Doug Winter started his career as an engineer. Eventually, he made the switch to the executive side of business when he started his company, Seismic. Seismic provides a sales enablement tool that helps businesses with optimizing the way that they market and sell to prospective customers. Further than that, Doug and his company pride themselves in a company culture that goes above and beyond.

How was Seismic born?

If you think about what had happened in enterprise software, a company like Salesforce comes along and they took an established base like CRM (customer relationship management) that was a well-solved problem. But then they ‘consumerized’ it, they made it easier to use, they put it onto the cloud, made it a SaaS offering, started selling it as a subscription, so a different business model.

We also had been involved heavily in sales cycle as executives. We felt that the existing solutions that were out there were really the worst fit for sales and marketing teams in terms of aligning them around commons goals and ensuring that they could work together on the important assets of a sales cycle. We had the vision of: let's build a solution like that for sales and marketing, and from there, we can expand into all kinds of different areas. That was really the vision of Seismic.

When we started, honestly, I hadn't heard the term sales enablement. It wasn't until a little ways into the journey that we realized that it’s a great description for what we're doing. We were going to jump aboard that bus and lead the way.

When was that? When did you start?

We were officially founded in 2010. We started building the product in 2011 and started selling it in the 2012 time frame. We didn't raise any money, actually, until the very end of 2013. We decided we had a great product and should start to tell the story a little bit more loudly to get some sales and marketing efforts going, and then raise funds.

In simple words, what do you do? How do you help people, sales people in particular?

At Seismic, we enable marketing teams to support sellers throughout the sales cycle. We provide marketers a way to understand what content is working and how it's being used, and then allow them to turn the dials and the knobs to deliver the perfect message for a seller to use as they sit down to have that conversation with a prospective customer.

It takes a lot of different forms. For one, obviously, data comes into play. It's about collecting everything that happens with content throughout sales cycles. All that data then comes pouring back to marketing to help them have a better understanding of what's working. If buyers received content in the sales cycle, was that sales cycle ultimately successful or not? If it was successful, maybe the content was a part of the reason why it was successful. If it wasn't successful, maybe we need to try to improve it.

We also allow the content to be customized. If you know that you're talking to someone in a certain industry, and you know that you're talking to someone with a certain role, we can allow the content to actually be customized so that it matches that point in the selling conversation where the other party is.

What was the biggest technological breakthrough that has enabled you?

Analytics is a great example. The data that flows into our system is an incredibly valuable part of what we're doing. We're not building our own technology to present that data in fancy dashboards. We leverage other companies' technologies to help us build that.

Second, we’ve made great breakthroughs in the management of content itself--the ability to handle large volumes of content and keep them organized. We're really good at helping marketers to that by giving them insight into where content currently resides and how it's being used, while also keeping track of when content should be expired or refreshed.

The third major technological innovation that we have which is really unique and powerful is our personalization engine. The ability to assemble content dynamically in real time, pulling in data, and automatically build charts and have them show up in a PowerPoint presentation or PDF that's being shared with buyers.

The fourth piece would be our predictive capabilities. As our platform monitors what's happening with all the content and data, it also feeds that back into an engine that says what content would be best for each unique seller’s situation and place in the sales cycle in order to beat your competitor.

That predictive engine and capability, it's something that will never be finished. It's something we continue to work on and invest in. I would say that's one of the areas that we view ourselves as differentiated in.

Talking about data analysis, do you want to add anything about how you're doing it and how it's servicing B2B marketing?

First, you have to have as much data as possible. You can't train the machines if you don't have data to train them with.

We've built a big infrastructure around collecting that data. We're now collecting millions, literally millions, of data events every single day. It has to be a very big and scalable warehouse, so we architected a capability that can handle that type of volume.

Then, you start to look at correlating content data with data about the sales cycles. Sales cycle data is generally kept in CRM like Salesforce, and everybody customizes their CRM. What a sales cycle looks like for your firm is different than what it looks for someone else's firm. So you have to put some work into how you wire this thing up so that it can understand your particular CRM instance.

Then you start to put the pieces together. That's where our system comes into play.

I would say that ourselves and everyone in the industry is chasing that. It’s still in a fairly early stage, but it's a very rapidly evolving field and one that's pretty exciting to be right in the middle of.

Can you describe a bit about your career? How did you grow from engineering to building this sales enablement tool? Was it intentional?

I would say it has been little bit intentional and a bit serendipitous. Out of school, I started out taking a job for a very old-school, traditional company: Westinghouse. It was a good experience. I was very proud of being an engineer. I had great leadership experience. I was helping train nuclear engineers and was part of a team that, at the age of 23, I was leading. Ultimately I was in charge of a nuclear power plant.

I realized, however, that it wasn’t a space that offered a lot of growth, so I settled on business school to make a little bit of a change in direction in my career. When I graduated, it was the very beginning of the dot-com days, and I really wanted to start a company. Unfortunately, I didn't have the courage to jump and do it on my own, and I wasn't effective at recruiting anyone else to jump with me. So I ended up taking a job out here in San Diego at CalCon, which was great because it wasn't quite a startup anymore, but it was still in very early days and a high growth, high excitement environment.

From there I joined a true startup in the services business. Part of that jump included moving from being an engineer and operations person to being an executive and a leader, and trying to learn those things on the fly. That was 2000 and I've never really looked back.

The last time I interviewed for a job was 1996. I don't have a resume anymore. Entrepreneurship is not for everybody, but I certainly encourage people to have confidence in themselves and go for it if they really feel like they have an idea and an opportunity.

One characteristic of being an entrepreneur is you can't be too smart, because if you're smart, you'll see all the reasons why it's not going to work. I qualify for not being too smart.

What were some of the important skills that you had to develop in order to be successful as a leader?

To be a leader, it's really much more about how you can get the best out of a team.

One thing I've found is that listening skills are so important. The way I think of it is if you've got a team, some of them have lots of experience and big job titles, some of them don't. But you don't really know where the good idea is going to come from. As a leader, if you're not encouraging conversation, you're not encouraging the ideas to flow, and everyone is going to miss out on a great idea.

That also leads to something else, which is building lasting relationships. It’s so important to treat people with respect and having an understanding of what they bring to the table. That kind of loyalty and working relationship, it goes past individual companies.

You explained that, in the beginning, you weren't so great at recruiting people. Now, you're in a place where around you, people are empowered and enabled to really share what's on their mind. How did that happen?

Like most things in life, there's an amount of your early upbringing that sets the stage for who you are as a person, but then, just like every other skill, it’s recognizing that it's important and trying to actively work on it.

I observed early in my career when I was working for Westinghouse that one of the leaders there was very much despised by his team. However, it was a military environment, so your power comes from the stripes on your shoulder. He was in charge and he told everyone what to do, and they did. What I realized, though, was that his whole team was rooting for him—and in turn themselves--to fail. I saw another leader who was the complete opposite. His team would have run through a wall for him. They were rooting for him to succeed. That made a huge impression on me.

It’s about being aware of little experiences like that, where you see things that work and you see things that don't work. I’ve made millions of mistakes along the way, but being self-aware, and being willing to change and work on things that you think are important, that's the long-term success.

In what way are you incorporating innovation and new IT tools in your environment?

I was in a meeting with our finance team, and we've added a lot to our finance team recently with an eye towards potentially being a public company somewhere down the road. They came in with all the tools that they currently use and all the tools that they want to use. I thought, "Wow, there's like eight tools that we're using just in our finance team alone."

We're constantly evaluating and upgrading in different areas. We’ll explore any way we can use technology to free people up to do more interesting things and be more efficient at their jobs. It frees the dollars for us to go do something else as a company. That's an important part of being successful.

You are known to have a great work culture. How did you establish that? How do you achieve that?

It goes back to the earlier conversation about treating people with respect and acknowledging the fact that they're here because they choose to be. I tell new hires in our orientation program, Seismic Acceleration, "You could work anywhere. I know you could work anywhere. Thank you for working here. We want to provide an environment that you want to work at, and by the way, it's now part of your responsibility to make that environment happen."

People have to feel good about what they're doing. We have a great product and we want to have the best product. People feel pride in that. They feel pride of helping create it and being associated with it.

Upward mobility is another thing. One of the great things about a company that's growing really fast is there's lots of opportunities. I look at our sales team, for example, where two of the three top reps started life with Seismic making cold calls. We’ve been able to consistently provide upward mobility for folks and that is something that's really exciting for them, too.

Also, people celebrate each other's success in a way that is pretty unique and really cool. It started happening organically, and now we actively encourage it. For example, we have something we call pushpin. Every time we win a deal, the sales rep sends out an email explaining who the new customer is and why they chose Seismic.

The best part about it, is that they include all the other people that made the deal happen. It's not about the sales rep or any single person, it's about all the people that helped and all the people who went out of their way to assist a teammate. Even further than that initial email, people will reply to them throughout the company saying “that-a-boy” or “way to go”, that kind of stuff. I love that. I think this whole process and mindset is a huge piece of our culture and it’s something that we try to encourage.

If your employees are happy and encouraged, they're also going to do well with customers, right?

Customer-first focus is another huge part of our success. I think you just have to be that way. Customers, especially in the SaaS model, can pick up and move across the street very easily. We’re asking you as a customer to put your faith in us again and again during each renewal. In order for that to happen, we’ve got to give you a better product. We’ve got to give you a good experience. We’ve got to do all of these things to show the value we provide so that you're going to choose to stay with us, and hopefully grow with us.

One of my favorite sayings is, "Happy customers buy more stuff." It’s just true and we put a lot of effort into that. I'm very proud of our customer success team, but also the way our product team listens to customers and incorporates their feedback into the product. Even in the selling situation, we're trying to sell a solution that's a perfect fit for each customer, not just to get a deal done. We work hard at that, and I think that it pays off.

What is next after Seismic?

It’s kind of hard to think about. I'm having so much fun right now, and I firmly believe this is a huge space. It's a huge opportunity. We have a big company with the resources to continue to build. I love the fact that we're building it with headquarters in San Diego, which hasn't historically been a big software destination. That’s changing, and I like the fact that we're being a part of it.

I love the way that we're helping our customers be more effective sellers and more efficient at how they market. You always keep an eye on the horizon, but try not to trip over the step that's in front of you. We have eyes on building something much bigger over the next few years. Then, I don't know after that. I'll hop on a rocket ship and fly to Mars, maybe.

Is this road also challenging? Does anything scare you about how fast you're growing?

I'm no math whiz but, 100% growth at the size we are now is a lot different than 100% growth a few years ago. The bets that we make, and the number of people that we need to onboard, and the number of initiatives that we're doing, they all just get bigger and more risky in a lot of ways.

I wouldn't say anything scares me, and I would also say everything scares me. It's, where in the organization is the place that's going to break if we don't make some changes? Try to be aware of that and get in front of it instead of waiting until after the fact. That's the game, and that's how I see my role in order to stay ahead.

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How to Connect Dynamics 365 to Power BI

By Ben Ward (2017)
With the release of the latest Dynamics 365 API, analysts can now connect Dynamics 365 to Power BI and download data up-to five times faster compared to the previous version of the API. This is great news to any analyst who is looking to mine, analyze and visualize large data sets hosted in Dynamics 365. This is especially helpful to those who are trying to analyze email sends for an organization as these data sets can exponentially grow.
To connect Dynamics 365 to Power BI, log in to Dynamics 365 and go to Settings > Customizations > Developer Resources and copy the Service Root URL.
It will look like this:
Next, open Power BI and click on Get Data > Online Services and select Dynamics 365 (online) then click Connect. Paste the URL copied above into the Web API URL field and click on OK.
Power BI will then connect to the Dynamics 365 environment specified and return a list of available tables.

How to Export and Import Solutions Between Dynamics 365 Instances

By Ben Ward


In this example, I will be exporting and importing a solution consisting of my custom Time and Expense entities previously created.

Exporting the Solution

Login to the destination instance of Dynamics 365 (where the customization resides and to be exported from). Go to Settings > Customizations > Solutions.
Click on New in the top ribbon. Complete the required fields located on the form.
Note: If you have not exported a solution before, you may need to create a new publisher record for yourself. To create a publisher record, click on the lookup button on the Publisher field and click on New.
Once the new solution has been created, click on Add Existing in the top ribbon and click on Entity. From Select Solution Components dialog, select all the entities that make up the solution you are looking to export. In this example, I know that the following entities are part of my custom Time and Expense solution:
·       Time entity
·       Expense entity
·       Time and Expense Date Range entity
·       Events entity
·       Event Participation entity
If you do not know this information, don’t worry. Dynamics 365 will produce a prompt displaying any missing dependencies later. I will purposely leave out the Event Participation entity to display the missing components prompt from Dynamics 365.
Go ahead a select all the entities that are a part of the solution to export and click OK.

The next screens will show all the assets that are a part of each entity selected on the previous prompt. In this example, I will export all the assets for each of the entities selected. To ensure all assets are included in the export, the Add All Assets box needs to be checked. Once ready, click Next:

Repeat the previous step for each of the entities selected and click Finish on the last entity prompt.

Dynamics 365 will then check the status of the solution and provide a list of missing components that were not added to the solution package. In this example, the icon asset was missing. Make sure ‘Yes, include required components’ is selected and click OK. The wizard will close and display the full solution which is now ready to be exported. To export the solution, click Export Solution in the top ribbon.

On the Publish Customizations screen, click Publish All Customizations (if any of the customizations to be exported have not been published yet) and click Next.
On the next prompt, Dynamics 365 will check to see if there are any missing components prior to exporting. In the previous steps, I purposely did not select the Events Participation required entity, and Dynamics 365 is informing me that this entity is required. To add the missing required entity, click Cancel on the prompt, select the related entity for the missing component (in this example the related entity is the Events entity) and click on Add Required Components in the top ribbon. The missing entity will appear in the list of components to export.
Click on Export Solution again and click Next.
On the Export System Settings (Advanced) prompt, you can “Select the following features if you want their system settings to be applied when the solution is imported. Note that the system settings are not removed if the solution is deleted. Consult your system administrator before including system settings in your solution.” In this example I will not export any of my system settings along with export and just click Next.
On the next prompt, I will select the Package Type to be Unmanaged and click Next.
The next prompt will ask for the target source version. I will select 8.2, and click Export.
The solution will download to your default download location.

Importing the Solution

Login to the destination Dynamics 365 instance and go to Settings > Customization > Solutions and click on Import in the top ribbon.
Click on Choose File and select the recently exported and downloaded solution, then click Next.
The correct solution information should be displayed. If this is correct, click Next.
Under Import Options, check Enable any SDK message processing steps included in this solution and click on Import.
The solution will begin importing into the target Dynamics 365 instance.
Once the solution has been imported, a notification should appear at the top of the prompt to display the status of the import. Click on Publish All Customizations.
Once the solution has been published, click on Close, refresh the browser and navigate to the corresponding section of the CRM where the newly imported solution will now reside. If the new solution appears, test out the functionality and you should be good to go!

What is Data Management?

By Ben Ward
There is a lot of talk around data management for businesses. In today’s ever changing digital world, businesses are accumulating far more data (even unconsciously) on consumers than ever before. It’s becoming critical for businesses, regardless of size to manage the data collected for analysis to decipher specific consumer habits or trends to ultimately increase profits or reduce cost.

How Can Data Management Help My Business?

Consumer Product Assessment and Feedback

Imagine this scenario:
You broadcast the new release of a product on social media, your friends, family and consumers are all digitally reacting to the launch of this new product using actions such as Like, Comment and Share. Do you have time to sift through the comments section and pull out specific keywords left in the comments to identify how the product is being perceived by consumers?
By utilizing data management, a business can set up metrics and key performance indicators on the data gathered through social media and perform analysis to decipher whether the product is being positively or negatively perceived by consumers. Proper data management can assist business comprehend how target consumers perceive products or services.

Allocation of Marketing Funds

In this day and age, any business that has a website really should be utilizing the power of any analytics platform. If you are one of these businesses, then you’re already one step ahead! Data management occurs in analytic platforms such as Google Analytics, however if you don’t know how to act upon the data displayed inside of your analytics platform, then what’s the point in even having it? Let’s take the Referrals section of Google Analytics for example, Google Analytics does a fantastic job of displaying the channel that each of your referral visitors come from. Let’s hypothetically say that your business purchased ads on Facebook and Twitter to announce the launch of your new product. After analyzing the number of referrals received directly from the ads hosted on Facebook and Twitter, we see that Facebook produced far more referrals that directly lead to product sales than Twitter. In this case, we would look to reduce our marketing spend with Twitter and allocate that money to Facebook advertising.

New Revenue Streams

Adding to the example above, Google Analytics may even display referrals from an organic source that you were not aware of which could contribute to a surprisingly large amount of sales. You may find that more people purchase products from your site when they search on Microsoft’s Bing search engine instead of Google. This type of information would not be easily accessible or available without a proper form of data management.

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Outlook Customer Manager now rolling out worldwide with enhanced capabilities

As written on

The Outlook Customer Manager provides an easy way for small businesses to track and grow customer relationships from right within Outlook. Today, we are pleased to announce the Outlook Customer Manager is now rolling out to all Office 365 Business Premium subscribers worldwide, and is also now available for Outlook on the web and Outlook for iOS. In addition, we’ve enhanced the Outlook Customer Manager to help you manage customer relationships more effectively, including intelligent reminders and integration with Bing, Cortana and Microsoft Flow.

More ways to access Outlook Customer Manager

Last November, we released Outlook Customer Manager for Outlook for Windows desktops and since then we have been working to expand the service across platforms. Today, we’re excited to announce the availability of Outlook Customer Manager for Outlook for iOS and Outlook on the web.

We know that access to customer information is often useful when you’re on the go. The Outlook Customer Manager add-in—now available in Outlook for iOS—gives you a quick view of a customer’s information or a deal in progress. To get started, under Add-ins, next to your email in Outlook for iOS, just tap the Outlook Customer Manager add-in. The standalone mobile app for the Outlook Customer Manager will allow you to take a detailed look at all your customers and deals, and will be available in the iOS App Store in the coming weeks.

Quickly get to customer information with the Outlook Customer Manager add-in for Outlook for iOS.

In Outlook on the web, just click the Outlook Customer Manager icon to see a quick view of customer information, such as emails, meetings, calls, notes, files, tasks, deals and deadlines. Over time we will add more functionality, including a detailed view of all your customers and deals.

Now view customer information in Outlook on the web.

Additionally, Outlook Customer Manager is now available in 39 languages, so you stay on top of your customer information in many more ways.

Get automatic reminders for emails containing customer inquiries

Within the busy day of a business owner, it’s easy to miss important emails from customers—especially when you’re heads down attending to urgent tasks. Outlook Customer Manager helps you stay on top of customer inquiries by understanding requests made in email. When an email arrives, Outlook Customer Manager looks to see if it contains a request for a meeting, information or a file, and automatically creates a reminder for you on the Today page.

Get timely reminders on the Today page.

Auto-fill customer business information with suggestions from Bing

Outlook Customer Manager lets you associate all the people you deal with from a company together, to give you one view of information coming from various sources. But spending time to set up up-to-date information on a company can keep you away from more important work. To save you time, Outlook Customer Manager now suggests company information surfaced from Bing. If you accept a suggestion, the business address, website and other information found online are automatically added to the company’s profile in Outlook Customer Manager. This feature is currently available to users who have chosen English-US language setting in Outlook.

See company information suggestions from Bing.

Let Cortana automatically schedule meetings with customers

Setting up a meeting with customers can be time-consuming—often taking more time than the duration of the meeting itself. Leveraging the new Microsoft incubation project, Outlook Customer Manager now offers you the option to let Cortana, your personal digital assistant, arrange meetings on your behalf, so you can focus on more productive work. The first time you try this feature, Outlook Customer Manager will walk you through the Preview sign-up steps. You’ll see this capability if you’re in the Office First Release program.

Delegate meeting scheduling to Cortana.

Add Outlook Customer Manager to your business workflows

Maintaining consistent customer information across the various apps your business uses can be a hassle. We made it easy to connect to Outlook Customer Manager using Microsoft Flow, so you can automate repetitive multi-step workflows needed to manage customer information. For example, with a few clicks, you can ensure that new subscribers who sign up for your newsletter in MailChimp are automatically added as business contacts in Outlook Customer Manager. To help you get started, we created a few templates.

Add Outlook Customer Manager to your workflows with Microsoft Flow.

Get started with one click

Getting started with Outlook Customer Manager is easy. We’re now rolling out to Office 365 Business Premium customers worldwide and expect to be fully rolled out in the next few weeks. You’ll know the service is available for your Office 365 account when you see the Outlook Customer Manager icon on the home tab in Outlook for Windows—just click the icon to get started.

Start with one click in Outlook—no download or installation needed.

Learn more

We put together the following resources if you need more information on Outlook Customer Manager:

  • Join us for an Ask Microsoft Anything (AMA) session, hosted by the Microsoft Tech Community on May 9, 2017 at 9 a.m. PDT (UTC-8). This live online event will give you the opportunity to connect with members of the product and engineering teams who will be on hand to answer your questions and listen to feedback. Add the event to your calendar and join us in the Outlook Customer Manager AMA group.
  • Read this support article.
  • Check out the video:

We are excited for you to begin using Outlook Customer Manager to stay on top of customer relationships and grow your business.

Examples of how nurses can improve patient experience with eHealth solutions

By Molly McCarthy as written on
In my last blog, I wrote about what patient experience really means. Ultimately, it’s about instilling in your patients—and their families—confidence and trust in their care.
Patient experience is something that nurses care deeply about. We all entered this profession to make a positive impact on people’s lives, as well as their health and wellness. And the good news is that today’s technologies are empowering nurses to do more to achieve that mission and enhance the experience of patients and their families.
One example comes from the Cardiac High Acuity Monitoring Program (CHAMP) at Children’s Mercy hospital where they’re improving the outcomes of babies with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) by engaging parents with a home monitoring app.
As nurse Lori Erickson writes in her blog, CHAMP is not a club any parent ever wants to be part of. She and her team acknowledge that from the beginning and work to at least make parents’ experience with home monitoring good as they go through the high-risk period between their baby’s first and second surgeries.
To learn how they’re doing that, read Lori’s first blog. And for tips on how to successfully engage people in home monitoring so that you can partner with them to improve their health and quality of life, read her second blog.
Another example comes from OneView Healthcare. It offers solutions for patient engagement and clinical workflow that are helping health organizations like the University of California San Francisco Medical Center at Mission Bay revolutionize the patient experience. To learn how OneView Healthcare was inspired by the founder’s own knee surgery experience, read the story. And to see a video of how OneView Healthcare solutions work, visit its website.
As Elena Casas wrote in her recent blog, when patients can be more engaged in managing their health and care journey, it not only enhances their wellbeing, it also makes their experience with the health system better. She shares examples of how cloud solutions can help nurses engage their patients with the same types of technology people use to manage other areas of their daily lives. Elena also explains how dispersed care teams can connect with each other and see an integrated view of patient information with these solutions, so they can provide people with more cohesive, patient-centered care. Read her blog to learn about the many ways you can take advantage of the cloud to improve the experience of your patients and their families.

Friendly neighborhood pet store opens hundreds of new locations with the support of Dynamics AX

As written on
Almost a year ago, Pet Supplies Plus had 300 stores across the United States and was planning aggressive store growth in the coming years. Decision makers at the company knew they would need a strong technological backbone to support such an ambitious expansion, so they chose Microsoft Dynamics AX to replace the company’s disparate ERP systems. Now that Pet Supplies Plus has begun deployment, the company is beginning to see the fruits of its labor—and the validation that it made the right choice.

Story image 1

Brown recommends LCS to help reduce deployment times as well as lower costs, and she says, “we now have a better understanding of how to implement Dynamics AX across our stores and how to scale up more quickly utilizing the different tools and services in LCS. If you start with LCS and work your way through the cloud deployment, it’s your one-stop shop and your entry point into developing your Azure environment.”

Empowering employees to provide better service

Since Pet Supplies Plus deployed Dynamics AX to its stores last year, the decision makers at the business have heard lots of feedback from employees who are very happy with the change. “I’ve asked on a number of occasions if they’d like to go back to the old system and, across-the-board, nobody wants to,” Tedder says. “They are very pleased with the features and functionality of the Dynamics POS application and the future ability to evolve the POS application even further.”
The company is still in the early stages of its deployment process and the few dozen stores that are up and running with the new system are only a small sample size of the overall implementation. But Tedder says that he’s already seeing improvements in the time it takes to train employees on Dynamics AX. He explains, “Reducing training time for new team members is going to be extremely important and will result in a material ROI for any retailer using Dynamics AX.”

Taking care of neighbors and their pets

Pet Supplies Plus is also using Dynamics AX to help standardize its data, streamline its workflow, and standardize business processes across all its locations. “Dynamics AX is fulfilling our wish to have one system of record, one version of the truth, and a simplified applications portfolio, especially for the corporate office environment,” says Tedder. “The combination of those things coupled with business intelligence and reporting will yield efficiencies and improve our ordering in the ongoing months—we planned for this; it was part of how we made the decision to go with Microsoft Dynamics AX.”
The most important benefits, however, will be for the neighbors who come in and shop at Pet Supplies Plus locations. Tedder says, “We want to make sure that we provide a convenient option for our customers to purchase supplies for their pets, at a great value. Our goal is to make sure that we capitalize on that magic moment between team members and neighbors when we’re helping them select and purchase the products they need for their pets.”


Buy or Bye? Why Customer Service is Increasingly Key to Retail Success

By Tricia Morris as written on
Today’s retail customer is always shopping around - in store, online, on the phone. And in a 24/7 global marketplace where it’s becoming increasingly difficult for retailers to differentiate on price and product availability, more and more it’s becoming customer service and the customer experience that means the difference between buy, buy, buy and bye, bye, bye.
For customers, expectations are up. According to Microsoft’s Global Multichannel Customer Service Report:
•more than half (59%) of the 4,000 consumers surveyed have higher expectations for customer service today than they did a year ago.
•97% say customer service is important to their choice of or loyalty to a brand.
•and 62% have stopped doing business with a brand this year due to a single poor customer service experience.
Yet, despite these increasing expectations, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, customer satisfaction is on the decline from a survey high set two years ago. Some attribute this to the economy, theorizing that brands were putting more focus on customer service then when consumers were spending less and every dollar meant more.
But now that consumer spending has rebounded, service is starting to fall back as a lesser focus instead of springing forward – a point of relaxation that could prove costly as PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Retailing 2020 report raises the stakes for the future of retail:
“By 2020, we believe the need for a unified consumer omnichannel experience will be complicated by the need for nearly perfect execution,” predicts PwC. “However, expert use of business intelligence tools, coupled with a profound understanding of shoppers’ needs and experiences in real time, may make omnichannel a realistic goal.”

Are We There Yet?

Where do customers think retailers are right now with their omnichannel goals? According to the TimeTrade State of Retail 2016 report, not very far. Only 26% of consumers feel that retailers today are providing a consistent customer experience across all channels (web, email, social media, call center, in-store, mobile and text).
And a historically strong service hub seems to be causing a major disconnect. Fifty-one percent (51%) of consumers said that the call center was the channel they felt was doing the poorest in terms of customer service compared to 26% in store, 23% social, 21% text, 20% web, 19% kiosk and 18% email. (According to the same report, only 5% of retail decision makers are making the call center a top priority in channel improvements. Social media was actually the top channel priority in this survey.)

Getting There…

So how can retailers go from where they are and how consumers perceive them today toward that 2020 vision of omnichannel consistency? Here are three areas of focus:
1.Awareness: Not just collecting Voice of the Customer feedback, but reacting to it and acting upon it is key to retailers moving forward. Many brands are doing this today as a way to turn the corner and improve.
2.Accessible knowledge for both agents and customers: Investment in a consistent knowledge source that can be used to deliver real-time knowledge both internally across agents and employees and externally to customers across channels, devices and locations is a must-have investment for an omnichannel future, not just for retail, but for all industries.
3.Proactive, predictive, personalized insights and intelligence: Empowering customer service with the insights to acknowledge and react to trending issues and then proactively reach out to customers across channels with information could not only significantly increase customer satisfaction, but radically change and assist the call center by reducing historic volume, strain and frustration. Greater customer intelligence that is many times shared only between sales and marketing could also help service lead the way in more personalized engagement when it matters most for retention.
The same PwC report says “Retail brands in 2020, we believe, will have three key attributes: consistency, intensity and accuracy. Let’s bring service into the mainstream to help deliver on this 2020 omnichannel customer experience vision.
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