Microsoft Plugs Dynamics, Cloud Services

Microsoft held its Worldwide Partner Conference last week, and Sonoma Partners’ Mike Snyder summed up the event’s highlights.

“Once again, Microsoft CRM was a featured product at the conference! Microsoft sells thousands of products, but CRM gets plenty of attention,” he wrote. “During the opening keynote on Tuesday, there was just one product demo: Microsoft CRM (conducted by Brad Wilson).

“There are now 14,000 customers and 775,000 users worldwide; Microsoft added 4,000 customers and 225,000 users in FY08; there are 500 Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online customers,” Snyder noted.

Solution Accelerators

Snyder also blogged about some forthcoming “Solution Accelerators” Microsoft will be releasing for Microsoft CRM. There are eight altogether — two of which Sonoma helped to develop, notably the customer service portal and event management ones.

The Solution Accelerators are basically add-ons to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0. The customer portal in particular, he told CRM Buyer, will be popular with customers when it comes out later this year. “I would say 90 percent of the time I meet with prospective clients, they tell me that self-service is becoming increasingly important to their operations.”

Currently, a few third-party companies offer this functionality to be integrated into the Microsoft product, he continued. “But up until this, [it] hasn’t been offered as part of the Microsoft functionality, so it is very exciting.”

Also, Snyder added, all the accelerators will be released with their source code, so the partners can expand on the products.

Microsoft CRM also shared the stage with SharePoint, Snyder concluded in his post, as well as cloud computing, which the company is increasing focus on.

About the former: SharePoint has become a US$1 billion dollar business by itself, he noted. Compare that with all of the Dynamics products combined, which just surpassed $1 billion dollars collectively in the past few years.

Taking Partners Into the Cloud

As for the latter, Snyder as well as other bloggers and news outlets reported on the rollout of Microsoft Online Services, a cloud-based offering of some of its most popular products and services.

“Every keynote session talked about cloud services and their importance for Microsoft,” Snyder wrote. “In the past, the tone of the software-as-a-service topic was more like ‘well, as a partner you should consider this because some customers want it,’ while this year the tone was ‘this is an unstoppable train, so you better prepare yourself to get onboard quickly.'”

TechCrunchIT Coeditor Nik Cubrilovic commented on the new program and services as well. He pointed out that they “compete directly with existing partners that offer hosted exchange and sharepoint, as well as the free offerings from Google and others.”

That is why Microsoft used the conference to also announce the affiliate and partner program as part of the online platform, he explained. “Partners who refer customers to the online services platform will earn a 12 percent commission on the first year of revenues, and from then on a 6 percent commission on all revenues from that customer. At 12 percent of $180 per year, it is more than a partner earns on the resale of a standard CAL (client access license) for Exchange and Sharepoint, so the hope that with a solid revenue-sharing model, partners will drive growth in adoption of the new online model.”

Microsoft seems to be striking just the right balance between not alienating its customers and going after one of the hottest trends in IT right now with its inducements to partners to bring more clients into the cloud fold.

“The partner model for the online services platform seems just as, if not more, appealing than existing partnership agreements with software licensing,” Cubrilovic wrote.

Measure This

On Virtual Impax, Kathy Hendershot-Hurd questions whether readers measure customer service by satisfaction or complaints. At the end of her post, she offers links to industry metrics that best measure customer service quality:

  • Customer Attrition Ratio – … The higher the ratio, the less likely it is that your company is consistently delivering quality customer service.
  • Sales Growth – Your reputation precedes you. If people are still buying from you, and referring others, chances are they are happy with the service and they are loyal to your organization.
  • Customer Survey Results – Directly asking customers to rate the service level they receive is by far the best way to measure service quality.
  • Customer Complaints – Be thankful for each complaint that comes to your attention. You can only provide a thoughtful response to customer issues once you are made aware of the issue. When customers complain, they represent not just their issue, but perhaps an issue that is affecting others.”

Meanwhile, Paul Greenberg has released excerpts of his soon-to-be-published CRM at the Speed of Light, 4th Edition. In true Web 2.0 custom, commenters and collaborators are welcome.

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