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Blogs in 2021

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The Hidden Gem in Dynamics 365

Introduction…back in the day!

For many years, whilst running my own consultancy, I used to have any new staff and Interns learnt our CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, at the time we used GoldMine, by conducting a relatively simply Customer Satisfaction Survey (CSAT).

This was a phone-based survey, and we would use a simple Likert scale (1-7) question on our past performance over the preceding months. To be clear, this was an ad hoc survey, but regularly conducted once a year as a benchmark and more importantly a feedback tool for myself. The idea was that since the interviewer had had no previous experience of working with the interviewee, the result should be unbiased. Apart from the score, I was interested in the ‘comments’ section.

But that was then, GoldMine used a simple ‘Other’ task activity type so I could track this type of survey per client, per contact over the years. Simple, but effective.

I applied the same approach whenever, I've taken over a role and in 2019, my assistant conducted this survey again as a quick introduction to Dynamics 365 to get accustomed to using CRM but also to give me a benchmark of our clients opinions in my first weeks in this new role.


However, whilst that was a great first benchmarking process, alongside many other clients, we are getting more sophisticated in our needs for feedback from our clients. And with Dynamics 365 we now have the toolkit to get this information.

Nowadays, customer surveys have got much more complex with metrics such as NPS (Net Promoter Score) and Sentient analysis for instance and whilst there are a range of off-the-shelf packages with Survey Monkey and Qualtrics to name just two, which are effective.

Consequently, talking to clients, it is no surprise these applications are generally used in their own “silos” with data extracted from the clients own CRM or held as lists in the app and although may have integration options, many times your data is disassociated and not dynamic and there is no single view over time of survey information being built up. Most clients tend to not go to the extra trouble or costs of integrating into CRM, instead relying data extracts and separate reporting of results through the survey app.

But this can be limiting and as clients have increased their survey usage cases (e.g. CSAT, NPS, client and staff onboarding, order feedback and the list goes on), this has meant departments want to utilise these numerous types of survey with consequent increase in creating separate “silos” of information away from CRM.

The rise in importance of Customer Experience (CX) and digital transformation strategies, embraced more widely since the start of the pandemic, has meant that these surveys of customers, suppliers and staff is now also a more regular activity then the traditional once or twice a year CSAT surveys conducted by my team 10 years ago.

A Hidden Gem…Dynamics 365 Customer Voice

Working on a current project with a client has shown me how far we have come in these few years in terms of this functionality being included in the Dynamics 365 platform, as long as you have an Enterprise licence.

I term this a “hidden gem”.

It is not always known to clients since most times it tends not be a key requirement at the outset of a project, but will come up post sale and in Account Reviews. Clients will often pigeon-hole functionality requests based on their own knowledge, so NPS/CSAT surveys don’t often appear in tenders or RFI’s.

Dynamics 365 Customer Voice is now the in-built survey app and all clients having Enterprise licence Users will have access to this module. Included with the pricing are up to 2k responses per month, so 24k over the year, but more ‘responses’ can be purchased as required (in 1k response increments) through the CSP (Cloud Service Provider) monthly pricing model for anticipated larger audience responses.

What can it do?

Customer Voice builds upon the earlier versions, known as Forms Pro and this is now a very powerful tool and has been heavily invested in as part of the Dynamics 365 platform roadmap, so will continue to evolve and expand with two major updates per year.

Whilst not diving into too much detail, Customer Voice has the capability to do a multitude of survey type questions with different formats of answers together with the ability to do branching questions.

Multi-language (currently there are up to 23) as well, to help you get started, there are 7 templates with the top 3 here probably having most relevance to readers of this post.

• Periodic Customer Survey-based on Forrester CX best practices, 3 question survey, probably most nearly reflects my old CSAT survey.

• Service Visit-after an onsite visit.

• Support-experience with support.

From a visual design perspective, you can choose fonts, theme colours and add branding.

Importantly, these Surveys are Mobile responsive as well, displaying on your mobile phone or tablet.

Key benefits

Whilst not an exhaustive feature-based list, some of the core reasons for having and using Customer Voice if you are looking to survey your clients, staff or indeed your suppliers on a regular basis for me include:

• Maintaining a single source of truth inside of MS Cloud

• Same domain for sending will help your response and email delivery rates.

• Ability to automate survey sending with Power Automate or Dynamics 365 Marketing

• Ability to show results in real-time.

• Includes 2k responses per month (you can buy extra 1k responses as required)

• Ability to create segments and Customer Journey using the Dynamics 365 Marketing App integration

• Integration with Power BI for more complex reporting requirements

How to deliver these Surveys and automation

One of the weaknesses in the past is that these surveys have tended to be quite static and are manually sent out, usually after a email list has been compiled, but these can become quickly out of date and still sit in their own ‘silos’.

With Customer Voice and automation (e.g. using Power Automate (Flow) and Dynamics 365 Marketing app) you can make these a lot more dynamic and timely.

Responses Rates

Rates in Survey can vary and often depend on the questions, the audience and of course the design and relevancy of the survey. According to Customer Thermometer, typical response rates can vary from 5-30%, and this site offers some good tips via an Infographic for both design and for improving your response rates, so well worth a quick read. As always, a lot depends on you, your industry and who and what you are asking and not least how long it will take to complete the survey.

Another aspect is ensuring the survey is timely and at present, I am working with a client to send a number of surveys to their End User clients and prospects on their customer experience and this will go out automatically based on a timed trigger event.

We are then combining the power of Customer Voice with Dynamics 365 Marketing, its personalisation, segmentation and the ability to build Customer Journeys and this will give the client some detailed analytics over time enabling them to identify to improve their own customer experience. Which leads me nicely to…


Again, within Customer Voice there is a built-in Dashboard and in-App Reporting tool. This gives you core metrics.

These reports can be complimented by gaining insights from Power BI using the Dataverse / CDS (Common Data Service) connectors, although you may need some help here reviewing where data is sorted in CRM and translating this. Certainly, at this point, reviewing some of the tutorials, my suggestion is that you need a skilled Power BI person, but these results once done, can of course by shared within the organisation and cross related to other key information, for example by Industry type, geography etc.

All in all, a rich blend of powerful reporting options to choose from, but for most of us, the core Survey information is pretty much out-of-the-box, until you need a deeper, more complex analysis.

Some final thoughts and call to action!

So, now you know more about this hidden gem, why don’t you activate this and give it a go?

The first steps in my view can be a sending a simple survey to your staff/users to give you some meaningful data and practice prior to trying this out on your customers. Then a Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) survey is usually quite easy to send out as an initial email and more importantly this can give you a benchmark for later surveys.

As with anything if you are considering using any automation, do make sure that you do some thorough testing first or if in doubt, speak to your Dynamics 365 partner for support.

Action now

The Summer period I think whilst for many industries is relatively quiet, this can be a great time to conduct CSAT surveys to benchmark your client base and to help you gain key insights from customers and even prospects. So why wait?

Start looking now into how you can use Customer Voice make the most of the hidden gem.


30th July 2021

How to reduce your CRM Licence footprint


As a cloud CRM user, it is important to understand the differences in your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system licensing models and how these are evolving and changing and for many vendors gradually moving towards a consumption model in many areas, particularly in data storage.

This post delves into the Dynamics 365 licensing model as illustrative, although the principles and takeaways here are becoming more and more relevant to many of the core Cloud CRM vendors such as Salesforce, Hubspot and PipelinerCRM*.

Now, cloud benefits are now well known and widely accepted, such as:-

• Always on, often 99% plus availability 365/24 is built-in

• Fully managed back-up

• No hardware costs or maintenance

• Sandbox available for development

• No set-up or installation cost, just buy and configure to meet your requirements.

• Established eco-systems of linked 3rd party apps and partners

• Office 365 and Email such as Outlook integration


• Regular upgrades built-in

This last item is one of the keys to cloud CRM success. Your software is now always up to date. The key is often there is now for most vendors a major upgrade release per year and for Dynamics 365 there are two major feature releases per year, Spring and Autumn now known as Wave 1 and Wave 2, this compares to perhaps a major release at most once a year, but usually every 2 or 3 years for more traditional on-premise solutions.

However, with these benefits, there are also new challenges and new ways of working.

Managing your Subscription Footprint

What do we mean by footprint? When you move to a cloud licensing model, the old one-off purchase of software has been made redundant, now you buy on a subscription basis, typically either every year or every month depending on the CRM vendor licensing model you have adopted.

For most Dynamics 365 clients I work with, they have adopted the CSP (Cloud Service Provider) model where their subscription costs are calculated and invoiced monthly on the actual licence assigned.

This is an important point for Dynamics 365 clients. Since you are paying for your licences monthly, so you are able to flex these up and down on a monthly basis.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, this has been very useful since many clients have either had redundancies or have had people move onto furlough and have been able to reduce their licence count temporarily or move Users to a Team licence rather than a Full licence, saving themselves significant amounts of cash.

Part 1 Dynamics 365*

Understanding licencing models

With Dynamics 365, there are two core licences*:

• Full Licence. This has all the key user and full access rights.

• Team Licence. Typically for those users need more read only or limited usage rights, for example Senior Managers, non-business line staff.

*(there is also a Device licence, but this doesn’t concern us here)

You may also have other additional licences on CSP model, so for example Power BI for reporting /Business intelligence purposes and Power App licence for those users perhaps just performing a set of simple tasks and who don’t need full access to CRM. Whilst not the subject focus here, again, understanding types of licence and what licence is required can save you money.

Now a short note on Database Storage.

In 2019, Microsoft introduced a new data storage model, based on three core elements:

• Database. This is typically where most of your data is stored so consideration here would be based on number of user and amount of information per record plus number of records.

• Files. This is where files and attachment are stored.

• Log. The manage say an audit log of events, changes e.g. change of owner etc

For each Tenant, you have a 10Gb core storage Database capacity plus the number of Users you have adds 250Mb storage per user on these Database element and you can purchase additional storage. However, the price for this Database storage increased from around £3 to c.30 per Gb, so this is now an important consideration. This is further complicated by clients perhaps have multiple instances all using up this storage capacity, for example a sandbox instance for developing and a sandbox training. All these consume from the overall allocation.

Whilst sandboxes are critical, each time you create a new one it consumes a minimum of 1Gb. And whilst File and Audit storage is a lot cheaper, this still needs to be managed as it contributes to the overall total.

Reviewing this situation on a regular basis, at least twice year should be part of your standard procedures.

I have seen examples where this storage can become a big problem and needs to be addressed, for instance where Test databases containing data are not reduced or cleansed after Go-Live or where there are multiple sandboxes for test or training databases being used. After Go Live, you need to review this to pre-empt future problems and potential bills.

By monitoring this now, you will be able to build a picture of how much data, by type is building up on a monthly basis and can start to plan and forecast for the future.

This year may be particular relevant since many of you who have taken on Dynamics 365 subscriptions may be coming to the end of any fixed pricing and by taking action now, you may avoid an unpleasant surprise later in the year, which although well forecasted, may have been forgotten in the current turbulence of the pandemic impacting workloads.

Conclusion and key takeaways

The key thing here is to be aware that you need to be regularly reviewing your software subscription, not just on Dynamics 365 but on other applications so you can flex. This is very important on the CSP or monthly pricing, whether this is for Dynamics 365 or your Office 365 subscriptions.

My key five takeaways are:

1. Audit and review every 6 months at least. Include your Users licence mix, their usage and the storage capacity and growth by instance.

2. Monitor your usage of the system. We have number of reports that can form a template for most Dynamics 365 systems and be configured for your own system. There are also MS standard reports on usage.

3. Review sandbox size and number. Do they need all the test migration data in them still? Can you revert to the core?


4. Review Microsoft Licence guides or speak to your technology partner for up to date advice. Microsoft seem to be issuing new licencing guides at the moment every 2-3 months, so you need to be up to date. Book in a Licence and Storage Review if in doubt

We have come across reviews where we have been able to recommend moving users from Full to Team licences with little effort saving clients over £60 per user per month! So, the key and final 5th takeaway is if in doubt, always speak to your technology trusted advisor.


* Part 2 Salesforce et al. Having re-read this, I have decided it is probably better to look at Salesforce and other apps in a separate post so as not to confuse the issue here, but the key point to bear in mind is that many of the principles may still apply.

30th April 2021

Data Challenges for CRM in 2021


We are now deep into Lockdown 3.0 with many of us working from home and we have all experienced both with clients and suppliers’ massive changes to how we work and who we are working with. These are changes are likely to stay for the foreseeable future, but how does this impact on your Customer Relationship Management system and what should you be doing now?

Most economic commentators are continuing to forecasting, regrettably, that many thousands of jobs will continue to be lost in 2021. All of us will already know of people whose job has either massively changed, been lost altogether or who are on some sort of furlough. This loss of jobs and changes in jobs and roles and responsibilities is likely to accelerate once furlough ends and the post-Covid economic world is upon us from late Spring onwards. So, there are likely to be significant changes in personnel for many businesses during 2021.

This started me thinking in terms of what tasks we should be doing now during Lockdown 3.0. Recognising that 2021 will continue to throw up numerous challenges and continual changes, I wanted to focus on a plan for what I think will be a key theme for Sales and Marketing departments this year with your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems and this is the challenge of maintain high quality data.

Data Challenge

So, this data challenge will revolve this year around maintaining Data integrity and validity. With each quarter, and furlough officially comes to an end in April, then the remaining months will continue to see changes in staffing levels, and this will impact on roles and responsibilities with these changing or possibly roles being consolidated.

So, what can you do?

Planning is critical and I think we can look at three different planning phases or periods during this year:

• Phase 1- Now

• Phase 2 -May/June

• Phase 3 -Late September

Steps per phase

Within each of these phases there are a number of steps that need to be taken with escalating involvement from Marketing through to the Sales team. The Sales team themselves will be under immense pressure to bring in income and maintain existing client relationships, so starting with Marketing, the first relatively easy and cost-effective step is:

1. Validate emails. This is a quick and easy win for Marketing departments and can highlight invalid and problem email addresses. This can be done by Marketing themselves and surprisingly is not as expensive as you think. This can cost less than 2p per record for 50,000 contacts. This should be your first easy step in each phase since this gives you a great first filter, as you can see who has left, usually pretty quickly, although of course not 100% accurate or up to date (nothing is!) this is in part due to nature of email setup and policies across organisations, but still as a first filter this can yield great results. Marketing needs to do this as it will involve some exporting and re-importing of matching data, but a good System Administrator should be able to do this or speak to your CRM support helpdesk provider. Marketing metrics e.g. open rates, bounce-backs will be much improved just from this one exercise alone and any insights can be provided to Sales for further verification and investigation.

This step can be done in a few days. Even without using any external email validation service, a newsletter or some customer email activity can highlight bounce-backs at least for a quick review.

2. Deduplicates. This is a more involved process, since in my experience with the best will in the world, every system will have some duplicates which somehow always get in! Any internal CRM system duplicate routines tend to be relatively basic such as address fields, cities, first and last name, email addresses, but are unlikely to be include more complex duplication for example across different entities such as Leads and Contacts. Other duplicate routines such as phonetics are also harder to do e.g. First National Bank versus 1st National Bank. For this, you many need to use specific data tools to help identify and then get your Sales team to validate results. Using an external tool can be a slightly more expensive exercise, but if you have many thousands of records, then this may well be a worthwhile step since this can flag and filter duplicates as well as potentially merge these records again having a positive impact of both Sales and Marketing performance and metrics.

3. Ownership. By far the most effective and important step and this should be an ongoing process, but can be neglected or forgotten. The key is Sales ownership, something discussed in previous posts, after all, it is the Sales team system, this is most often the main driver in adoption. Sales need to own this system and ensure it is regularly used and updated. So, when they see a job change, especially, this should be updated. If someone has left, again, they need to quickly and update or change status. My view is to never delete someone who has left a company, but just flag this contact as ‘left’ somehow, since in most industries once established, people will tend to stay in an Industry and move around, so they may pop up later and you need to then track back to this relationship. A mistake sometimes made and easy to do in a cloud CRM is to re-associate the contact with their new company. Don’t do this as you can lose all historic context at the previous company and this can be confusing. My rule of thumb is re-creating the contact in new role and then link via a separate association. Most systems have a way of achieving this.

This is probably the most important ongoing step and Marketing need to support and champion this to ensure Sales are aware of the impact of poor quality or out of date data. Really this is the key to CRM success and needs to be part of your CRM culture and onboarding training so that the Sales team think of CRM as their database, then you are on the road to success. Whenever they just think of it as “marketing database” or big brother, then this is a tougher call. If this is an issue, then time needs to be spent ensuring the Sales team can see and understand the value of keeping ‘their CRM’ up to date and relevant.

This is especially relevant if you are using any form of Stakeholder mapping. A tougher task to be fair, but with things rapidly changing, who is more important now IT or Finance? Who are now going to be the main influencers in your larger opportunities? Are they there or unseen? Either way, you need to understand how the buyer group dynamics will evolve. This will vary on your own buyer profiles, but I suspect that Boards and Directors will be more stringent . We have heard from large clients who’ve said that the only projects being approved are those likely to be income generating.

Finally a fourth  step, although this may involve additional costs in some form, consider:

4. Sales Enablement and Data Enhancement.

Here we are looking at using or adding additional sales tools to help to enrich your database, whilst this is UK focussed post, we tend to find that many of the Sales enablement tools work best in the US where there is more publicly available data. However, in my view the first and best sales enablement tool to use which we all know is LinkedIn.

LinkedIn Editions.

The most common are the Free or Premium editions and with these you have limited ‘saved searches’ you can set up to monitor your customer base posts and follow target companies, however, for serious prospecting and customer tracking, you will probably need to consider Sales Navigator. You can try this on a 30 day trial so this may be a useful starting point in Phase 1, if you can give this sufficient time to plan and test if this edition works for you. However, within your team, it may be useful that at least one person uses Sales Navigator for this year. This can help you to map the changes in personnel at client and target companies. Afterall, most people update their LinkedIn nowadays on a regular basis. For integration to the main platforms, then you need the Sales Navigator Team licence. Whilst this can be added to the Dynamics 365 Enterprise Sales licence to create a Relationship Sales licence for only around an extra £20 more per month, a minimum of 10 users are required. Sales Navigator Team also integrates to Salesforce, but this is costed separately.

Another solution is to look at add-on Sales Enablement Solutions such as Versium, but this may involve further investment, planning and training and is probably best left to another post.

Finally, let us consider using external supporting effort or Managed Services.

Managed Services

If you have small department or just need extra support and help, then look at Managed Services as an option. This is where many of these tasks or steps are managed externally, possibly by your CRM provider or a separate external service. As a full-service technology consultancy, we often perform these operations on behalf of our clients either on a project or retained basis or for those on our Platinum Support Plan (24 x 7 x 365 support), then this extra service is built into their plan with a number of days of Managed Services per month. Many other clients take advantage of this Managed Services on a project centric basis.

Back to the three Phases

I started off this post talking about three core phase or burst of activities. Three is a good number since it ensures there is some in-built momentum generated around every 90-120 days. To recap:

Phase 1. Now

Do this now. Don’t forget to bear in mind the impact already of the last six months, so this is the first challenge in 2021 and these first six to eight weeks in Lockdown 3.0 mean now is a good time to start these steps off since most business have stabilised after making any dramatic changes last Summer/Autumn.

Phase 2: Early Summer

Re-take the steps above during the early Summer, possibly within 2-3 months of furlough ending again as any more job changes work through. Again, there should be a continued or renewed focus on supporting and ensuring the Sales team are diligently tracking any job and role changes they come across.

Phase 3: Late September/October

With the focus on reaching end of year sales targets for many, then it should be a good idea to repeat these five steps. Since any other prolonged delays in business making decisions in the early Summer will by now have most probably have worked their way through, always assuming and hoping that this Lockdown is really the last one and that by early Summer the vaccination programme has met key targets and we are returning, probably still gradually to a degree of new normality.


Whilst this is a short post, 2021 really is going to be a year where for Sales and Marketing departments the challenge of data and in staying up to date with personnel changes at clients and prospects will be more important than ever.

Updating your stakeholder maps will also be critical, since past experience suggests that with any sort of prolonged downturn or recession, with cash being tight, then finance will hold an even stronger rein on other parts of the business and so you many need to factor this in and engage more closely say with the finance team in order to more deeply understand their influence and how they may be impacting purchase decisions.

So the big data challenge themes this year are going to be:

• Data integrity -making sure who information is accurate and relevant

• Data validity-making sure information is up to date and cleansed.

• Data ownership -making sure your sales team understand the importance of updating records such as new and lost staff, role changes and job title changes

• Frequent Communication between Sales and Marketing to ensure close alignment and an understanding of the impact on both departments shared success in 2021

The starting point as suggested in Phase 1 is in taking those important first quick and easy steps and beginning to create the momentum and culture you need to ensure that you can address the data challenges of this year. The key is you need to start now.


Picture credit: Photo 204902783 © Nicoelnino |

30th January 2021