Tracking Your Contacts with Microsoft CRM - dummies

Tracking Your Contacts with Microsoft CRM

By Joel Scott, David Lee

Personal Information Managers (PIM) and Contact Management Systems (CMS) were introduced in the mid-1980s. Both PIM and CMS systems enabled you to organize the names, addresses, and phone numbers for all your business contacts. PIMs were superseded by Sales Force Automation (SFA) systems in the late 1980s. Products such as ACT and GoldMine initially combined scheduling functions with contact management. By the mid-1990s, these systems evolved into simple Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, attempting to involve not just salespeople but also customer service and management.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 (that’s the official name) is the next generation of CRM systems. Microsoft CRM is based on .NET (pronounced dot-net) technology, pioneered by Microsoft. Not only does Microsoft CRM have functionality for sales, customer service, and now marketing, it takes great advantage of the Internet, or more specifically, Web services. This Web service focus is what defines the .NET strategy. In a nutshell, Web services enable applications to be easily integrated, rapidly configured to meet your business needs, and extended to both internal and external users.

Microsoft CRM has a record type or entity called a contact. A contact, in this sense, is a person. It is a concept taken from Microsoft Outlook. In fact, contact records from Outlook are directly transferable into contact records in Microsoft CRM.

Microsoft CRM calls company records accounts. Companies (accounts) and the people who work at each of them (contacts) can be related to one another within the system.

A contact is a person and an account is a company. A customer is either a person or a company.

Company executives often say that their most important corporate asset is their database of prospects and clients. Neglecting, for the moment, all the powerful tools within CRM, the most basic thing is what pays off the quickest. And that quick payoff results from having one central, organized, accessible repository for all the information relating to your customers and prospects. Even if you never create any workflow rules, never connect the system to a Web site, or never automate your quotation system, you will be miles ahead just by organizing your data into one coherent database.

You want to store other kinds of information in Microsoft CRM, too. The system is going to be your universal reference tool — your Rolodex, your personnel directory, and your Yellow Pages all in one place. You also want to have records for vendors, employees, and competitors.

In addition, Microsoft CRM holds important information that will help you manage and make better-informed decisions about your business. That information includes opportunities to track your sales cycles, cases to track customer service issues, and campaigns to track the results of your marketing campaigns.