Avatu & RCB

Two new clients

During the last couple of months we have won two new NetSuite accounts: Avatu http://www.avatu.co.uk/ and RCB Cleaning Solutions http://www.rcbuk.com/.
Avatu specialise in providing advice, technology and tools to fight cyber and insider threats to IT systems. They are based in Princess Risborough in Buckinghamshire and we are helping them implement a full NetSuite business management system.
RCB Cleaning Solutions is an established professional cleaning company. They are based in Newcastle under Lyme in Staffordshire and have chosen NetSuite as their new CRM solution.

Keystone Data - Email Case Management Process w. Decisions & Pending

Defining your Customer Case Management and Support Process

As a software implementation and development company, we provide high level support to a wide range of companies. Along the way we have refined our process to meet our customer’s and our own needs. Practically speaking, it’s important your Support system provides the best Customer Service for your customers and the upmost visibility for your company too. A truly formalised process is the best way to create a structure that ensures a case is cared for throughout its lifecycle.

After implementing Support processes for ourselves and our customers, we thought it best to share some of the aspects we think many businesses should strive for.

Some Best Practices

Effective Logging

The best way to set the ship sailing in the wrong direction is by ineffectively or barely logging customer issues. The bare necessities should be a Contact, Problem Description, Unique Case Number and the Date and Time it was received. “Obviously” I hear you say, but without a formalised Case Capture form it can be very easy to simply trust yourself to remember. The ITIL model for Service Management suggests this is the role for a Service Desk. A single point of entry to ensure communication is streamlined and the case recipient’s first priority is to effectively log and manage the problem.

Could the first contact Support User take charge of the Case to manage it to completion? This can sometimes be a good way to ensure the case is chased once escalated.

Of course this doesn’t have to be a manual process, on systems like NetSuite, Cases or Tickets can be captured from customised Online Forms. This has always been a great way for grooming customer’s queries, with mandatory fields like “Nature of Enquiry” acting as a filter to route Cases in your Support System. If Cases can be classified before they are added to a Case list, the Case list is infinitely more manageable.



We also believe a Support system should share the same database as your Customer Records, not only to link Cases to Customers, but to provide your Support Agents with the information they need to provide comprehensive support. But even more than that, in a system like NetSuite, a Customer’s Service Level Agreement could automatically set a Case’s Priority or Due Date.


First of all, we would suggest the first response is a confirmation of query receipt. For emails this is a simple automated email, but phone queries are often neglected. We’d suggest logging all phone calls as queries, however appreciate this isn’t always logical or practical. However if the query requires more investigation or cannot be handled with a first contact resolution, an email detailing the conversation is a great way to leave an open line of communication with the customer and record the query for memory on your side too.

Secondly, we’d suggest growing your Knowledge Base by encouraging your Support Agents and Technical Staff to constantly contribute to it. In a basic sense, Knowledge Bases can often offer standard responses, but could also be extended memos so that the exhaustive research that went into a great response doesn’t disappear into the realms of Closed Cases. Arranged into topics, you can give your Support Team their own, industry-specific Encyclopaedia if done properly. (There is always a chance this could be shared with your customers too!)

Could the first contact Support User take charge of the Case to manage it to completion? This can sometimes be a good way to ensure the case is chased once escalated.

Are you ready to close the Case? If yes, it’s worth updating the customer of this status change too. More than anything, this communication ensures avoiding any skeletons in the closet appearing when a customer expected a response that never came. Generally speaking, it’s difficult to ever over-communicate but much easier to under-communicate!

Time Tracking

Not just for your benefit, Time Tracking can be a great help for the customer when managing their Service Level Agreement. The logic behind Time Tracking if you charge for Support Time is simple, but it’s also a great way to view where time is being exhausted. Seeing how much is spent on individual customers can be an enlightening experience, for example.


As a smaller enterprise it can often be difficult to see how you’re doing when it comes to Support. A huge part of this reporting is using a system that uses assessable processes and has visual reporting capabilities. Thanks to NetSuite, we are able to access a huge range of visual reports such as: Service Response Times, Cases by Customer, Resolutions by Employee and many more.

Analytics shouldn’t just be reserved for the Sales side of things though. Does a persistent Customer need a more appropriate SLA? Do the Support Team need more training on a particular Product Group with questions slowing down response times? It’s often easy to think of Support as an open and closed activity, but often a lot can be taken from delving into the detail.

In Practice | Email Case Management

Case Management is often a difficult process to map out, with Case requirements varying vastly and Support being delivered by employees who have other primary functions. These difficulties apply to Keystone Data too, and in response we all try to work to a Support process that is time-efficient, promotes visibility and comprehensive for the customer.

The diagram below details out a general, simple Email Case process that we would frequently implement for our customers. Defining your own process is a great start for implementing a SaaS, but also for helping analyse and improve the process itself. In this example we are able to show a first contact response (in white), an escalated response (in grey) and how a Case can be reopened by a customer and start the cycle again.

Keystone Data’s Email Case Management Process | Manual process are defined with a solid grey line and automated processes with a dotted teal line. NetSuite processes are defined in Navy, standard Support steps in Teal, 1st contact responses in White and escalated steps in Grey.

Keystone Data are a NetSuite implementation specialist, for more information on Case Management or implementing Support for your company please get in touch.


Vertical market sub-listing

One of our clients wanted to be able to record vertical markets in a hierarchy. For example Retail with sub lists of hardware shops, supermarkets, specialist shops etc

The vertical market field provided as standard in Netsuite does not directly support this and we considered the option of a coding system to provide it.

For example:
20 any retail
21 hardware shops
22 supermarkets
23 specialist shops

But we thought this could get rather cumbersome and would require a lot of consideration to ensure the coding system supported the sort of vertical markets likely to be wanted.

Another option considered was to implement a bespoke solution with a custom field but we always prefer to avoid bespoke or customisation when possible,

We then realised that the free official bundle ‘enhanced sales center’ includes a field ‘industry’ and that this supports sub listing.

The further advantage of using this field is that the ‘vertical market’ field can now be used for other important characteristic about customers that is not recorded in any other standard field.

vertical markets sub-list


Comparison of NetSuite with Microsoft Dynamics Nav

Potential clients will often consider NetSuite and Microsoft Dynamics Nav when determining which ERP or business management software to buy. They are widely available and installed and offer a similar range of business functions but there are differences that can help clients determine which is most appropriate for them.


Mobile availability

NetSuite is available from any device from anywhere in the world that has access to the internet. This is because it is a true web-based solution. Alternatively clients can use the phone apps that NetSuite offers to connect into NetSuite. Microsoft Dynamics Nav requires a rich client software on the user device which restricts which devices can access it and any phone apps are provided by third parties rather than Microsoft.


NetSuite has been developed such than any customisations must be outside the core code and created using the range of customisation features. This means that upgrades to any client’s instance can be made easily by NetSuite without the need for client specific intervention. Clients can thus be assured they will on the latest versions as soon as they become available able to take advantage of new functionality or have any bugs or minor problems resolved quickly.

With Microsoft Dynamics Nav many customisations are undertaken by hard coding such that the Microsoft Dynamics Nav  code itself is changed. This means that a client must be careful when upgrading as the Microsoft Dynamics Nav  code that has changed in the new version may also be the area where the customer (or vertical market) specific change has been made. Because of this it is quite common for Microsoft Dynamics Nav clients not to take upgrades when they are available which means they cannot take advantage of new features and may have to live with software bugs.

 Full integration

NetSuite includes a feature rich CRM system which is fully integrated into the ERP system with a common interface. Microsoft Dynamics Nav offers a CRM which is not fully integrated and therefore does not synchronise all records nor allow automatic flow between Microsoft Dynamics Nav  and Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

Further, NetSuite includes fully integrated project management and service resource planning modules whereas to have access to such features in MS Dynamics clients must contract with a third party. NetSuite also offers a fully integrated eCommerce platform whereas if using with Microsoft Dynamics Nav the client must use a third party product and integrate it with Microsoft Dynamics Nav.

Support for multi-national organisation

NetSuite provides a strong multi-national offering, allowing clients real-time consolidation across the organization. With Microsoft Dynamics Nav the consolidations are ‘batch’ mode.

Support for multi-locations

Whilst both systems support multi-location, only NetSuite supports multi-site inventory management.

Real time analytics and reporting

NetSuite provides all analytics and reporting in real time, whereas Microsoft Dynamics Nav  is mostly off-line with analytics requiring MS Excel or complex products like SQL Server and Analytic Services.


NetSuite includes an integrated workflow module (SuiteFlow) that can be used to tailor business processes whereas Microsoft Dynamics Nav requires a development environment like .NET and custom programming.


Total Cost of Ownership

When considering cost of ownership, NetSuite is easier for a prospect to identify over a period of years whereas there are a couple of areas where Microsoft Dynamics Nav is hard to quantify over time.

The first is in the area of end user devices which with Microsoft Dynamics Nav need to be able to run the Microsoft Dynamics Nav rich client software (see Mobile availability). This is likely to mean that all such devices must run Windows and from time to time may need to update their version of Windows to support the latest version of client software. Such upgrades can be expensive in terms of both likely hardware enhancement and support personnel time, as well as being disruptive for end users.

The second area is in the costs of upgrading to the latest version of Microsoft Dynamics Nav (see Upgrades). Because specific Microsoft Dynamics Nav instances often include hard coded changes they are more difficult to upgrade so that the cost of such an upgrade is hard to quantify.


In summary when deciding between NetSuite and Microsoft Dynamics Nav , assuming that either system (with or without third party additional software) can support any specific functionality required there are some specific differentiators that would lead to the choice of either.

Why choose Microsoft Dynamics Nav

  1. If the client is fully committed to Microsoft products and has easily available access to SQL Server, .NET and other Microsoft product skills.
  2. If the client is committed to an on premise based solution

Why choose NetSuite

  1. If the client requires a genuine fully internet based SAAS product that can be accessed by any internet-connectible device anywhere in the world
  2. If the client requires a fully integrated CRM/ERP solution with a common interface – perhaps an organization that sells mostly to existing clients and wants to use the CRM system to manage the relationship across the organization with those clients
  3. If full multi-location inventory is needed
  4. If a strong fully integrated multi-national solution is required with real-time consolidation
  5. If the client is likely to want a range of user defined analytics and reporting that change over time rather than a pre-defined set of analytics and reports that can be built by a specialist to the user requirement
  6. If the client is (or is planning to grow) in the service business so that a fully integrated project management or service resource planning are required – or may be required in the future.
Marketing Automation

Why use marketing automation features like those in NetSuite?

Many clients who have bought and are using a good quality CRM system like NetSuite do not take full advantage of its facilities. Whilst it may be explicable why businesses are reluctant to use a sales automation system especially in businesses where the salesforce has less well-defined goals and commission structures than such a system usually demands, it is not so obvious why the marketing automation functions are not more popular.

So what sort of features does a good quality marketing automation package provide?

Apart from helping in managing customer lists to target email or other direct marketing campaigns effective, such a package can help in a generalised campaign such as advertising or attending a general show.

There are three main areas where a package can help

  1. Managing the full costs of a marketing campaign
  2. Managing the detailed outcomes from the campaign
  3. Delivering the campaign

Managing the full costs of a marketing campaign

Marketing executives are not always the best people at recording the full detailed cost of a campaign. When I managed such campaigns I (and my colleagues) rarely recorded all the costs involved focusing more on the direct external costs expended rather than the detail.

Time spent by myself or other people in the organisation was rarely recorded and yet most campaigns involve different people and time is usually a very expensive part of any organisation’s spend. The time taken by individuals who produced the demo required as part of an on-line advertising campaign or attendance at a trade show is an important cost of such a campaign.

A product like NetSuite that includes a time tracking system easily allows for the recording of this as well as allowing the marketing executive to record their own time.

Using a CRM system that is fully integrated with the accounting system also makes it much easier to record the detail of all external costs (including expenses like travel, entertainment etc) reliably.

Whatever the justification or reason for a campaign, surely being able to identify the full costs of running it must be a goal? Why should an organisation accept an estimate?

It could be argued that such marketing campaign costs can be recorded in a simple spreadsheet and of course this is true, but for most campaigns there will be a range of costs and it is highly likely that such an approach will, in the heat of the campaign, forget or ignore certain costs that may actually have been very high.

Managing the detailed outcomes from the campaign

A major advantage of using a good quality CRM system is that it can provide detailed outcome including leads, prospects and customers won. For most marketing campaigns this detail is critical to be able to distinguish between a campaign that may generate a large number of leads but few actual sales from a campaign that generates few leads but with a high conversion rate into sales.

This kind of detailed information allows management to make good decisions about where to focus marketing effort and could highlight a situation where either the product does not match the marketing hype or the salesforce lack the ability to close particular types of sales. Armed with such data good strategies can be developed to help the organisation grow effectively.

A modern system, like NetSuite, that includes an integrated eCommerce system will also provide tracking of paid keyword searches so an organisation can know how successful a paid keyword campaign is at generating leads, prospects and actual sales.

Delivering the campaign

When it comes to the delivery of a campaign your CRM system may include marketing specific features like: lead capture (via importing bought lists or using online customer forms) or creating and managing email campaigns (including customising email for specific targets or types of targets).

In addition it is useful to have access to a good project management tool to efficiently manage the tasks involved in the campaign. Using such a tool integrated with the CRM can help particularly in maintaining information about time spent on the campaign. Another advantage of having the same interface for both project management (and time tracking) and CRM is that it is easier for the marketing executive to learn and more likely that both systems will be used.

Other issues

Of course in order to maximise the benefits of a marketing management system it must offer an effective way in which the marketing executive and management can get information from the system. This should include tailorable KPIs, searches and reports (available in on-screen, in print or into an alternative product like a pdf file).

Additionally a CRM system that is useful as a marketing management tool must be highly configurable to allow the addition of relevant fields for example as the needs of an organisation change and the needs of each campaign will be different.


Now that most organisations use a CRM system, there would seem to me to be no reason not to use it to manage marketing especially marketing campaigns. The bad old days of estimates of spend and success ‘written on the back of a fag packet’ should be a thing of the past.

I recommend that no organisation accepts the old marketing argument that we must advertise or attend this or that trade show just because we always have. Measurement of costs and benefits are an integral part of all other aspects of a business and marketing must come under the same scrutiny – and with a product like NetSuite it can!