Dynamics 365 and Customer 360

What is Customer 360?

Customer 360 is also often referred to as Customer Dashboard to provide the “complete picture” of a customer. Customer 360 typically combines customer information from various sources, such as data warehouse, Finance, and other LOB systems. Customer 360 displays key metrics through a single system, eliminating the need for a user to switch between systems. For example, when a Sales Rep displays an Account record in Dynamics 365, he/she would like to also see totals of open opportunities and outstanding invoices. The Sales Rep should also be able to click through these metrics to display more details, i.e. lists of open opportunities and outstanding invoices.

An effective Customer 360 displays information relevant to:

  1. Customer – information must be in the context of the current customer (organisation or individual)
  2. Time – e.g. orders raised in this FY, last FY, or rolling 12 months, etc.
  3. User Role – key metrics for Sales are different to Customer Service

Examples

Here are some examples of key metrics that make up Customer 360:

  • Number/count of customer’s open activities, opportunities, cases, etc.
  • Number/count of customer’s order placed or invoices raised in the last (rolling) 12 months from the data warehouse
  • Total revenue for this FY and previous FY for the customer
  • Customer’s satisfaction score
  • Segmentation (e.g. gold, silver, bronze) based on customer’s revenue
  • Customer’s Portfolio distribution totalling 100% (e.g. services delivered – Infrastructure, Software Solutions, Managed Services) for cross-sell opportunities

Benefits

Customer 360 is about providing the user with the right data at the right time. When done right, Customer 360 delivers many benefits, including minimising potential human errors from having to switch between systems and locate the customer, increasing efficiency and productivity, and ultimately, increasing customer satisfaction from you and your organisation understand their situations and needs.

Solution Options

Here are some ways to deliver Customer 360 with Dynamics 365:

  1. Dynamics 365 Calculated and roll-up attributes
  2. Dynamics 365 Read-only fields populated via integration with external systems
  3. Dynamics 365 Charts and visuals via HTML web resource
  4. IFRAME and deep link URL
  5. Power BI
  6. Customer Insights (preview)
  7. Virtual Entity (coming soon – thanks Neil for bringing this up)

Each approach has its unique characteristics, benefits and limitations, they’re described further below.

#1: Dynamics 365 Calculated and Roll-up Attributes

“Last Activity Date” is a good practical use of Dynamics 365 roll-up feature to capture customer’s last activity date.

Key points:

  • Limited to data within Dynamics 365.
  • A non-technical solution, therefore no IT involvement.
  • Calculated is real-time on record retrieval, roll-up is scheduled. The default interval is 12 hours and can be changed.
  • Modified On, and Modified By are not updated, preserving record integrity.
  • Do not overuse. I’ve seen consultants gone overboard applying complex calculations over millions of rows of transactions every hour, bringing down the system!

#2: Dynamics 365 Read-only Fields Populated via Integration with External Systems

In the Account screenshot above, a number read-only fields (e.g. This FY Revenue, Penetration %, etc.) are sourced from external data sources.

Key points:

  • Bringing and replicating data/information from external systems (e.g. data warehouse) to Dynamics 365 as read-only as integration is typically one-way.
  • Use of middleware such as SSIS, or MuleSoft.
  • Technical solution, therefore IT needs to be involved in designing, testing, and deploying the “package”. Typically, the execution is done outside business hours, and relies on completion of prior executions.
  • If transactions records are replicated in Dynamics 365, they will consume disk space overtime, therefore need to schedule bulk deletion jobs to periodically delete transaction old records (e.g. older than 2 years).
  • From experience, would work well when working with UPSERT (Update/Insert) of approx. a few hundred thousand to a million records daily.
  • Modified On, and Modified By are updated, therefore record integrity is not preserved. I.e. you will see customer records or transaction records are all created or update by the integration user overnight.

#3: Dynamics 365 Charts and Visuals via HTML Web Resource

Account Dashboard within Dynamics 365 to allow a quick summary of the account, e.g. number of open activities, opportunities, work orders, cases, etc.

Key Points:

  • Making customer page more informative and visually more attractive via Customer Dashboard.
  • I.e. HTML, JavaScript, and FetchXML queries on form load.
  • Limited to data within Dynamics 365, and FetchXML returning up to 5,0000 records at a time.
  • Technical solution, may need assistance from a developer or IT.
  • Modified On, and Modified By are not updated, preserving record integrity.
  • Accessible on tablets, but not on phones (yet), hence a good solution for desk-bound roles such as Call Centre agents, or else display as read-only calculated fields.

#4: IFRAME and Deep Link URL

I generally avoid using IFRAME to load deep link URL of external system (unless it is supported by the external system as a way for integration) to avoid potential issues with cross domain and authentication.

#5: Power BI

Customer 360 can be delivered using Power BI, which has the capability to connect to various data sources, and linking the data back to the customer.

Key Points:

  • Interactive and feature-rich.
  • Power BI Pro license requirement per user.
  • However, D365 license is not required if no access to CRM is required, or Team Member license for basic access.
  • Capable for reporting data in D365 and other data sources.
  • Technical solution, will need involvement from IT form the perspectives of provisioning licenses and making relevant data from various data sources available for access.
  • Record integrity is preserved.
  • Accessible on desktop and mobile devices.

#6: Customer Insights (preview)

Customer Insights is currently still in preview. It allows gathering of information from various data silos and provides predictive insights without relying on a team of data scientists!

Key Points:

  • Microsoft Azure subscriptions required.
  • Data locations: East US and North Europe – potential issue with data residency and uploading Personal Identifiable Information (PII)
  • Data sources:
    • Azure Blob Storage (can store anything here, hence very extensible!)
    • Dynamics 365
    • Social Engagement
    • Exchange
  • Concepts of: Profile, Interaction, Link, and KPI

#7: Virtual Entity (coming soon)

Coming in the next release of Dynamics 365, Virtual Entity will provide the capability to retrieve data at runtime from an external data source, eliminating the need to replicate external contents to Dynamics 365 (like in #2).

Key Points:

  • Supported external data source: Azure SQL, and any source that supports OData v4 data provider.
  • Creation and configuration without code.
  • Accessible and extensible via the SDK.

Data & Beyond

A common theme in all the above solutions, data is key. Quality is also important (garbage in, garbage out) to produce effective Customer 360.
Beyond Data Collection and Analytics, there is also Machine Learning for building predictive analytics solutions – Retention Prediction, Next Best Action, Opportunity Scoring, Cross-sells & Upsells, etc.

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