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Microsoft launches the Customer Care Accelerator for Dynamics CRM

April 26th, 2010 Sandeep Walia No comments

Ignify is a specialist in implementing Microsoft Dynamics CRM for contact centers and I am excited to see that Microsoft is releasing the customer care accelerator for Dynamics CRM in 2 weeks. The Customer Care Accelerator (CCA) rolls in the Customer care framework which allows you to integrate various applications into one single unified framework and view. The CCA using the Application Integration Framework (AIF) to enable these integrations. A new section in the Settings called called UII settings has features adding the applications. Both  Hosted Applications and Non-Hosted applications can be added as well as workflows that can go cross-enterprise across these applications. Bing would be an example of a web hosted application that may be integrated while a customer portal may be an external hosted applications integrated in. A desktop pricing application may be a good example of non hosted application that is integrated in.

In addition, the CRM Customer care accelerator  contains new functionality that will:

- Track agent activities within each customer session with agent auditing to track efficiency and adherence to best practices

- Provide visibility into agent activities using out of the box and custom reports

- Measure performance, identity bottlenecks and find ways to streamline service processes

The application can create composite views of the applications or have the different applications be in different tabs of the screen. The accelerator was demoed today at Microsoft Convergence by Reuben Krippner in the Dynamics CRM product group where Bing Maps, Search across different enterprise applications and a Core banking application were integrated into Dynamics CRM. .  The accelerator includes sample codes, documentation on how to unify the different applications in your organization and is available free to all Dynamics CRM customers.

CCA provides out of the box CTI integration with the major soft and hard phone providers – many of which already have their native integration offerings to Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Also includes is integration to Bing Maps and the Office Communications server so agents can leverage an Expert on Call by opening a chat window and bring in the contextual information from the customer session into the assisted chat. The Dynamics CRM customer care accelerator also provides session management where an agent can 'park' a customer session and then come back to it.

Microsoft will be providing training videos for installation and configuration of the product.

Sandeep Walia is the President & CEO of Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of ERP, CRM, and eCommerce software solutions to businesses and public sector organizations. Ignify is a Microsoft Dynamics Inner Circle Partner  and ranked in the top 18 Microsoft Dynamics partners. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for 3 years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine.

Ignify eCommerce Support – Our customer service improvement story

April 24th, 2010 Pankaj Kumar No comments

 In last four months, we have been hard at work restructuring support services for our flagship software solution – Ignify eCommerce. We have been looking deep internally after our public announcement to become the best customer service of all technology companies. This post shares my experiences working with our support customers, our customer support team, as well as my own support requests where I am a receiver of support and not a provider. Feedback and comments are most welcome as we continue to strive towards “wowing” the customer.

There were two fundamentals for our customer support strategy that we agreed upon at the very outset 4 months back:

  1. End User (not necessarily same as customer) is the king. If end user isn’t satisfied, customer support has failed.
  2. We would treat every customer as a SAAS customer even if the customer has purchased an on premise license and is operating Ignify eCommerce in their own facility. After all the customer and end users are interested in the service that the software provides and not the software itself.

We also established three simple metrics around customer satisfaction. These included – First Call Resolution, Turn Around Time (Measured as average time taken to close an issue) and Total Open Issues at any point of time for a Customer.

Putting end user at the center of affairs cleared confusion around scope of the work. In quiet a few cases Ignify eCommerce is customized to meet specific customer’s business needs. Customer support earlier had questions whether these customizations have to be supported as a part of Ignify eCommerce Enhancement Plan. Since Enhancement Plan is charged as a % of license cost, it was an obvious question. The answer we arrived at was – “yes, we would support all customizations since the end user really doesn’t understand this difference between standard and customized. He cares about his day to day opeations”. This led to a challenge around retaining knowledge around these customizations. There is usually only one support analyst who is familiar with such customizations, in case this analyst becomes unavailable then knowledge retention as well as end user experience is impacted. We solved this problem by putting a minimum of two support analysts who would know each customization. It did over the short term increase the cost of support but led us closer to our goals of wowing the customer.

Treating all on premise licensed customers as SAAS customer threw a serious challenge of managing environments. Maintaining any software usually requires maintaining multiple environments – a DEVELOPMENT environment where troubleshooting and fixing can be done, a TEST environment where quality assurance team can provide sign offs, a UAT environment where end users can sign off and finally a PRODUCTION environment. While some of our customers were maintaining these environments, most of them didn’t have all four environments in place.

To avoid burdening our customers with environment creation (Note that in a SAAS solution, that burden doesn’t exist), we took an initiative to create DEVELOPMENT and TEST environment for all of our support customers. For DEVELOPMENT, we leveraged Front Page Extensions to create a single environment for multiple support customers and support analysts to troubleshoot / debug on. Each eCommerce Solution was extended using Front Page Extensions, these extensions enabled remote publishing and debugging of multiple eCommece solutions. For TEST – a new virtualized environment using Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper V on Dell PowerEdge R 905 with Dell MD3000i was created for several hundred eCommerce Solutions. An automated build and deploy process was configured to build these web solutions every night so QA can provide sign off without any dependency from developers.

This solved our DEVELOPMENT and TEST environment problem but we still had to push any software releases on UAT and PROD environment manually. This was done via a semi-automated custom built tool that took care of these deployments.

While working on customer satisfaction metrics, I came across a January 2008 article published by Wired Magazine. This was similar to various other customer feedbacks that we found on user experience with support services. Wired magazine spoke about support being a problem since support analyst is not “emotionally invested” in customer's business. It also spoke about an average customer service rep being uncreative, having low incentive, and demonstrating limited empathy. We took some specific action items to ensure that we do not fall in the same trap:

  1. We decided that 50% of our support plan revenues would be invested in customer support salaries.  This allowed us to design attractive incentive plans and compensation structure for our support analysts.
  2. We took our entire support team through a battery of presentations to explain how they play a role in our customer’s day to day operations. “The emotional investment” came from the pride taken by increasing store revenues. A reward system based on such a revenue trend helped improve the emotional investment.

The results have been extremely encouraging; we have managed to improve our First Call Resolution by 50%, Turn Around Time (Measured as average time taken to close an issue) by 70%. And average Open Issues have gone down to 0.5 from 5 – almost a 90% decrease.

Are we done with this journey? Not quite – customer support is a fulcrum that can swing end user experience either ways. While we see a much larger debate going on support contracts and their value, we continue to quietly move towards our goal of becoming the best customer service technology company around. How close are we towards that goal? – only our customers can tell :).

Pankaj Kumar is the CTO of Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of ERP, CRM, and eCommerce software solutions to businesses and public sector organizations. Ignify eCommerce is the only PCI certified eCommerce solution in the market that integrates with the Microsoft Dynamics ERP and Sage ERP solutions.  Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for 3 years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine.

Categories: CTO, eCommerce Tags:

Landed Cost in Microsoft Dynamics GP

April 21st, 2010 Raja.SLN No comments

What is meant by Landed Cost?? In general any cost incurred in addition to value paid to vendor to procure the item is a landed cost. Examples are shipping and handling, customs and excise.

The What of Landed Cost

Landed cost is not that big an issue while dealing with vendors who charge a consolidated value to leave the goods at your door. Life would be too easy if it were that simple, wouldn’t it? We ask vendors to charge our account with carrier while shipping because we have better negotiated rates with the freight carrier. Vendor does not have control over import duties such as customs, excise. So we need to find handling agencies that take care of paper work and get the goods out of the yard. Or we pay to government and handle it ourselves.

The Why of Landed Cost

Guess what, all these are additional costs paid on top of the bill paid to vendor for the item. We need to add all these up to get the true cost of inventory. So you get to know the real margin. Some businesses simply expense out the cost because they don’t have the facility in their system and it is too much overhead for them to track it manually. Well, Dynamics GP customers can use the  Landed Cost module to track landed cost at ease.

Dynamics GP provides true ability to handle third party landed costs

So if your Vendor charged your UPS account for the freight, log an approximate value of freight in landed cost are of the purchase receipt. When you receive the freight bill from UPS

  • Match the UPS invoice to the landed cost recorded on shipment from Vendor. The variance between the approximate value and this actual value can be applied to inventory or recorded to a Purchase Price Variance account.
  • So GP provides ability to record the third party vendor landed cost invoice, match it landed cost, updated variance to inventory or to a variance account.

Oh, what did you say, the UPS invoice has several lines each pointing to shipments for multiple items or multiple shipments for the same item. Don’t worry, Dynamics GP provides ability to record a third party vendor invoice and match each line to different shipments.

Other real time applications of landed cost are adding the freight cost when moving items between warehouses.

Have you ever had to move goods from one warehouse to another? What happened to the cost incurred in moving stuff from one warehouse to other? Use the landed cost feature the ‘In Transit Transfer’ window. This is a very useful feature, especially when you want to obtain the true cost for an item in the warehouse.

Nice to haves:

It would be nice to get a feature similar to landed cost in SOP module. So we can record an approximate freight charge. When we get a real invoice from a carrier, we can either charge the excess or return the balance by way of a credit memo or debit memo.

This post is written by Raja S L N. Raja is a Manager in the Microsoft Dynamics GP Practice at Ignify. Ignify is a Global Microsoft Dynamics Inner Circle Partner specializing in Microsoft Dynamics ERP for RetailDistribution, Manufacturing and Chemicals verticals. For help on Microsoft Dynamics ERP email us at dynamics@ignify.com

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Named a Leader in Customer Service Contact Centers 2010 Magic Quadrant

April 19th, 2010 Sandeep Walia No comments

Evaluation based on completeness of vision and ability to execute.

Microsoft Corp. announced that Microsoft Dynamics CRM has been positioned in the Leaders quadrant of the 2010 Magic Quadrant for CRM Customer Service Contact Centers. In this research report, Gartner Inc. looks primarily at the first layer: CRM business applications for customer service interactions. I can attest to the superiority of Microsoft Dynamics CRM for customer service and contact centers. We recently took a customer who started with a 25 user pilot of Microsoft Dynamics CRM to a full rollout across 5,000 customer services users. In addition, a self-service portal was launched that was enabled on the Microsoft Dynamics CRM infrastructure. The impact of it was astounding – the handling cost of an incident dropped from $9 per incident to 8 cents per incident. Read more about the features available in Microsoft CRM for Contact Centers here.

Microsoft today is also introducing the Customer Care Accelerator for Microsoft Dynamics CRM. The new accelerator helps customer care and contact center organizations provide a consistent customer service experience by combining data elements from disparate applications such as mainframes, databases or Web sites for display in a single user interface. The quick ease of access to information helps agents provide efficient service, which in turn helps improve overall customer satisfaction; and, as a corollary benefit can help to preserve or increase profit margins. The core business scenarios supported by the Customer Care Accelerator include the following:

  • Integrated desktop enables the aggregation of information from diverse business applications into an integrated agent desktop, providing users with a 360-degree view of customer interactions. Customer service representatives have fast access to business-critical information to serve customers quickly and efficiently, which helps increase satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Desktop automation workflows minimize human error and streamline business processes, eliminating the need for contact center agents to re-enter the same data in multiple applications and helping to ensure a consistent customer service experience.
  • Computer telephony integration (CTI) is simplified for supplying caller screen pop-up information to agents. CTI makes it possible for the telephony system to connect to the CRM business application and give agents detailed customer information to help them better serve their customer.
  • Activity reporting gives contact center managers the ability to quickly access agent desktop transaction reporting, identify process bottlenecks, streamline processes and automate routine tasks to improve overall call center efficiencies.

As with all CRM Accelerators, the Customer Care Accelerator is available at no additional cost to current Microsoft Dynamics CRM customers and partners. Accelerators can be deployed as packaged extensions to Microsoft Dynamics CRM or, in the case of the Customer Care Accelerator, can be used to help develop new solutions, enabling organizations to customize Microsoft Dynamics CRM to meet their specific business needs.

"Leaders demonstrate market-defining vision and the ability to execute against that vision through products, services, demonstrable sales figures, and solid new references for multiple geographies and vertical industries. Clients report that the vendors deliver a high level of value and return on their commitment. The development team has a clear vision of the implications of business rules, and the impact of social networking on customer service requirements," writes Michael Maoz, vice president and distinguished analyst, Gartner Inc. "A characteristic of a leader is that clients look to the vendor for clues as to how to innovate in customer service. The vendor does not necessarily drive a customer toward vendor lock-in, but rather provides openness to an ecosystem. When asked, their clients reply that this product has affected the organization's competitive position in their markets and helped lower costs. Leaders can demonstrate $50 million in sales to new customers during the past year."(1)

"Delivering a great customer experience is vital to building loyalty and business success," said Brad Wilson, general manager of Microsoft Dynamics CRM at Microsoft. "Microsoft Dynamics CRM delivers a powerful, yet affordable customer service solution to help businesses get a deep understanding of their customers, deliver high satisfaction and use outstanding service to generate new sales opportunities."

The Customer Care Accelerator will be available for download on April 30, 2010, at http://crmaccelerators.codeplex.com. More information about Microsoft Dynamics CRM is available here.

About the Gartner Magic Quadrant
The Magic Quadrant is copyrighted 2010 by Gartner, Inc. and is reused with permission. The Magic Quadrant is a graphical representation of a marketplace at and for a specific time period. It depicts Gartner's analysis of how certain vendors measure against criteria for that marketplace, as defined by Gartner. Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in the Magic Quadrant, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors placed in the "Leaders" quadrant. The Magic Quadrant is intended solely as a research tool, and is not meant to be a specific guide to action. Gartner disclaims all warranties, express or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

About Microsoft Dynamics
Microsoft Dynamics is a line of easy-to-use, integrated and adaptable ERP and CRM applications that enable business decision-makers to quickly respond to market shifts, take advantage of new trends, increase their competitive edge and drive business success. Microsoft Dynamics solutions are delivered through a world-class network of reselling partners providing specialized services and additional innovation to help customers excel in their industries.

About Microsoft
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

(1) Gartner Inc., Magic Quadrant for CRM Customer Service Contact Centers, Michael Maoz, April 9, 2010.

Sandeep Walia is the President & CEO of Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of ERP, CRM, and eCommerce software solutions to businesses and public sector organizations. Ignify is a Microsoft Dynamics Inner Circle Partner  and ranked in the top 18 Microsoft Dynamics partners. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for 3 years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine.

How to create Cash Sales in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009

April 15th, 2010 Craig Griffith No comments

Very often customers need to record a cash sale where you don’t want the customer balance to increase when you post the sale as you are recording both the sale and the payment at the same time. Microsoft Dynamics AX ERP has a very elegant but not-so-well-known solution for this. When you post a sales invoice, Dynamics AX can automatically also post the payment and settle it against the invoice. Therefore, two transactions the invoice and the payment are posted when you post the invoice. Below are the detailed steps to do this in Dynamics AX.

“Cash” sales may be created in both Free Text and Sales Order. This method bypasses the second step of creating a payment journal and settling it against the original invoice. With a cash sale, AX automatically creates the payment journal and settles it against the invoice.

Here are the steps to setup and use cash sales in AX:

  1. Setup a method of payment as “Cash”

    Method of payment form

    Figure 1 Method of payment form

    • Set the Posting Account Type as Bank and select the bank account

      Assign a Payment Journal ID to the Method of payment

      Figure 2 Assign a Payment Journal ID to the Method of payment

    • Select the Payment journal name on the File formats tab.
  2. Create a Free Text Invoice

    Figure 3 Free Text Invoice

    Set the Method of payment to 'Cash' on the Free Text invoice

    Figure 4 Set the Method of payment to ‘Cash’ on the Free Text invoice

    • Set the Method of Payment as Cash on the payment tab

      Enter the Free text line details

      Figure 5 Enter the Free text line details

    • Add the line detail information and post the invoice
  3. Invoice and Payment are generated together during posting

    Posting creates the payment journal

    Figure 6 Posting creates the payment journal

  4. View the Customer transactions to view the settled invoice and payment

    Customer transactions showing invoice and payment journal as settled

    Figure 7 Customer transactions showing invoice and payment journal as settled

This also works for Sales orders

  1. Create a sales order

    Sales order form

    Figure 8 Sales order form

  2. Set the Method of payment as cash on the Prices discount tab

    Method of payment as cash on the Prices discount tab

  3. Set the item and post the invoice

    Adding Method of payment to the Sales order

    Figure 9 Adding Method of payment to the Sales order

    Invoice Posting message

    Figure 10 Invoice Posting message

  4. View the customer transactions

    Customer transactions showing invoice and payment journal as<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> settled

    Figure 11 Customer transactions showing invoice and payment journal as settled

This post is written by Craig Griffith. Craig is a Senior Manager in the Microsoft Dynamics AX Practice at Ignify . Ignify is a Global Microsoft Dynamics Inner Circle Partner specializing in Dynamics AX for Retail, Distribution, Manufacturing and Chemicals verticals. For help on Microsoft Dynamics ERP email us at dynamics@ignify.com