Business Management

Updated: March 02, 2004

A successful business requires a network of people and organizations working together. Systems such as e-mail response and billing may begin within one department but often cross over to other departments to be completed. A successful business must build a well-organized internal operations system that coordinates and integrates cross-departmental strategies and processes. Ideally, the system should reduce duplication and confusion about who does what, and increase overall organizational efficiency and productivity.

Microsoft® Business Solutions CRM provides business management features that are designed to help set up a well-organized internal business structure and manage the internal information associated with the business. This chapter discusses the following topics of business management using Microsoft CRM:

  • Organizational Management

  • Analyzing your Sales Processes

  • Analyzing your Customer Service System

On This Page

Organizational Management Organizational Management
Analyzing your Sales Processes Analyzing your Sales Processes
Analyzing your Customer Service System Analyzing your Customer Service System

Organizational Management

A well-organized online business structure must accurately reflect the existing structure of the organization; including subsidiaries, divisions, and departments. If a current organization chart exists, this is the place to start. If one does not exist, it is worth the time to create a hierarchical structure on paper before modifying your Microsoft CRM installation.

The following topics of organizational management using Microsoft CRM are discussed.

  • Creating the Organization's Structure

  • Managing Users

  • Automating Business Processes

Creating the Organization's Structure

Using the Microsoft CRM interface, you can set up the top organization and underlying business units. Then create the functional regions, branches, departments, and so forth that divide your company into its existing reporting structure (or one that you would like to establish in the organization). You can create an organizational structure that has multiple levels or one that is relatively flat. Then, you can do the following:

  • Create users

  • Inherit e-mail templates

  • Set up business processes and other templates

  • Provision a business

Depending on your management structure, you can assign a manager at each level and, under each manager, add the employees that report to him or her. If your organization does not have a hierarchical management system, you can add employees directly at the corporate level.

Microsoft CRM includes templates that allow viewing and modifying the organization, users, and other features. For example, in the Business Units area, the system administrator can view the existing business units and make changes, such as add business units or departments or modify existing units.

Managing Users

Microsoft CRM offers features for managing users that are flexible, yet secure, and that simplify the process. However, depending on the size of your organization, and considering the amount of turnover and internal transfers and promotions, managing users and their access privileges can be a daily task.

Usually a system administrator is responsible for adding users, but a manager or team lead can also do this task. When a reporting hierarchy changes, an employee's user record can be updated by simply changing the manager's name. If there is reorganization and whole departments change, the organization hierarchy makes it easy to select several users, disassociate their relationship with the current manager, and then create an association with the new manager.

When you create user records, add information that is essential to the organization, for example, full name, job title, home address, e-mail address, and phone number. After users have been added to the system, they can manage non-essential personal information themselves.

Note   All information entered in user records is available for all users of your Microsoft CRM system to see.

To preserve the integrity of the user data, security privileges should be based on the individual's role in the organization and the type of work he or she needs to do. For instance, a system administrator should create teams and make organization changes, and a line supervisor or manager redefines only the employee roles within his or her teams.

Automating Business Processes

Each organization has a set of business processes unique to that organization. To run smoothly, organizations should standardize processes across the organization, and encourage all users to adopt these standards. Microsoft CRM provides a solution for automating internal business processes by creating workflow rules that describe routine and repetitive tasks involving daily business operations. These processes can be designed to ensure that the right information gets to the right people at the right time. They also help participants keep track of the steps they need to take in order to complete their work.

Analyzing your Sales Processes

Microsoft® Business Solutions CRM is designed to help an organization acquire and retain customers and reduce the time spent on administrative tasks. Microsoft CRM provides a robust account management system that automatically tracks sales-related activities and revenues. It includes analytical, operational, and collaborative tools designed to improve and maintain good customer relations. It also provides tools that help assess customer value in terms of the future business customers may generate.

Sales Process Management

Sales process management includes all the tasks associated with finding sales opportunities and closing deals. This includes:

  • Prospecting and qualifying leads.

  • Managing contacts, opportunities, and accounts.

  • Tracing the stages of deal closure and its related probabilities, including the variable compensations directly or indirectly related to closing deals.

  • Managing and tracking communications between salespeople and customers, such as conducting direct e-mail campaigns.

  • Maintaining a database of product information in a format that's easy for the sales force to access, either online in the office or offline at a customer site.

Sales Force Management

The automated sales force management in Microsoft CRM organizes the basic information required to track:

  • Sales activities

  • Account ownership

  • Variable compensation

This information can also be used to structure the sales force into territories and teams.

Automated sales force management systems can be invaluable because they measure both the tangible and intangible factors that affect the bottom line-customer satisfaction and sales force effectiveness. Even if company profits are up overall, tracking revenues generated by individual salespeople and assessing these figures against sales costs provides valuable insight into how the organization is faring. If this analysis reveals, for example, that the amount of time spent on administrative tasks is equal to or greater than the time engaged in sales-related efforts, sales costs are too high, and the sales force is not functioning optimally, your organization can take steps to improve these areas.

Microsoft CRM provides automation tools that reduce the time salespeople (and their managers) typically spend performing administrative tasks. These tools include communication management, direct e-mail management, and sales process management.

Automated sales force management also provides managers with the information they need about the organization's sales efforts-a list of all salespeople and the contacts and opportunities they are working on, sales forecasts for the coming quarter, and a view of all the sales activity in each account. Microsoft CRM offers both predefined views as well as the ability to create custom views to access the information.

Organizational Structuring

Microsoft CRM can also be used to structure your sales force into territories and teams. This allows greater flexibility for sharing and collaboration. In addition, new leads and contacts can be assigned to product or territorial teams, or the manager can assign them to individual salespeople.

Forecasting

Part of sales management is obtaining realistic sales forecasts and managing the sales activities to reach those forecasts. If actual sales consistently do not meet forecasted figures, management needs to find why and identify whether the issue is with sales practices or forecast methodology. Microsoft CRM provides tools to help with forecasting and with analyzing these numbers against actual sales.

Microsoft CRM also enables you to manage your entire sales process, analyze your opportunities and the stage they are in, and use real-time data for decision-making; such as, whether you should start marketing programs to create more leads or focus on closing the top opportunities.

Sales and Contact Management

As an organization and its customer base grow, more people may become involved in each sale. When more than one person is involved with handling an account, it's critical that everyone understands the history and future plans for the account. The contact management system in Microsoft CRM enables individuals-and organizations-to manage, share, and collaborate on accounts. Efficiently implemented and used, Microsoft CRM logging and tracking features benefit the individual who makes the sale, the sales team, other supporting teams, and their management. The customer also benefits from better service during and after the sales process.

Marketing List Management

Many companies and salespeople purchase mass-marketing lists. These lists often include names of people who make purchasing decisions and the companies for whom they work. These lists are reviewed and individuals are either "disqualified" as unsuitable for the organization's sales strategy, or "qualified" for further contact and opportunity investigation.

You can use Microsoft CRM to import lead lists into the database, perform the usual qualifying activities, and convert names to opportunities, accounts, and/or contacts if they qualify. Names that do not qualify are marked as inactive but are retained in the database for business reporting purposes, for example, to analyze the success of different list sources or to assess how much time the sales force spends prospecting.

Lead Management

Leads are individuals who have indicated an interest in finding more about the products or services offered. They have been identified by a salesperson as recipients for additional information or other activities aimed at eventually making a sale.

Microsoft CRM makes lead information easily accessible. Profiles can be created and communication activities performed. All activities, such as e-mail, notes, and meetings, are logged, so a history is kept of every contact.

Leads that show an interest in buying become opportunities. Leads that do not qualify are marked as inactive, but retained in the database for business reporting purposes.

Opportunity Management

An opportunity is a potential sale to an account or contact. Microsoft CRM enables your sales force to:

  • Track information about each opportunity.

  • Save the contact information.

  • Track the stage the opportunity is in.

  • Identify the salesperson who is actively working on it.

  • Assign revenue credit if the sale goes through.

  • Assess the likelihood of closing the sale and the projected date.

Opportunities can be linked with competitor information and then analyzed to identify the most effective selling strategies.

Contact, Account, and Customer Management

Contact, account, and customer management covers the basics; including the name of the person the salesperson works with and his or her contact information, such as address, phone numbers, and company title. This information is stored with a log of any activities (e-mail, appointments, and so on) that have been done.

This feature enables salespeople, managers, and others (with proper authorization) to view and handle corporate accounts. Each account is also linked to order information, proposed sales opportunities, and so forth, so a complete history of each account is accessible from one place.

You can also use Microsoft CRM to create "child accounts," for instance, when a salesperson does business with more than one department in a large corporation. In this situation, there might be individual department-level accounts that have separate contacts and ordering activities, but all invoices are processed through a single corporate purchasing account.

Competitor Management

Competing effectively is a valuable business strategy, and you can use Microsoft CRM to create and disperse competitor information quickly and easily. This information helps salespeople access information about the companies and products they are competing with, and to assess how big of a threat the competitor represents. For quick comparison facts, competitor information can be linked to product information.

Communications Activity Management

Reliable and effective communication between members of the sales team as well as between salespeople and customers is essential to the financial success of an organization. Through innovative automation tools, Microsoft CRM facilitates communication and tracks activities, enabling the sales force to focus on pursuing leads and closing sales.

The Microsoft CRM communication system provides e-mail support and records incoming leads. It also includes a calendar that can be used to schedule meetings and events, create tasks, and so on.

It's common practice for salespeople to keep notes on conversations, a running log of product information sent, and to send task requests to other members of the team. Microsoft CRM provides tools for writing notes and linking files-for instance, copies of letters or product information files-to those notes. This helps other members of the sales team easily scan a list of what was sent, then open the files to read the contents. Salespeople can also create e-mail templates that add prepared messages and greetings, maintaining message consistency.

Direct E-Mail

When sending direct e-mail messages, it is useful for you to measure the response rate to find which marketing messages are working and where the best mass-mailing lists come from.

Reports

Reviewing reports on a regular basis is the best way for managers to keep up with account data, sales activities, and revenue. Microsoft CRM comes with over 100 templates for reports.

Sales Literature Management

The final important element of the sales process is to provide product information in a format that is easy for the sales force to access, either online in the office or offline at a customer site. Microsoft CRM includes tools to create product catalogs, including:

  • Product descriptions

  • Pricing and discount lists

  • Links to sales literature

  • Competitor information  

  • Customer profile and order history

These product catalogs help salespeople quickly learn about new or unfamiliar products and services, and provide them with the account-specific facts and data they need to help them close deals.

Because product catalogs can be downloaded to their laptops, salespeople can make customer calls equipped with all the information they need. Based on customer needs and past orders, they can make recommendations, answer questions about products, and make comparisons to competitor products or services. In addition, when a customer is interested in closing the deal, the salesperson can use Microsoft CRM to calculate product volume discounts and offer price quotes immediately.

Analyzing your Customer Service System

When businesses think of customer service, they usually think of the high cost of finding and training customer service representatives (CSRs) and look for how they can provide customer assistance for the lowest possible cost. When customers think of customer service, it is often of customer "disservice" in the form of being placed on hold for a long time, difficulty speaking with a human being, not being helped, and getting answers that do not solve their problems.

Microsoft® Business Solutions CRM provides an extensive set of features designed to improve your customer service. The Customer Service module provides tools that help create a multi-level customer assistance policy and provides an interactive CSR-based service. This service includes:

  • Call routing and assignment

  • Queue management

  • Call tracking

  • Entitlement processing

  • Problem resolution

  • Logging

  • Monitoring

  • Performance management

  • A knowledge base (a database of information)

Customer Support Cost Levels

The following describes an example customer support policy designed to keep costs relatively low while simultaneously increasing the quality and efficiency of service that customers receive:

  • At one level, possibly a lower level of support, the customer sends a service request by mail. This engages a CSR on a one-to-many relationship, because one CSR can respond to several messages.

  • At a higher level of support, a phone call from a customer engages a CSR on a one-to-one relationship. This level of support could be reserved for the most challenging issues or customers with preferred support relationships with the company.

Contract Services

One of the challenges of managing customer services is keeping track of what customers are entitled to, both internally and from the customer's standpoint.

Through the Customer Service module, CSRs create and track service level agreements (SLAs) and entitlements for new and existing customers. In addition, they can edit and update existing ones. Creating and using contract templates makes the process of creating service agreements easier and faster when a business offers different service plans to meet customers' specific needs.

Knowledge Base

Businesses tend to have the knowledge of how to solve problems or answer questions that their customers encounter. Unfortunately, this information is usually known by one or two employees in the organization and is not shared. As a result, a CSR that encounters the specific question may not have the answer available and has to track down the person with the answer.

Microsoft CRM has a Knowledge Base feature that organizations can use as a repository of collected knowledge within the organization. This information can be made available to anyone working with customers. It is easy to browse and search, and find any piece of information available in the system. The Knowledge Base provides the means for internal users of a business to access answers to questions about products and services.

A separate component allows users the ability to create multiple templates with which to create Knowledge Base articles. The Knowledge Base includes a structured Knowledge Base article and template system for rapid creation of Web-based (HTML) answers. The articles can be rich text articles and can contain hyperlinks to multiple types of external information. All creation, editing, and publishing of information and the templates are managed with Microsoft CRM tools and stored in a Microsoft SQL Server™ database.

Managing the Knowledge Base

To preserve the integrity of your Knowledge Base, the addition or removal of all information must be submitted for approval and publication by a person with manager privileges. Users with appropriate privileges can do more than just search and browse for Knowledge Base articles. They can also:

  • Change the information in published or unpublished articles.

  • Add comments to articles.

  • Approve or reject articles that are submitted to the Unapproved folder.

  • Publish articles so that they are available in the Knowledge Base.

  • Delete or remove articles that have already been published.

Case Management

Resolving cases is a key function of customer service, and the Customer Service module makes this process easier by providing collaborative activity tools with a browser-based interface through which issues can be submitted and tracked to resolution and closure.

Using one of the predefined views, cases can be filtered and reviewed, activities can be logged, and the time spent on each case can be tracked for performance and productivity analysis and contract allotment. Both active and resolved cases can be accessed through searches, and when necessary, resolved cases can be reactivated. Reports can be generated using this tracking information that show statistics, such as individual CSR numbers (call lengths, resolutions, and so on), average length of cases, and types of cases.

Case Queuing and Routing

The Customer Service module includes Web-enabled queuing and routing tools designed to improve how incoming requests for customer service are handled.

With the help of a wizard, CSRs can create queues based on existing product team assignments or subject matter expertise, and modify or merge them as organization, product, and customer needs change.

By adding routing rules to determine how service calls are handled within a queue, organizations that provide high-priority or "VIP" service can create an "escalation queue" to handle specific callers. Customer service departments organized by product or expertise can create product queues to handle specific types of calls.

An additional benefit of viewing queue details is that it provides immediate feedback about what's going on in the customer service organization. For example, who is assigned to a particular queue, how many customers are waiting in a queue, and how many CSRs are engaged in handling cases. This kind of information can be used to quickly organize staffing when demand increases, and also to forecast and schedule the workforce.

Performance and Productivity Management

Logging and monitoring service requests provides the information needed for precision scheduling, workforce forecasting, and improving performance management. The Customer Service module offers management and administration tools that provide detailed transcripts of customer interactions, statistical information about call length and calls handled, as well as information about products, their components, and their usage.

Customer Feedback

Traditionally, the success of customer service operations is measured by internal and quantitative data, such as how long the average interaction time is and how many calls each CSR works on. One reason that these metrics are cited so often is that quantitative data can be collected and analyzed automatically and internally. The Customer Service module can be used to provide detailed quantitative statistics for efficiency analysis and forecasting purposes.

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