Happy New Year!  And welcome back to our series walking through the upgrades available when moving from CRM 2011 to CRM 2015.  We’ve already had a general introduction to CRM 2015, discussed updates to the user interface and new features available on forms.  Today we’re going to take a look at the new functionality specific to the sales, service (aka customer care, inside sales, customer support) and marketing.  All three of these functional areas received upgrades in both CRM 2013 and again in CRM 2015.  So there is a lot to cover here, let’s dive right in!



Business Intelligence with Social Insights

Social Insights is a new functional area available on lead, account, contact and opportunity records.  Depending on how your teams are structured, sales, marketing or service teams may be users of this area.  But since it always fits with sales teams, we’re listing it under this heading.  Social insights provides business intelligence information that can enrich your CRM records with more information about the companies and contacts that you’re working with.  The functionality is provided by InsideView – a  third party.  There is a free version that is included with CRM Online, and there are paid options for advanced functionality. There is a LOT you can do with Social Insights, here are four of the things we see it used for most frequently:


  1. Enrich Account (or Lead or Contact) Data: From any record in CRM, you can click the Sync button on the Social Insights pane and see all of data that is available about that record.  With another click you can add (or update) these pieces of data in Microsoft CRM.  No toggling between applications.  No copying/pasting.  Just a few clicks and you have better information on your customers and prospects.
  2. Add Contacts: On any account record, you can go to the Social Insights pane, click the contacts tab, and see a list of all the contacts for the account that are available from Social Insights.  You can then select which of these contacts you want to add as contacts in CRM.  Again, just few clicks and you’ve added new contacts to your existing accounts.  It’s a great tool for targeting or managing account relationships.
  3. Subscribe to News:  You can also subscribe to news about a company and get regular articles in your inbox or on the InsideView interface (I think these are now available as Yammer or Activity Feeds as well, but I’ve not yet had time to test that).  So you can get new news about a company you’re following and use that to follow-up on trigger activities.
  4. See LinkedIn Connections: You and your colleagues can also load your LinkedIn contacts into InsideView.  If you do this, then when you view a record in CRM, you can see which people your colleagues are already connected to.  With this information you can improve how you collaborate with your team to pursue relationships.

For more information on Social Insights, you can check out the review we wrote about it: click here.

CRM 2015 Product Catalog, Quotes and Orders – Oh My

When it comes to working with products in CRM 2015, it’s a whole new world.  Managing the process of quoting and placing orders has long been a grey area between customer relationship management (CRM) systems and enterprise resource planning (ERP, aka accounting) systems.  The job function for creating quotes and submitting orders was generally in the outside sales and inside sales teams; but because the product catalog and invoicing was handled by accounting and these functions required the same data as quoting and ordering – most organizations simply forced their sales teams to use the same complex software that their accounting teams used.  This is a big problem because, as the CPR for CRM Research shows, requiring sales to adopt multiple applications to get their job done not only slows adoption, it slows down the entire sales process and is the leading cause of CRM failure.

In the last 2 versions of CRM, Microsoft has significantly beefed up the functionality around these processes – removing many of the obstacles for using this functionality in CRM and integrating it with an ERP system.  How data is entered and how products are organized both got a lot of attention.  The product catalog (the common element that is used for quotes, orders and invoices) in particular saw a tremendous makeover with the release of CRM 2015.  Here’s a glimpse of what’s new.

  • Click to view new product catalog functionality on the Order form in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015In-Line Data Entry: You can add products to opportunities, quotes and orders without having to open up a separate form for each line item.  If you have an order with 27 line items in it, you no longer have to go through the process of: (1) click the new button, (2) wait for form to load, (3) fill out form, (4) click save and new, (5) repeat steps 2-4 26 more times.  Instead, without leaving the quote form, you click the “+” button to add a new item item, fill out a few fields, and click “+” again to add another line item.
  • Use Quotes as Proposals: Many organizations don’t have quotes that are as simple as a series of line items and, instead, submit proposals that may be highly customized for every client. Did you know that you can use quotes as proposals?  Quotes support robust versioning and related activities, so you can manage your proposal process inside of CRM.
  • Product Properties: Products can now have properties.  For example, you may have a product that requires artwork – your properties can include a hyperlink to artwork stored in SharePoint.
  • Product Families: Product families enable you to organize products into parent-child relationships for more easily categorizing products.  A product family has 1 or more child products and the child products inherits the product properties from the parent. Product families can be displayed in hierarchical view (see the second blog in this series for an example).
  • Product Bundles: You can now create bundles of products.  This allows a sales rep to select a single product line item that actually adds a pre-defined bundle of items to a quote or order. This also enables an organization to provide special bundled product pricing.
  • Alternate Suggestions (Product Relationships): On any product line item, you can click the Suggestions link and bring up a list of other products that fits one of four categories: Cross Sell, Accessory, Upsell, Substitute. This makes it easy to find just what the customer is looking for, find substitutes if inventory is low, and add compatible accessories to an order.
  • Product Lifecycle: Products are only available if they are published and have a valid price list.  This allows the operations group to prepare for new product launches without making the available for quotes or orders.  There are several stages of revision that products can go through in order to support a the full product development lifecycle.

Make no mistake – integration with ERP can still be one of the bigger investments for a CRM implementation – but with better functionality you can offer more to your users than before, and without as much cost for customization. 

Sales Teams, Stakeholders and Competition

Selling today is more complicated than ever.  The most complex sales involve multiple decision makers and influencers from the client, multiple sales team members from your team, and multiple competitors.  It can be important to track all of this information in CRM so that the rep can quickly know where they stand, who else to get involved, and how they compare to the competition.  Sales Management will want to know these things so that they can know why the team wins and loses and how to improve.  And for large organizations there can be complex security rules about who is allowed to see what information about an account or opportunity based on their position within the sales team.  CRM 2013 and 2015 both included updates to make it easy to track this information and to provide more flexible security settings.





The core marketing functionality in CRM has had few (if any) changes in CRM 2013 and CRM 2015.  Microsoft has, however, acquired a couple of other companies that provide marketing tools and has integrated these with CRM as optional add-ons.  The pricing for these add-ons is dependent upon your current licensing (and, in some cases, is at no additional cost at all).  Let’s look at these two add-ons.

Social Listening

Social Listening, formerly known as Netbreeze, is a tool for listening to – and responding to – social networks.  For example, an organization can measure the sentiment in the marketplace about their brand (is it positive, negative or somewhere in between).  Leads can be captured by converting social posts CRM lead records and, in a similar manner, cases can be created if customers publish issues to social channels.  All of this is integrated with CRM so that sales and service can respond via conventional channels (phone, email, etc) or via social channels.

Dynamics Marketing

Dynamics Marketing was created when Microsoft acquired Marketing Pilot – software aimed at marketing planning and management for large organizations.  The software was renamed to Dynamics Marketing and has undergone significant improvements since the time it was acquired.  It now functions not only as a strategic tool for the CMO, but also as a tactical tool for email campaigns, event management, social marketing and just about any other tasks handled by the marketing department.  Other functionality includes lead scoring, a drag-and-drop campaign planning interface, media planning, management of multiple brands (for large corporate marketing departments or for agencies).   In the latest release it also includes improved visibility and process integration between the marketing and sales departments.




The customer service area has seen significant advancement in CRM 2013 and again in CRM 2015.  As was the case with the marketing functionality, some of the new features come as a result of acquisitions by Microsoft; but unlike Marketing, some features are built right into CRM.  Here is the summary:

Service Management

An entire section of the settings area of CRM has now been set aside to manage the robust set of options available for customer service management.  This includes improvements to: queues (see below), routing rules (rules to decide how to route requests to the appropriate queue), parent/child cases, automatic case creation rules, management of service terms for different client types, and handling work schedules so CRM can intelligently assign work to individuals only during their working hours.  If you’re using CRM for customer service, you need to take the time to carefully evaluate the new options here.  If you reviewed CRM in the past but decided it didn’t meet your needs for customer service management – then it’s time to take another look.

Queue Management

Queues received a significant makeover with CRM 2013 and some more updates in 2015.  Queues are, essentially, a way of sharing a workload across a team.  An item (such as a customer service case, an email or a phone call) can be assigned to a queue.  When an individual is done with one task, they go to the queue to see if any new work has been logged.  They can “claim” an item from a queue to begin working on it.  Items can be escalated or reassigned to queues as well (so, for example, if a customer issue is not resolved within 24 hours, it can be escalated into a higher level queue for management review).

Queues are not limited to customer service.  They can be applied to sales (for example, a lead queue), marketing (requests for literature that need to be fulfilled), operations (assigning repetitive customer service issues for further analysis to resolve operational issues) or accounting (assign expense reports to an approval queue).

Parature / Customer Care

Microsoft acquired a firm that provided outstanding online and social customer service software called Parature.  This was a relatively recent acquisition and Microsoft is  still in the process of integrating Parature with Dynamics CRM.  The core Parature functionality is extremely strong and many organizations may opt to begin using Parature even before the integration is strong.  Parature includes service portals (self-service portals integrated into your website), poly-portals (distributing multiple service portals to serve multiple brands), team portals (providing a single portal, but with functionality that can be managed across teams), multi-device (service portals work on standard web browsers as well as mobile devices), social service, interactive chat, and a plethora of other functions.

Once integrated with CRM, expect Parature (which will likely be renamed to Dynamics Customer Care or something similar) to expand on the customer service functionality in CRM in the same way that Dynamics Marketing does.  In other words, this functionality will come at an additional cost – but the core customer service functionality will still be included out-of-the-box with CRM.

imageUnified Service Desk

This is another piece of software that can be used to extend the service management capabilities of Dynamics CRM.  In brief, this application may make it easier for you to provide your customer service team with a “unified application” that gives them desktop access to CRM, your phone system, and multiple other systems required for the team to do their jobs.  It does much of this using “mash ups” (rather than moving data between applications, it provides a “window” into multiple applications from a single “parent” window).  It also includes call scripting capabilities that are more advanced that CRM dialogs.

This software does not come at an extra cost (like Parature, Social Listening or Dynamics Marketing), but it is also not available as a Microsoft hosted option.  To use it, you will need to install it on a server (at your facility or in the cloud).  Unified Service Desk can be configured through a user interface, but also allows more advanced configuration through an API.



What else you ask!  That’s not enough?  In all seriousness, this blog was focused only on the functionality specific to the sales, marketing and customer service functions (and related processes) that was updated from CRM 2011 to CRM 2015.  Everyone benefits from the mobility, sales process, global searching, hierarchical views, and all of the other new features reviewed in other articles in this series.

Stay tuned for the next article in this series when we will review the many advances available from within the settings area including: business rules, real time workflows, all sorts of security changes, calculated fields and more.  We will also be covering one configuration “gotcha” to look out for when upgrading from CRM 2011.  Stay tuned!

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