Why are executives demanding more and more from their CRM systems? Simply put, enterprises can’t grow without nurturing customers, and customer expectations have transformed dramatically in the last decade. People expect to use any channel they want - email, phone, web, or social - to make purchases or get issues resolved. They want consistently great service across all channels and if they don’t get it, they will take their business elsewhere.
Enterprises have also realized that CRM platforms can be used well beyond sales and customer service teams. The same platform can be used across the enterprise to nurture supplier relationships, retain employees, foster better distributor engagement, and more.
So it is no surprise that executives are diving deep into the pros, cons, costs, and long-term implications of investing in CRM platforms. In their search for alternatives to costly and cumbersome platforms like SAP and Oracle, they are rolling up their sleeves to review platforms like Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics. Some are searching for the right technology, others are looking for a strategic partner that can align with their growth strategies and help them transform their business.
It is true that Microsoft has made significant investments in the Dynamics platform. However, Microsoft is still playing catch-up in the CRM arena, with the number of Dynamics users comprising of only ⅓ of the Salesforce user base. They lag behind Salesforce in product specializations for various industries, in AI and predictive analytics, in their relationships with independent integrators, and even in their training systems. Despite these weaknesses, Dynamics often makes the finals in the horse race of selecting a CRM platform and is (incorrectly) seen as an acceptable lower-cost option.
Salesforce is the clear choice for enterprises that see CRM as transformational for their business. Salesforce wins because many executives see it as a critical component to their growth strategy and ability to compete. Working together with its global network of partners, Salesforce helps businesses imagine and deliver amazing experiences for their customers, suppliers, and distributors. It can be integrated faster and customized in ways that improve efficiency. Additionally, Salesforce's Trailhead training program provides accessible, self-paced online training to any customer or partner.
Why do some businesses choose Microsoft Dynamics? Because there is a false perception that the slightly lower license fees equate to a better value. Many also think that because Dynamics is part of the Microsoft family, it is easier to customize.
At Acumen Solutions, we have found that enterprises seeking a strategic advantage are choosing Salesforce over Dynamics. They realize that Salesforce offers better deployment speed, training support, and the overall ability to execute on an enterprise’s digital transformation vision.
Transactional Software or Strategic Asset?
Digital transformation within the enterprise is picking up speed, and it is not about simply investing in more technology, but rather thinking strategically and planning for the future. For sales and customer engagement, shifting away from manual tasks such as re-keying information into a CRM is just the beginning. High-growth companies are reimagining how value is delivered and they need a CRM platform that can be quickly configured to meet ever-changing business needs. Gartner’s latest study on enterprise CRM systems uncovered that “Salesforce customers — particularly large enterprises — see the vendor as not just a CRM software provider, but a strategic advisor on how to innovate and grow their business overall.” Many “consider the Salesforce application platform to be a strategic asset.” Here’s why:
- Salesforce has built an ecosystem of developers and integrators that drive innovation and efficiency.
- Salesforce was built from the ground up with the customer in mind.
- The cloud-only deployment of Salesforce makes it more flexible and cost-effective for growing businesses.
- Industry-specific solutions available within Salesforce mean that companies can deploy faster and get more out of their investment.
- Salesforce Einstein, the platform’s AI offering, leads the market and makes employees more efficient and customers happier.
- Trailhead, the Salesforce online training program, gives anyone the ability to learn, configure, and extend the platform.
- Salesforce tools empower knowledge sharing and collaboration across the enterprise.
The Salesforce Ecosystem
From the beginning, Salesforce realized that their customers didn’t need software, they needed solutions tailored to their unique needs. Even ten years ago, custom software development was beginning to be seen as a costly way to paint your business into a corner. To combat this, Salesforce built their business model on partnership. First, the company has thousands of independent software vendors (ISVs) and consultants and system integrators (SIs). These are companies and individuals who help drive innovation for all of Salesforce’s customers. Acumen Solutions is one of a handful of Salesforce Global Strategic Consulting Partners, the top tier of companies that work extensively with the Salesforce platform.
Next, Salesforce operates the #1 enterprise app marketplace, the Salesforce AppExchange. With more than 3 million downloads, over 70% of Salesforce customers have installed at least one app from the AppExchange. These apps are peer-reviewed, security-tested, and vetted to work with all Salesforce products. Lastly, 1.8 million customers contribute to the Salesforce Success Community. In the Success Community, customers can give product feedback, suggest new features, and answer each others’ questions. This drives much of the innovation in the three Salesforce product releases per year. Altogether, the ecosystem of partners, customers, and consultants help Salesforce execute on its vision: to be the #1 Customer Success Platform in the world.
In contrast, Microsoft reference clients reported to Gartner that the company has a “poor track record for attracting and educating ISV partners” and “have expressed frustration with external professional services partners' level of knowledge of Microsoft's latest product versions, and understanding of how a modern, best-in-class customer service center should be designed and built for their industry clients.”
The implications of this should be concerning, even for companies that predominantly use Microsoft for their database applications. What if a company implements Dynamics, and then determines that integration with their telephony system will be too costly? What if the company plans to implement e-commerce or a lead-to-cash system, or would like to have an automated configure-price-quote system as part of their CRM? What happens when a company grows through acquisitions and goes from one call center in the U.S. to four across the globe?
The complexity of enterprise systems means that a company needs strategists and technologists who are fully versed in a platform that is designed to meet those challenges.
The fact that Salesforce is built with the complexity of the enterprise in mind is what attracts enterprise customers and partners. With CRM at the core, the platform shares a common database to track and manage sales, customer service, marketing, and other custom-built applications. It can receive data from external apps and through various APIs and extensions, and feed information to other enterprise systems. It is a truly unified system, where all customer interactions are accessible and can be used in various ways. Management can see and analyze the sales pipeline, the time needed to solve customer issues, or forecast demand and beyond.
For organizations that are growing rapidly in size or complexity, Salesforce’s unified approach has other benefits.