Tech experts at the crest of the wave as digital revolution gathers momentum
Gauging customer needs is what makes Codec’s CRM team so effective
(Note: This news item is a summary of an article published in the Sunday Business Post on March 11, 2018)
A growing team for its customer relationship management (CRM) section shows just how vital the sector is for leading tech solutions firm Codec – and signals the direction firms are going in as a whole.
If you want an idea of how much CRM has grown in importance, you only need to look at how much its own dedicated section has grown. Back in January 2011, when Codec first offered CRM solutions it took on two people, now it has more than 80 people dedicated to it. That increase in staff numbers was born of a growing necessity and ambition.
Larry Tobin, Codec’s Dynamics CRM practice director (pictured), should know as he was one of the first two people to be brought in back in 2011.
“In fairness to Microsoft, because they depend so much on partners, we decided that many years ago we wanted to be the biggest and the best,” he says. “We’ve a great relationship with Microsoft and our customers, and between the three of us, bringing these new features to the customers as soon as they come out, and having someone always watching out for these new modules [is possible].
“I wouldn’t have thought seven years ago that we would have more than 80 people. I’ve seen, year-on-year, it’s not that it has gone from 20 to 60, it was a gradual buildup. My view is that at the end of our fiscal year in July, we’ll be up to 100 people, which is probably one of the biggest Dynamics 365 CRM partners in Europe, never mind Ireland.”
Part of the strength is giving them the ability to try out new modules and features before they come out to market. If you’re going to offer customers the best possible choices, then you need to know them inside and out. This comes into play when Codec is developing bespoke products using Microsoft tools – one of the benefits it gets from being partners and having a large CRM team. This allows it to move in different directions at the same time, instead of having to prioritise one project over another.
“We’re into a different league in terms of the sheer volume and it means we can tackle a lot of these large, complex projects that come our way because of the experience that the CRM guys, in particular, have built up over the last couple of years,” he explains. “It’s all great. You just have to have enough resources available for R&D because Microsoft brings out new features and you need to be on the ball to get those new modules out to your customers as quickly as you can. “You can use the Dynamics 365 to develop bespoke applications and that’s an area that’s pretty cool. The customers that we’re working with [are] developing huge applications but they’re not selling or marketing anything, they’re just using the platform to develop bespoke software and that’s something Codec has been doing since the start.”
Similarly, how useful you find a CRM system depends on your needs and how much you shape a system to cater for them. Newer technologies will always grab attention and interest, but until you have a proper reason for using them the more established features can work better.
“Mobile was a big thing years ago for sales guys being out on the road,” says Tobin. “Now there’s a lot of hype around machine learning and what it’s going to do, but we’re dealing with large financial services companies which have salespeople on the road who just want to access their CRM on iPhone or iPad.
“This idea of machine learning, it’s brilliant and effective for some customers, but it’s important that not every customer gets wrapped up in it. At a basic level, you need a system that looks great, is easy to use and everyone is keen to use it.”
Part of Codec’s work with clients is figuring out what their needs are and how CRMs can help their objectives. Regardless of how easy it is to plug in features to existing platforms, companies have to decide what’s best for them and some might be surprised to discover how certain products now overlap.
“That’s where the advice from a partner who’s been around the block [comes in], we can say ‘leads and predictive analytics is going to be really important’ [for one customer], whereas another customer might need a self-service portal web chat because it’s more about customer service,” says Tobin. “It’s trying to decide which is more suitable. In some cases, you have this talk about chatbots and other fancy stuff that isn’t something that a lot of customers would use right now. When I speak to customers now, they look at the LinkedIn integration and that might tick more boxes than having some other new feature.
“The fact that they’ve been using LinkedIn and CRM for the last couple of years, they were two different systems, whereas now everything is going to be seamlessly integrated, and they’re really looking forward to that.”