Customer Search features in AX2012 R3
I thought I'd start off my first AX Retail related post with an overview of the new Customer Search capabilities in Dynamics AX 2012 R3.
Dynamics AX 2012 R3 was released with some new capabilities to enable the call center channel as part of our Omni-channel retail solution. Now, in addition to the Retail Store and Ecommerce Channels, we also have a Call Center channel option that can be setup and configured and used to create sales orders in AX that come through the more traditional phone call or mail order route.
The call center functionality that was put into AX 2012 R3 originated from the acquisition of an ISV product that was developed in Dynamics AX. This ISV product has been implemented successfully over the years at many direct-to-consumer retailers to allow AX to function more appropriately for 'B to C' sales order creation and sales order management vs. the traditional Dynamics AX sales ordering processes which is a much more 'B to B' industry specific design.
As luck would have it, I was the original product manager of that acquired ISV product between the years of 2004-2007, so I have a pretty good understanding of the capabilities here and wanted to use some of my blog posts to share this information.
First, a little business insight on this topic of customer search:
For those of you that have been working with AX for a long time, you may know that in the past if you wanted to search for a customer to apply to a sales transaction, you had a few options: You could use a drop-down list that showed all customers in the database and then use the standard AX field filtering tools to narrow down your customers to find the one you wanted to select. You could also use some standard filters provided in the customer list page. While these are good features, if you think about our Retail and Direct to Consumer-based customers that use Dynamics AX - these companies are going to have potentially millions of customer records in the customer database. Unlike B to B companies that may have a few hundred customers, Retailers/B to C companies often connect with millions of different customers....some of the oldest retailers out there will claim to have over 50 million records in their customer database!!
B to C retail companies typically never delete or purge a customer from their customer list. Most retailers will spend a lot of time and money updating their lists based on National Change of Address (NCOA) data as well as general cleaning and de-duping their lists to make sure the information about each person is as accurate as they can get it. This information is used for continued marketing efforts. In some cases, B to C/Retail companies will also sell this customer contact information to other sources to market additional products or services to that customer (unless the customer has specifically opted out of this type of program).
So, if you can imagine clicking on the standard AX customer dropdown and trying to filter through millions of records - you can imagine it is probably not very user-friendly or efficient! This is where the new customer search feature comes in handy.
Also important to note: B to C retailers typically keep 2 separate databases for names and addresses/contact info. One is the traditional customer database which of course houses all of their customer data (even if the customer has not ordered in years, they are still considered a customer). The second database contains the 'prospect' list. This prospect database is full of names and addresses of people that have not yet purchased from the retailer, but the retailer is actively targeting them with marketing offers in hopes that they will one day become a customer. The retailer may have purchased these names/addresses from a vendor, or may have rented the name/contact information for a limited time in an effort to market to these contacts. In case you haven't figured it out yet - the selling and buying of your contact information is a very important business opportunity for many retailers!
Because B to C retail companies are working with 2 different lists that must be separated, there is a very important business need to be able to search for and locate the potential matching customer or prospect information in a single search. Imagine if you were a call center representative and you receive a call from a person who wishes to place an order, this person is not an existing customer, but is in the prospect database due to previous marketing activity. The call center rep is not going to know this and therefore can't be expected to search 2 different databases in a 2-step process to see if they can find the record vs. creating a new one. This would take a lot of time and most certainly annoy your new customer! That is why the R3 customer search features of Dynamics AX will search both the AX CustTable and the AX smmBusRelTable at the same time and show results on a single form! By allowing the call center rep to search on both customers and prospects, if a prospect record is the match, the user can then select it and convert them to a customer**
By using that prospect record vs. creating a new customer record, the business can now retain all of the history of the marketing efforts they may have been tracking against the prospect in AX CRM. By being consistent with the prospect-to-customer-conversion data, the business can now track that customer through their journey and have that historical data timeline of when they began to target them until the time they became a customer... this type of analytical data can help a business understand how they can more effectively target,convert and retain customers, so by keeping the timeline intact, this data is much easier to access.
In the following video, I will provide an overview of customer search capabilities in AX 2012 R3 using call center functionality.
Thanks for visiting my blog and please leave feedback or suggestions on what you would like to see in future posts!
**Please note that in the current CU8 release of AX 2012 R3, there was a reported issue with searching for and converting prospect records from the customer search results form. Please contact your AX product support team for more information on the solution if you encounter any issues using this functionality.