Microsoft CRM Basics #2: Tracking Time For Cases in the Customer Service Module

Most of the information on the web to date concerning Microsoft CRM has been regarding the Sales module or the Outlook add-in for CRM. This is natural enough, as most organizations deploying CRM so far have been sales organizations. But CRM's Customer Service module has some great features and functionality that may fit your business model if you deliver time-based or contract-based services to your clients. We use CRM internally for both sales and customer service, and its case tracking functionality has transformed the way we do business. We have been able to track our time for each client much more accurately, which, with the help of some custom reports, has enabled us to identify which types of work are most profitable, and which are not profitable. We have also been able to formalize our communications strategies and develop workflow to assist or even execute our client communications.

As a side note, I would be greatly interested to hear some other opinions and reviews of MSCRM's customer service module. What's your experience been? What improvements are you looking for, or what are you trying to figure out how to do? Leave a comment at the end of this article.

Here's the tip for tracking time in CRM cases:
Use activities (tasks, phone calls, emails, appointments) to track the work related to a case. Set the duration for each activity when you complete the activity.

For instance, if you are working on a case to resolve a customer's problem and you need to email a third party about the problem, send the email from inside the case (Actions > Add Related Activity). Set the duration of the email to the amount of time you will spend composing and responding to it. Let's say 15 minutes. Then send the email. Now, let's say you need to go on-site to make a repair. Use a task or an appointment and set the duration to the amount of time you want to track for this part of the case resolution. Let's say this took two hours. Make sure to complete the task or appointment (Actions > Close Task > Completed).

Now, when you close the case (on the case's menu click Actions > Resolve) the actual time spent on the activities will automatically be totalled and pre-populated in the resolution dialog. For our example, it would say 2.25 hours. You have the option of changing this if you want to account for travel time, etc.

Now you are able to run reports (custom reports of course) that show you the actual time spent on cases. Good luck!


Julian Sharp said...

The Customer Service module and in particular the Contracts functionality is very prescriptive and although it works for us internally supporting MSCRM we have found a large number of issues with our CRM customers.

The most problematic is in adjusting contract dates.

The most stupid is that you cannot create a case for a renewed contract in the same way as for a new active contract. This is "by design" apparently although I cannot figure out the design rationale for this decision.

We have a number of addons for the Customer Service module which we have had to develop to make the module usable but even now we come across gotchas.

Anonymous said...

When sending an email as a reply to a case using a template, we (and I would expect the rest of the world) need to have a preview of the formatted email before it goes out the door. It is not logical to send an important communication to a customer in such a blind manner.
Details for those not familiar with this - You may create email templates within CRM. For Service, you might create a template that says Dear FirstName, We have received your inquiry of (Date and Time). The case number is (Case No.) and the case has been assigned to (team member). Please let us know if the following information does not address your concern.
In addition, ......

This is an example of an email that we would want to preview to ensure that the proper parameters have been pulled from the system. Instead, CRM will send this email and you will have to go to Activities, History to view it. (after is has been sent!)

sture.vandemoortel@gmail.com said...

As we want to reply on our mail that arrives in a Queue then we've to add the receiver as a contact.
Is there any way to bypass this? we don't like to fill our database with everyone who wrote us an email...

Anonymous said...

I would like to be abel to bill on a monthly basis for contracted time that our Tehcnical Staff enters. In other words I woudl liek to be able to track the actual time the TS is working on a month to month basis. This would allow us to bill actual time to our customers as well as track actual time worked by the Tech Staff. I am sure the information is in the DB but I have not been able to Link the right tables using Crystal Reports in orde rto pull that info out. I woudl think this would be a standard feature of CRM.

Anonymous said...

I have aproblem when closing the Case through definung case solution the CRM adds 2 hours to the current time, so the time spending on the case and the closure time are not correct. do you have any idea that can help me?

Anonymous said...

I echo the 2nd comment's concern about not seeing the "end product" formatted email.

I'm also looking for the way to put in dynamic date fields (e.g. GetDate(Now, "mm/dd/yy") inside Email templates so that these templates do not have to be updated yearly when asking for *2008* dues payment, or the like.

Also, I've seen a few people in CRM forums saying that they cannot format date fields to preferred formats, which is absolutely unbelievable if true. Who wants to have '... your invoice dated 3/25/2008 12:00 AM ...' showing in a template?!?!

Hope someone can help me out with these questions.

ged said...

There are number of "missing" entities in Microsoft CRM Service module. The most important one is Job entity.
A case, in most incidents requires one or more Jobs in the in cident resolution process. For example, an IT company using Microsoft CRM will need a Help Desk job (for telephone support) Remote access Job (to access customer’s network), In-house job for computer repairs and on site job when engineer wors at customer’s premises. In many cases you may have one or more Jobs per Case. None of those jobs is available in MS CRM.
The other point missing in MS CRM, it does not have Service Catalog. There is a product catalog but you can not use Products for hourly rates, the most common type of charge for IT Service Providers.
Although there are Tasks in CRM but there is no mechanisim to ensure that time spent by Engineer is charged to customer account
There is a Contract in MS CRM but not SLA (Service Level Agreement) as proper SLA should tie up Service Items (from Service catalog) with Contract Template with Case with Job and invoicing. All the above items are resolved by www.QoS-IT.com/msp an extension to Microsoft CRM Service module and can be viewed in this link:http://www.qos-it.com/QWS/MSP/ProductDemostration.aspx

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