Let me start by saying I have high expectations around what “good” looks like when I’m buying something. When I buy a product or subscribe to a service, I expect a good customer experience. When I am considering a purchase, I want answers to my questions. When I want support, whether that’s through chat, email, or phone, I want someone with knowledge about the product I have (the exact one I have). When I go to their website looking for accessories, I don’t want to have to sift through gobs of irrelevant options for products I don’t own.

I’m not alone with these high expectations.

Quote-1In my role as a Solution Lead, I regularly talk with people who could benefit from tightening up their customers’ experiences. Customer Relationship Management systems like Dynamics 365 have evolved beyond the traditional “sales forecasting” or “account management” systems into integrated platforms that enable better experiences for customers…without ever knowing that this interaction is powered by what has been historically viewed as “just a CRM system”.

Connecting a website to Dynamics 365

Any Dynamics 365 online or internet-facing on-premises deployment can be hooked up to a website using the API—this isn’t new and many solutions take advantage of this (simple lead capture forms come to mind). There are ISV solutions as well as pure custom development options.

Microsoft has released their Dynamics Portals solution, which is a big, exciting step.

This solution is easy to deploy with all of the plumbing done for you to provision a website. Simply start with one of several available templates:

– Customer Self-Service Portal

– Partner Portal

– Employee Self-Service Portal

– Community Portal

– Custom Portal

– Partner Project Service Portal (requires Project Service solution)

– Partner Field Service Portal (requires Field Service solution)

Quote-2Dynamics portals also support interaction tracking of logged-in users. Said another way, this means that by understanding the pages that someone visits, a better user experience can be provided through intelligent suggestions or relevant content.


Go further when engaging with your customers and prospects

But there are situations where the personalization needs to go further, or fold into a larger content and engagement strategy. CRM, social, web, e-commerce, in-store, email, mobile app…it’s a big list! Where do we look to?

I connected with a few different colleagues that know the content management and delivery side of this, who could answer some of the questions I had as someone with more of a CRM background. There were three big buckets that came up:

– Advanced lead capture – going beyond a simple “form on a page” – understand the journey that started before they filled out the form

– Enhance customer experience with CRM information – Personalize the website experience based on information about your relationship that come from CRM

– Enhance CRM with customer activity – collect information about anonymous users (both prospects and customers) and connect that history as you build a relationship

Quote-3In order to meet the high (and rising) expectations for customer experiences, content management tools like Sitecore are your friend, and they include ways to have a deeper connection with your customers across platforms.


Looking ahead

There are dozens of questions that come to mind when I start considering the possibilities of what a client’s next questions would be. A few include:

– Who should drive this kind of project, and who else needs to be at the table to ensure success?

– What are some of the milestones that can help measure incremental success of this kind of integration?

– When should we start tracking information about a prospect or client’s activity or preferences, then align that across so many different channels?

– Where is the balance point for the level of detail that should be passed between Dynamics 365 and the CMS?

– Why would we choose a consolidated platform vs. building integrations between services that are already in use?

– How do we make sure that behind the technology, we provide a great client experience across these different channels?

IQuote-4 feel a little like I’m standing at the top of a rabbit hole, excited to see just how deep it goes. Fortunately, I have a really smart team who can help drive answers to these questions. Let us know in the comments if there are specific aspects of this you are curious about.