Customer data to improve CXM? Looking at Microsoft Dynamics 365

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As customers’ mentality has changed and customer journey is no longer single-channel, businesses have to be more attentive than ever to stay ahead of the game. Luckily though, CRMs also keep evolving to support advanced customer data analytics and make customer insights more obvious for companies.

Why customer data analytics is that important

First, it allows for better segmentation and targeting. General messages (as can be found in emails or shop assistants’ suggestions) are doomed to perish in customers’ minds. Instead, precise communication that comes timely through a preferred channel can influence a buying decision. Customer data analytics lets a company understand their customers, how and when to approach them, as well as what to offer. As a result of being relevant, a company can achieve higher response rates with the same or lower campaign costs.

Second, with a better understanding of the customer, a company can personalize their services so as to provide a better customer experience. In its turn, outstanding customer experience is a hard-to-copy competitive advantage that protects the company from customer drain.

CXM can’t do without technology

Many CX miracles would be impossible without CRM software collecting and processing abundant customer data in real time. These 10 stories show that exceptional customer experience is about being creative, quick and knowing customers well. While creativity depends a lot on personnel (like posting the photo-story of a giraffe-toy left by a little guest of Ritz-Carlton), quick and deep understanding of the customer can be provided by CRM software.

Let’s take the case of Morton’s Steakhouse. While boarding a plane, Peter Shankman, an influencer in the CXM realm, tweeted jokingly to Morton’s how great that would be to get their steak. To his surprise, the restaurant’s staff welcomed him on arrival to the destination with the meal. Had Morton’s Steakhouse learned about the tweet some hours later, their remarkable greeting wouldn’t happen simply because the customer wouldn’t be there. Of course, with so many customers to look after in B2C, it’s hardly possible to always react in time with no special tool. CRM software, however, can let a company stay in sync with every customer no matter how large the customer base is.

Going beyond the basics with CRM

Emerging analytical capabilities of CRM systems make for a more powerful approach to 360-degree customer profiling. They offer at least 3 ways to reach a higher level of customer data proficiency.

  1. Looking at less common variables, like weather, traffic, Wi-Fi use, etc. as well as their correlations can help to analyze how these external factors influence customers’ behavior. All publicly available data that is proved to work for a particular company can be taken into account. For example, Marston’s use Wi-Fi tracking to learn how long their guests dine and at which chain pubs. Another example, a hotel could analyze flight cancellations or weather conditions and how they influence guests’ choice to stay with them or competitors.
  2. Digging deeper into social networks - Facebook, Twitter, TripAdvisor, etc. – serves not only to react to complaints but also to analyze customers’ brand perception before and after a purchase and understand motivations to buy or visit a brand’s location. The case of Marston’s tells how similar functionality was successfully implemented to drive CX in a large chain of pubs.
  3. Getting customer insights with respect to employees’ positions. This way, waiters in restaurants, shop assistants in apparel stores and other front-line staff can view customer profiles on their mobile devices so as to recognize guests by a photo, approach them with respect to psychological and buying patterns, and get insights on what to offer. At the same time, managers will see and analyze a bigger picture of chain locations’ performance.

The technology that can do the job: Customer Insights vs. Power BI

To guide on how to improve customer experience, CRM software should be able to accumulate a vast amount of data from external and internal resources and quickly process it. In the revamped Microsoft Dynamics 365, now in the top 5 on the CRM market, this can be enabled with either Customer Insights or Power BI.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Customer Insights is a cloud-based tool delivered by Microsoft specifically for customer data analytics. Pros: many data sources, strong capabilities for data analytics, drill-down features, ability to create and view KPIs for every profile, 15-minute KPIs updates, Relationship Analytics availability, quick adoption by non-technical users. Cons: additional subscription costs ($250 a month per 100,000 customer profiles and 1,000,000 interactions).

Power BI is a tool for data analytics and reporting built in Dynamics 365 that can be also used for getting customer insights. Pros: in-built in Dynamics 365, multiple data sources, strong capabilities for data modeling and analytics, drill-down features, quick adoption by non-technical users, no extra investments required (yet, $9.99 a month per user for Power BI Pro). Cons: data refreshments daily or hourly (for Power BI Pro) which is less frequent than in Customer Insights.

Apart from these two, the charting engine of Dynamics 365 also allows performing customer data analysis. However, for a limited support of data sources (CRM only), the tool loses to both Power BI and Customer Insights.


With more data becoming available, companies can now make customer data analytics more nimble and insightful. Consequently, incumbents start to combine non-trivial factors to discover new ways to a better customer experience. As such high-quality insights require powerful analytics, CRM providers heavily invest in features for customer data collection, processing and analysis.

Customer Insights and Power BI by Microsoft can be good for the job. Still, the choice of a particular technology depends on a company’s specifics and may require CRM consulting and customization to make machine-delivered suggestions truly valuable for both front-line employees and executives.

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