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New Features in the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Spring 2014 Release

April 29th, 2014 Brianne Schaer No comments

Focusing on the customer, check. Continuing to enhance cloud computing software, check. Working with industry leaders to enhance social and mobile functionality, check. Microsoft Dynamics CRM is undergoing many changes that keep the software at the helm of CRM solutions while continuing to win top industry awards.

The spring wave of updates is a promising cluster on the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Roadmap (pictured below). Updates in marketing, sales, customer service, social, and platform will revolutionize business practices and create a new level of functionality for your CRM use. The Microsoft team kept the following three goals in mind when investing in updates for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013:

  • Smarter marketing—the ability to create engaging campaigns and review results.
  • Effective sales techniques—salespeople must focus on important items to close more deals, faster.
  • Universal customer service—businesses must provide responsive, relevant customer service everywhere.

Source: “What’s on the 2014 Roadmap for Microsoft Dynamics CRM?”

The functionality being released in the 2014 Microsoft Dynamics CRM Spring Wave focuses on helping customers market smarter, sell effectively, and provide customer service everywhere.

This summary of the Spring 2014 Microsoft Dynamics CRM Release Preview Guide highlights the key features and upcoming functionality of Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

Marketing

Changing consumer behavior has marketers working to build campaigns and programs that address fluctuating needs. Marketers must be able to engage customers, build pipeline, and demonstrate impact—all possible with Microsoft Dynamics CRM. The design and layout is very intuitive to any person who has worked with Microsoft programs, like Excel and Outlook, in the past. New features in campaign management, lead lifecycle management, email marketing, etc. make planning, executing, and analyzing campaigns a breeze. Microsoft Dynamics Marketing is also fully integrated with Microsoft Office 365—one sign-in can be used on all services.

Scalable email marketing and Power BI reports help marketers to personalize their outreach to potential and current clients, and then analyze the data in a visually pleasing and easy-to-understand way. Email marketing now features tracking results within Microsoft Dynamics, a scalable platform to send millions of emails to customers each day, and cross campaign rules that control how many emails each client receives. Power BI reports use Excel based reporting tools to measure the effectiveness of a campaign, including Campaign ROI reporting.

The ability to visually analyze marketing data enables companies to better evaluate marketing spend and results, leading to more effective and cost-efficient marketing strategies.

Sales

Microsoft Dynamics CRM on tablets help sales and customer service representatives access customer and prospect data any time, in any place.

CRM tablet app enhancements provide for some much needed developments in making Microsoft Dynamics widely available on any device. Notes, tasks, contacts, accounts, and lead data can be updated anytime, anyplace, with the swipe of your finger. Wireless connectivity is not even required to access data, as it is cached for offline viewing.

Insights, a feature available through a partnership with InsideView, helps sales and account management professionals engage with prospects by providing real-time company and contact information from a database of 30,000 sources. Company and contact profiles, breaking news, and social profiles can all be accessed through Microsoft Dynamics CRM, minimizing research time and maximizing engagement with leads and prospects.

Customer Service

It is absolutely necessary to put in a considerable amount of time and energy to provide the highest quality of customer service, considering that 86 percent of consumers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience. Microsoft Dynamics CRM alleviates some of the pressure of customer service management via new features designed to link customers to the appropriate departments and customer service representatives to ensure satisfaction and retention.

New case management features allow customer service reps to more effectively organize and oversee cases. For example, a customer service rep can easily coordinate the work on a case that requires multiple teams or affects multiple customers by opening a primary case (called the parent case) and then creating a secondary case (called the child case).

New features in enterprise case management include updated case forms that allow users to merge cases, jointly review parent/child cases, review entitlements, and add a Timer to manage Service Level Agreement’s. Entitlements can provide guidance to service representatives as to how much support to provide for particular customer requests. Of course, this is all fully functional on tablet devices as well, so you can monitor high priority Cases and Queues or route items on the go.

Parature

The Parature Portal enables companies to provide customers with 24/7 support, offering an in-depth, searchable Knowledgebase for customers to access, and the ability to submit a help ticket if they need further assistance.

Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Parature in January has launched Microsoft Dynamics CRM software well into the realm of cloud computing for customer self-service. Distinct features such as 24-7 support and mobile self-service ensure consumers are always able to access company information and customer service features. This makes closing hours virtually non-existent, as even real-time chat options allow customers to make contact at their convenience.

The Parature Portal integrates with your current company website to deliver answers to customer’s most common questions through its web-based help center. Additionally, the Parature Knowledgebase is easily customizable to organize information by importance and relevance during searches. This self-service solution provides answers to common questions and support issues, as well as downloads including forms, how-to videos, and more.

And if a customer still needs additional help after using the Knowledgebase, they can simply submit a help ticket that informs them of the progress made on their question or request, and then sends them an email once an answer is available.

Social

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is growing to match the rapidly evolving social media landscape—and it’s doing a pretty good job at keeping the pace. Since most customers are already 70 percent of the way through the sales cycle before they make any contact with a retailer or distributor, it is imperative for a business to monitor its social media presence.

Microsoft Social Listening tracks products, brands, competitors, and campaigns across various social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. This tool not only tracks your brand or product to learn its global footprint, it also compares your product with its competition. Alerts can also be set up for when posts receive more or less impressions than expected.

A Social Dashboard within Microsoft Dynamics CRM provides social media analytics and insights most relevant for the user’s role.

Social Insights is another tool that can be added to you CRM dashboards and forms. Social Insights include charts and graphs that represent trends and information regarding customers, campaigns, and competitors in the realm of social media.

Implementation

The new features in Microsoft Dynamics CRM are designed to allow users to pick and choose which ones are best suited for their individual needs. This can alleviate some concern around having to learn to use a whole set of new features that are mainly applicable to certain departments.

Ignify’s implementation team is skilled at determining which functionality is most practical for your business needs. Ignify’s trained team members can implement a software solution based on your sales, marketing, and customer service needs. Please email CRM@ignify.com for more information.

Brianne Schaer is an Assistant Copywriter at Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of CRM, eCommerce, ERP, and Point of Sale software solutions to organizations. Ignify has won the worldwide Microsoft Partner of the Year Award in 2013, 2012 and 2011. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing businesses in North America for seven years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine from 2007 to 2013.

Ignify Customer Spotlight: The Port of Long Beach

April 22nd, 2014 Brianne Schaer No comments

As one of the nation’s premier seaports, the Port of Long Beach provides roughly 316,000 jobs in Southern California and handles more than $155 billion worth of products, from clothes and shoes to lumber and steel, that pass through its harbor annually.

In addition to it being an economic powerhouse, the Port is a leader in providing environmental initiatives to minimize or eliminate negative environmental impacts.

With such a huge economic, logistic, and environmental footprint to track, the Port needed a reliable system to monitor its operations, such as tracking the high volume of vessels and cargo that pass through its waters to managing invoices and the billing system.

Ignify’s specialized implementation of Microsoft Dynamics AX improved operating efficiency by automating the invoicing and accounts receivable processes, increasing oversight of revenue recognition an analytical reporting systems, enhancing productivity, and providing complete visibility of Port processes.

“Ignify came up with an ingenious idea,” Douglas Albrecht, Director of Information Management of the Port of Long Beach said at Ignify’s CXO Breakfast Series. “We have built data interfaces with partners such as the Marine Exchange and the City of Long Beach; almost all data flows into the system electronically now, everybody works from the AX screens.”

The CXO Breakfast Series featured Albrecht as the keynote speaker. He shared how choosing Microsoft Dynamics AX has streamlined previously burdensome manual processes in order to make the Port’s operations run smoothly and efficiently. This has, in turn, strengthened overall port processes while improving customer satisfaction.

Albrecht said that the number one complaint he would receive from staff prior to implementing Microsoft Dynamics AX was the inability to access important information. The staff could work more efficiently if it didn’t have to dig through information.

The billing system was the first main target area.

“Replacing our billing system was one of the most significant things we had on our plate because that’s where our revenue comes from,” said Albrecht. “You don’t want to disrupt that information flow for a moment.”

With Microsoft Dynamics AX, the Port’s data is correct, accurate, and accessible at any time. The invoices became consolidated—instead of 30 or 40 invoices for one vessel call, there is one invoice for everything, from inbound to discounts to the dockage.

The Port’s successful implementation and usage of Microsoft Dynamics AX was recognized by Microsoft as they were a finalist for a 2014 Customer Excellence Award.

“What I want to share is we don’t do IT projects,” said Albrecht. “We do business projects; and the way we do this—the way we make this real—is we bring business managers in as project managers on our IT and business projects.”

Ignify’s port solution is based on the Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft Dynamics platforms, and provides the following functionality to port authorities, shippers, and marine terminal owners:  vessel information management and vessel scheduling, billing and invoicing, contract management, property management, and electronic data interchange.

For more information, please email ports@ignify.com.

Brianne Schaer is an Assistant Copywriter at Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of CRM, eCommerce, ERP, and Point of Sale software solutions to organizations. Ignify has won the worldwide Microsoft Partner of the Year Award in 2013, 2012 and 2011. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing businesses in North America for seven years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine from 2007 to 2013.

Microsoft Unveils Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3

April 15th, 2014 Brianne Schaer No comments

Create amazing customer experiences. Run agile operations. Expand business. These core values stitched together during the Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3 Launch Event.

The focus, as it should be, was very much on the customer throughout the hour-long online event, featuring breakout sessions from corporate business leaders and Microsoft professionals, as well as engaging demos.

If you missed the launch event, it’s not too late to watch the presentation. The entire recording is streaming on demand for your convenience. Simply register, or sign in, to view the video.

Informative video snippets demoed the new release in a very fresh manner. A few key features include upgraded demand forecasting features, custom app components, new mobile POS enhancement, and new transportation capabilities. Most feature are fully-functional on tablet and smartphone devices—no cumbersome laptops or desktops required.

Tablet usage and cloud-based software are greatly improved in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3

Source: www.microsoft.com

Tablet usage and cloud-based software are greatly improved in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3.

Key Event Highlights:

  • Listen to Gartner’s Principal Analyst Nigel Montgomery speak on how to adapt to today’s changing market conditions.
  • Learn how leaders of companies like Ashley Furniture, Kathmandu, and New Belgium Brewery use Microsoft Dynamics AX to improve customer experiences and expand business.
  • Discover how businesses are simplifying their supply chain, which strengthens their ability to give timely business insight to the board room and noticeably improve employee productivity.
  • Watch a sneak preview video of how to Run, Engage and Expand your business with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3.
  • Hear Special Guest Hal Howard share tips and tricks for R3 and better business practices.

What’s New with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3

In today’s business climate, engaging with the customer is always the number one priority. Microsoft Dynamics AX has proven to deliver quantifiable results without increasing your business costs. The new release is slated for release to the general public next month. The main touch points for customer satisfaction will be facilitated with the technology available in the new release: deliver amazing customer experiences, engage with customers on their terms, run agile operations to exceed customers’ needs, and expand the business to better serve customers.

New social channels integration and eCommerce features in R3 allow you to support loyalty programs and develop meaningful customer relationships. Facebook and Twitter can be leveraged out-of-the-box for campaigns. Other new integration capabilities translate to more choices for customers, which allows them to get the results they need. Additionally, R3 will help grow your customer base and expand business opportunities. All of these features can be leveraged with localizations for 36 countries.

Capabilities

  • Financial management
  • Human capital management
  • Manufacturing
  • Supply chain management
  • Project management and accounting
  • Retail
  • Business intelligence and reporting

Next Steps

Microsoft Dynamics AX delivers unmatched ability and capability to create a compelling and empowering user experience. This powerful and dynamic enterprise resource management (ERP) software is designed to scale with your business to create results. For more information on Microsoft Dynamics AX, please email dynamics@ignify.com.

Brianne Schaer is an Assistant Copywriter at Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of CRM, eCommerce, ERP, and Point of Sale software solutions to organizations. Ignify has won the worldwide Microsoft Partner of the Year Award in 2013, 2012 and 2011. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing businesses in North America for seven years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine from 2007 to 2013.

Personalization Isn’t Just for B2C: Enhancing the B2B eCommerce Customer Shopping Experience

April 6th, 2014 Brianne Schaer No comments

Although business-to-business customers are a different segment than business-to-consumer customers, B2B shoppers want the same type of shopping experience that B2C shoppers want: convenience and ease of use.

We’ve discussed the importance of personalizing the online store shopping experience before, and you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to optimize your B2B website; in fact, you can take a look into what works for B2C and adjust those qualities to create a beautifully designed, easy-to-navigate B2B channel.

Dramatically enhance your B2B eCommerce platform by implementing a few features sure to create a loyal following of repeat customers.

Personalizing the User Experience

Nobody likes attempting to navigate a poorly-built website in which product information is shrouded in mystery, hiding behind inconsistent tabs or categories.
Among the key elements of running a better B2B site is improving the user experience. From making navigation easier to tailoring content to each individual’s needs, no venture is too small to make an impact on today’s B2B customer. These busy shoppers are looking for personalization, better search capabilities, and strong content management to convince them to spend their dollars on your products.

There are a number of options within Ignify eCommerce to personalize your web channel both from the back-end and the storefront.

Let us first take a look into the functionality of the storefront. As soon as a customer logs in to their account, a reminder alert will pop up if there were any items sitting in the shopping cart from the last session. This will save your customers time searching for previously-viewed items while encouraging them to commit to purchasing these items.

Ignify eCommerce reminds B2B customers at sign-in of items stored in the shopping cart during previous visits

Ignify eCommerce reminds B2B customers at sign-in of items stored in the shopping cart during previous visits.

Because each customer, or company, has unique login information, Ignify eCommerce allows you to tailor which products show up in category searches, and at what price they are listed. In the example image below, one particular customer will view various bike cranks when clicking the “components” tab under “bike.” However, a different customer may view pedals, or handlebars, for example. Depending on which industry or specific needs a customer has, the site will adapt to showcase only relevant products.

category tabs

Each customer has a custom view of which items show up under category tabs. This customer views bike cranks, but different customers would see what is relevant to their needs.

The customer dashboard is streamlined in its ability to provide customers with a breakdown of order history, past sales quotes with negotiated pricing, view outstanding balance versus credit limit, and update email preferences including subscription to newsletters. It is also as easy as a click of the mouse to copy a past order into a new order, saving time for order entry. With time-saving capabilities in mind, the customer dashboard fully serves its purpose in making shopping easy and quick for B2B consumers.

purchase history

Customers can view their past purchase history and reorder the same items instantly.

Pricing can also be set for various B2B customers by custom level, or item category discounts. Customers can be segmented in to Diamond, Gold, or Silver levels to reap benefits for their continued business. These benefits vary from item, or item category, discounts to customer-based pricing, and can be controlled in the manager panel.

Another important feature to tailor the site to each customer is to segment customers by customer class. Customers can be segmented into classes such as: corporate, reseller, retail, or government. Based on each class, various payment methods can be set up, or tax can be charged or waived, and different shipping methods can be made available. For each of these variations, defaults can also be set up depending on customer class.

customer class details

The “customer class details” in the manager panel provides an easy-to-read chart that highlights pricing, discounts, invoices, and currency accepted based on each customer’s class.

The more personalized and user-friendly a B2B eCommerce site is, the more likely your customers are to maximize its functionality. Don’t let your customers waste their precious time trying to find an item. With a well-tailored website, your customers will feel comfortable finding key inventory items, purchasing in bulk, and returning for more.

For more information about Ignify eCommerce’s B2B functionality, please email ecommerce@ignify.com.

Brianne Schaer is an Assistant Copywriter at Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of CRM, eCommerce, ERP, and Point of Sale software solutions to organizations. Ignify has won the worldwide Microsoft Partner of the Year Award in 2013, 2012 and 2011. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing businesses in North America for seven years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine from 2007 to 2013.