As with any module within Microsoft Dynamics CRM, there are a key set of terms, phrases and elements that one needs to understand to effectively use it. Let's take some time to review some of them. Customer records: Typical customer service requests using Microsoft Dynamics CRM will be managed in relation to an existing contact or account record. These contacts or accounts are within the same contact and account records which are used by other areas of business operations such as sales or marketing. A contact represents a person, just as it does in Microsoft Outlook. An account on the other hand represents companies, organizations or groups of people. While these are typical uses of accounts and contacts, different Microsoft CRM deployments might use these record types differently. Within the default application, they are collectively referred to as customers. When entering the customer value on a case, for example, the user might be able to choose either an account or a contact. Cases: Cases are the fundamental record type in service management and represent a single incident of service. Different organizations may refer to cases using different terms, including incident, ticket or service request. A customer can have many cases associated with a record at any point in time. Within Microsoft Dynamics CRM, users have the ability to see open and resolved cases from the customer record. Cases can also have knowledge base articles, subjects, products and entitlements associated with them, or as dependent record types. In addition to these entities, cases can have activities, which are another way of describing communications, that are associated with them so that everyone in the organization can see what's happening with a particular case. The types of activities that are available by default include appointments, campaigned responses, emails, faxes, letters, phone calls, service activities and tasks. Activities can be associated with many different types of records within Microsoft Dynamics CRM. When looking at all the activities associated with an account or a contact, for example, the user can open the record and find the activities located under the closed or open activities list. Those activities that are considered to be closed are those that have been completed. Open activities are those that have either not been marked as completed or are pending completion on a different date and time. Resolution activities: After all activities regarding a case are resolved, the case itself can be resolved. Once the case is resolved, an activity type named resolution activity is created. This activity is found in the closed activities associated with a case. The resolution activity will display the case's resolution as well as the amount of time spent on the case noted as billable time. Knowledge base articles: The knowledge base is a repository of informational articles used to assist customer service representatives in the resolution of a case. A knowledge base article is based on an article template that defines the sections found in the article as well as any formatting that might apply. In some organizations, the knowledge base is also used to provide Microsoft Dynamics CRM users with information about the company, product questions and answers, and any other kind of information that can be used to better equip employees to better handle customer inquiries, requests or issues. In addition to locating articles and associating them with cases, knowledge base articles can also be sent via email to a customer. These articles can be sent either via Microsoft Dynamics CRM's interface or through Microsoft outlook. Entitlements: Entitlements are similar to contracts that are still available in Microsoft Dynamics CRM. However, entitlements, while they are similar to contracts in that they can be used to show the level and type of support a customer is entitled to, they do, however, allow greater flexibility which we will get into later. Entitlement channels: Entitlement channels can specify the type of service a customer is entitled to. There are five different entitlement channels: Phone, email, web, Facebook, and Twitter. Service level agreements, or SLA: Service level agreements are used to show a specific amount of time in which a customer is entitled to a response or particular products or services that they are entitled to as part of that service level agreement. Queues: A queue is a place to organize and store activities and cases that are waiting to be processed. Microsoft Dynamics CRM includes queues and work flow tools designed to improve how incoming comes for sales or customer service or other parts of the business are actually handled. A queue can be thought of as a box where items can go into or picked up by someone to handle. For example, an organization might have a support team who uses an email address of support at Contoso.com. If the support team gets an email sent to this address, an email of the team handles the support case from there and works to resolve the issue for the customer. Queues in Microsoft Dynamics CRM work the exact same way. While queues are commonly used along with a customer service module, other record types can be configured to use queues. The need to do this is defined by the organization and managed by a Microsoft Dynamics CRM administrator. The subject tree: The subject tree is a hierarchical list of subjects an organization can use to classify service cases and other records within the application. The subject tree is presented as a lookup field on the default case form and it's often used to classify cases. By default, it can also be used to classify product records and knowledge base articles. Products: Products within Microsoft Dynamics CRM are found in the product catalog and can be related to a particular customer service case and can help to provide a more detailed view of cases, resolutions, and customer feedback at the product level. It is important to note that while products can be associated to a case to better categorize particular types of cases, there is no transactional aspect of cases that can leverage products for pricing or invoicing. In addition to the use of products along with cases, it is optional and might not be applicable to all organizations. Goals: In addition to reporting on and analyzing the information contained within Microsoft Dynamics CRM, organizations can use goal management features to establish and track progress against target values for key performance indicators. For service management, these might include metrics such as resolved or in process cases. The scheduling module: Microsoft Dynamics CRM includes a module for service scheduling. This module is technically part of the overall customer service module, but some organizations might not find it applicable to their business and will choose to not leverage that functionality. For those that do, there's a wide array of features and functionalities that can be used. The scheduling module allows users to find qualified resources that are available to provide specific services to customers. For example, if a customer contacts a Microsoft Dynamics CRM user asking when they can have someone come to their location to provide a specific service, the user can create a service activity, and from there identify the service and the time frame they would like the service to be provided. The scheduling module has a built-in scheduling engine that will search all resources, including facilities and equipment, that are needed to provide the service and have availability to do so. Once the scheduling engine finds matches based upon those criteria, the Microsoft Dynamics CRM user selects those options and schedules the service. There are many types of organizations that can find use in this type of module, including professional services, healthcare providers, or types of organizations that schedule resources to provide services to their customer.
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