Friday, January 29, 2016

Next Generation Customer Service for Government Employees




Recently I have been working with federal agencies that are adopting commercial customer service techniques for helping government workers be more productive.

The new trend I am seeing is to add self-service functions to traditional help desks.  Government workers are telecommuting more frequently, and for some agencies can be scattered around the country or around the world, leading to challenges in call center coverage.

Younger government employees in particular are often more comfortable searching online than picking up the phone to call a help desk.  They expect from their government agencies the same kind of customer care that is offered by companies.

Here are some of the ways agencies can increase self-service for employees:

  1. Publish FAQs and Troubleshooters on websites and intranets.   By providing step-by-step instructions, you can forestall some help calls and provide service even when the help desk is closed. You can seed the FAQs by analyzing historical trouble tickets and identifying those that are both common and can be resolved without intervention by another person such as a network administrator.
  2. Organize your knowledge base.  The answer is out there, but it may be difficult to find.  Search engines are part of the solution, but creating a visible taxonomy (set of categories) for topics can make it much easier for users to navigate to the right web page or document.  
  3.  Treat employees like customers. If you adopt a mindset which is similar to a commercial company, you can measure and reward behavior that improves employee satisfaction.
  4. Deflect calls. Phone calls to a help desk are one of the most expensive types of support, and sometimes you can avoid them by providing information as the customer requests help.  For instance, an online form can ask the employee for the problem type, and show links to possible solutions.  
  5. Allow multiple paths to support. Employees appreciate options of different ways to get support at different times.  Some people have strong preferences for a particular support channel, while others will use many.  For instance, when I interact with my phone company, I have used phone, email, live chat, and knowledge base searches depending on the issue at hand.   Live chat is especially good when you need to communicate a computer problem and describe what is on your screen.  Sometimes email is best when I want to "fire and forget" because I need to move on to another task.  
In an earlier post, I wrote about Microsoft's new Employee Self-Service Offering brings this approach to customers.  A white paper "Justifying Knowledge Management in Customer Service" by CRM analyst Esteban Kolsky is available.    

I expect this trend to continue in order to enhance productivity and retention of government employees despite budgetary pressures. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Microsoft Field Service: Dynamics CRM Scenarios for Field Service

Microsoft recently purchased FieldOne, gaining a suite of products for Dynamics CRM which fulfill the business requirements of field services.  Field services are for organizations which send technicians, installers, or inspectors to customer locations.  FieldOne, now Field Service, is offered along with Dynamics CRM Online.

Scenarios for Field Service include
  • Building inspectors
  • Maintenance personnel
  • Health and safety inspection
  • Appliance installation or service
  • Plumbing, heating and air conditioning
  • Home health care
  • Property management
  • Snow removal 
  • Highway maintenance
  • and many more
The following video case study illustrates how Field Service helps customers manage their resources more effectively.


Dispatchers at company locations use Field Service to create a list of places to visit, schedule appointments and create an efficient route.  The following screen is a visual representation of the daily schedule.

Field Service on PC


Field agents can use the mobile solution on devices such as tablets and smartphones to perform their tasks at customer sites. It is also used as the mechanism to communicate with dispatchers during the day.  Dispatchers can send SMS messages to field agents to let them know about changes in the schedule or other alerts.

Field Service on Android

To learn more, download e-books and other information.

Handy Opportunity Views for Dynamics CRM

As a user of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, I find myself creating my own views frequently, and sharing the most popular of them with other users at my company.  Here are some of the views that I use for Opportunities:

  1. Opportunities by Owner. This is the most frequent view that I use for pipeline meetings.  Included fields are Topic, Potential Customer, Sales Stage, Est. Close Date, Proposed Date, Est. Revenue, and Owner. 
  2. Opportunities with Proposals Due.  Add fields for RFP Received and Proposal Due dates. Filter by status of RFP Received and sort by Proposal Due date.  Great way for quick glance at proposals that are in the works. 
  3. Proposed Opportunities by dollar threshold. Create a dollar threshold for what you consider to be large projects and apply it as a filter along with status of "proposed".  You can also sort by value in other views, but using this view allows you to exclude smaller projects and still sort by owner. 
  4. Opportunities by Type.  We added a field to show the type of project for an opportunity.  This is not a standard field in CRM but quite handy for understanding the breakdown of opportunities and useful for dashboard views as well. 
You can start by creating your personal view and show them to other users.  If they are a hit, you can ask your system administrator to add them to system views which are visible to other users.  If you drop down the list of views for Opportunities, the following menu appears.  Near the bottom of the menu is the option to create a personal view. 

If you choose Create Personal View, you will get to the Advanced Find screen where you can create a new view. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

6 Simple CRM Tips for Small Government Contractors

My company InfoStrat works with government contractors to automate their capture management (sales) processes.  All government contractors strive to master GovCon capture processes to improve the sales results.

Large government contractors typically have mature and complicated processes which have many actors and steps.  Often they follow a sales process pioneered by Shipley Associates which helps companies win a higher number of bids through a more systematic business process and higher quality proposals.



What about small companies, or companies that are just getting started in government contracting?  Do they benefit from structured processes and sales force automation? How should their CRM system be different from a large company?

Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Read everything you can find on government contracting.  You will learn from the extensive literature on the subject.  Many books on government sales are available on Amazon and in libraries. 
  2. Come up with a simple capture process and refine it based on your experience.  Include approval workflows and review processes during the proposal preparation phase. It may be as simple as four or five steps based on pre-solicitation stages and the status of a solicitation (RFI, RFP, etc.). 
  3. Track every opportunity in your CRM.  Use the CRM as the basis for pipeline review meetings, and insist on entering every opportunity in the system in order to chase it. Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics CRM are the most popular cloud-based CRM systems for small businesses. 
  4. Ask stakeholders for their input.  Your CRM cannot succeed without adoption, and all your users will have valuable input on how the system should work.  Don't track information that people do not find useful or are unwilling or unable to enter. 
  5. Start with a template.   It's difficult to get user input from a blank sheet of paper, so a pre-built solution for government contractors can help people focus better. InfoStrat offers a GovCon solution template and a quick start implementation to go with it. 
  6. Walk before you run. Start with a core group of users in sales and senior management and add other groups later.  Be sure to build in a process to learn from your experience and improve your CRM over time.
Most large companies started as small companies, so you can learn from the experience of others to position yourself for growth as a government contractor.  Thinking about your business processes will help you refine your business and come up with creative new ways to win.

For more posts on government contracting, see: