB or enterprise market.
In this article, we’re going to look specifically at Microsoft applications (referred to simply as “apps”) that offer customer relationship management capabilities to the SMB market: Dynamics 365 Sales, Dynamics 365 Customer Service and Dynamics 365 Marketing.
Before we dive deep into the benefits of these core applications let us take you on a little journey to provide context to the evolution of Microsoft’s CRM offering for SMBs.
What Happened to "Microsoft CRM"?
A Brief History
The first version of Microsoft CRM dates back to 2003 when it was purely a customer relationship application for sales automation and service case management. Microsoft promoted the Outlook integration as a key differentiator to drive attention to the new CRM solution (no surprise considering the popularity of Microsoft office!).
Back in the day, Microsoft CRM had two main flavors – CRM Professional and Essentials. Effectively, professionals included sales, service and marketing but it didn’t provide as much power as you get dipping into the Dynamics 365 Customer Service app available today. At this time the marketing module came with a huge caveat – functionality was basic and not really a true marketing tool but rather a marketing campaign tracker.
By the very end of 2005, Microsoft changed the name to Microsoft Dynamics CRM and by 2011 it turned from an on-premises solution into an online one. It was pretty much the same idea, Microsoft just moved the CRM online and evolved some of the licensing so that different aspects of a CRM implementation could be licensed, such as sales capabilities.
Time for a Rebrand
In 2016, Microsoft deprecated Dynamics CRM and replaced it with Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement. It was the new version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, a fully rebranded product designed for the cloud to work seamlessly with Microsoft products for the SMB market such as the ERP solution Dynamics 365 Business Central. With the rise of Customer Engagement came the concept of an “App”. It gave customers the flexibility to simply license Dynamics 365 based on their business requirements. I.e., You could get Dynamics 365 Customer Service if you didn’t need entities that are related to the sales process. Or you could license Dynamics 365 Sales if you didn’t need to manage cases. That’s still the case today.
Shortly after this rebrand, Microsoft rolled out the Unified Interface, a new user experience and interface for Dynamics 365 that uses a responsive web design to harmonize the way users access data and interact across all device types. This was the time where Microsoft effectively “app-ified” CRM, making sales, service and marketing available as individual apps underpinned by the same common data service (now referred to as “Dataverse“) that allows customers to manage data across applications.
Fast forward to 2019 and the Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement name was wiped off the table. The term “Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement” is now referred to this day, as the collection of the following apps: Dynamics 365 Sales, Dynamics 365 Service, Dynamics 365 Marketing, Dynamics 365 Project Automation, and Dynamics 365 Field Service.
Let’s take a look at the three main native areas of functionality:
Dynamics 365 Sales
This app allows your sales reps to view and track their opportunity pipeline along with other pertinent details of what’s going on in your sales organization. Business process flows are set up to record and track information on perspective leads all the way through to qualifying them into genuine opportunities. The customer journey is tracked the whole way through along with supporting interactions, empowering your team to stay on top of opportunities and successfully see them through to close.
Dynamics 365 Sales works seamlessly with Office 365 which means your team can easily generate sales documents using word templates or take data from Dynamics 365 Sales and expose it to create a sales quote from one click in the app. Integration with Outlook allows your team to track and manage all relevant activities and communications related to an opportunity so that the latest information is surfaced within your CRM. Features such as ‘relationship analytics” allows you to report on the quality of relationships and stay on top of interactions. “Who Knows Whom” is a nifty feature that shows if an employee within your organization has been in contact with someone that’s expressing an interest in your product or service. This empowers your sales team to get introductions from the right people internally and contact leads with the right information at the right time.
Dynamics 365 Customer Service
Dynamics 365 Customer Service is a full customer service solution designed to manage customer queries and cases. Its out-of-the-box dashboard provides agents and supervisors with a place to review their workload and take actions to resolve customer issues as quickly and professionally as possible. The app has case management capabilities that capture and process customer enquiries in a way that best aligns with your internal business processes. I.e., if a customer sends an email it creates a case in Dynamic 365 for your agents to manage.
Service level agreements allow you to monitor the performance of your key business drivers such as resolution times and response rates. The omni channel experience means that your customers can contact your agents from their preferred channels and the information they provide can be consumed in Dynamics 365 whether it comes in from an email, telephone, webchat, or social media channel. Self-service portals empower your customers to log cases independently and in some cases resolve issues without the support of an agent.
Dynamics 365 Marketing
What used to be basic features in previous versions has now become a full-blown marketing automation app. Dynamics 365 Marketing offers an abundance of functionality that helps turn prospects into business relationships. Your team can nurture leads by delivering personalized experiences, from managing marketing automation campaigns with simple drag and drop interfaces to personalized email marketing.
This new app has significant power to it – allowing your team to manage the customer journey out-of-the-box with branch logic. I.e., if you send a customer an email you can track whether they’ve opened it or not and send them down different routes depending on their actions. Full website integration means you can track lead activity, gather data, and segment your audience based on the information you hold on them and their online behaviors. Dynamics 365 Marketing empowers teams to become reflective and reactive based off customer journeys. It’s easy to use, works seamlessly with Dynamics 365 Sales and has built-in business intelligence that allows you to track and measure business critical results.
Under the "CRM Hood"
Dynamics 365 apps are separate, but they all come together to form CRM capabilities. What’s super interesting is that under the “CRM hood” there are even more flavors to Microsoft’s offering, including PowerApps. The benefit of Power Apps is that it empowers SMBs to rapidly develop custom apps to support unique business needs without having to leverage a full Dynamics 365 application if they don’t require all the capabilities that come with it.
The CRM capabilities in Dynamics 365 empowers SMBs to manage and track whatever business process you might have, no matter how unique! Dynamics 365 is built natively on the Microsoft Power Platform (application development platform) which means any desired customer process can be built for your business – from custom built mobile apps to customer facing web portals.
What Sets Dynamics 365 Apart from Other CRM Software?
Dynamics 365 is optimized for the Microsoft cloud suite of business solutions. This means it works seamlessly with Outlook, Office, Teams, the Power Platform and Dynamics 365 Business Central. Customers can use Power BI to enhance the dashboard capabilities of their Dynamics 365 solution. Or they can submit sales orders in Dynamics 365 Sales and then view and process them in Dynamics 365 Business Central. This is just two examples of how Dynamics 365 apps work with Microsoft’s broader solutions, but in reality the possibilities are endless.
What’s more, Dynamics 365 has flexible and affordable pricing for all user types, whether you require bundled or single licensed applications. If you only require sales management capabilities then you can buy a sales user license. If you perform double duties then you can buy apps bundled together such as Dynamics 365 Sales and Customer Service. Whatever your require, there’s a range of license pricing for all needs. This makes the total cost of ownership low in comparison to other systems on the market including Salesforce, SAP, and Oracle.
How Do I Purchase Dynamics 365?
It’s not easy to find pricing for Dynamics 365 beyond licensing costs. Nor is it clear how to purchase the solution and get it up and running for your business. Microsoft does not implement Dynamics 365 solutions directly for customers which means you must go through a Microsoft partner to help you navigate your options and get started. Microsoft has a number of partners – such as the team here at Catapult! – that supports the evaluation, buying, implementing, and optimization of Dynamics 365 applications.
Get a Subscription Quote
If you want to find out how much Dynamics 365 could cost for your business then check out our popular subscription builder. Simply start by inputting the capabilities your business needs, the number of users you anticipate require access to the solution, and your desired support services. Our subscription builder will then generate a quote for you to review – no strings attached.