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Closing the CRM and telephony gap

Only with the addition of native telephony integration will CRM enable organizations to truly achieve multi-channel customer engagement.

Victor Silva | December 2, 2015

CRM software continues to be a major component in enterprise architecture, justifying its ROI many times over. As the technology reaches new levels of maturity and organizations demand better and more integrated capabilities to deliver an optimal customer experience, some gaps remain.

Here, I’ll discuss one of the most major gaps in the most popular CRM systems: the lack of native telephony integration. Only with native integration will organizations achieve true multi-channel engagement with customers—in turn driving up sales conversion rates and customer satisfaction.

Organizations with call centers often maintain disparate CRM and telephony systems with separate datasets, screens, and processes. As a result, customers get a disjointed experience, and the sales organization is stilted by untapped potential. If all sales history, recent calls, and emails were combined into a single view, organizations could save customers valuable time and increase overall satisfaction and sales.

Fortunately, there are solutions in the market to bridge this gap, but identifying the right integrated solution can be daunting. By leveraging existing cloud solutions, however, you will deliver the ultimate customer experience with minimal effort and investment.

And it’s there, in the cloud, where CRM and telephony meet—empowering organizations to provide the ultimate customer experience while boosting productivity, effectiveness, and employee satisfaction.

A [brief] telephony history

From the telegraph to the Internet, communication has been one of the greatest drivers for technological innovations and breakthroughs. Meanwhile, the need to store and compute data has advanced from mainframes to the advent of the cloud.

In recent years, data communication and computing have moved into uncharted territory. Today, enterprises can seamlessly manage most software and infrastructure necessities as a service in the cloud, with little upfront cost and remarkable scalability.

And it’s there, in the cloud, where CRM and telephony meet—empowering organizations to provide the ultimate customer experience while boosting productivity, effectiveness, and employee satisfaction.

Successful computer telephony integration

When implementing computer telephony integration, or CTI, it’s important that telephony and CRM systems operate collaboratively—augmenting each other to provide sales and customer service agents with a seamless experience while ensuring that the organization maintains its focus on customer relationships. This does many things: it allows customers to feel like their time matters; it drives up CRM adoption and, along with it, data quality; and ultimately it will increase short- and long-term profits.

CTI features and impact

Of course, integration is not without its technical challenges. Be sure not to lose focus on the following features that exemplify what telephony and CRM can accomplish together.

  • Screen popup: Arguably the most sought out feature for organizations pursuing telephony integration with CRM. When receiving a call, call-center agents need to quickly aggregate as much information as possible about new and existing customers.
    Impact: Quickly tapping into vital information—such as order history, delinquency status, customer preferences, purchase habits, and customer service inquiries—can greatly increase the likelihood of winning new deals and increasing loyalty. Being able to do so without bulky client installs makes the cloud a differentiator.

  • Click to call: Especially useful when sales or customer service representatives go through a list of contacts to call and log each call’s outcome.
    Impact: Increase productivity and reduce errors by automatically dialing customers from a CRM record through the cloud phone system.

  • Call routing: Modern call centers demand smart routing rules for incoming phone calls. These rules use customer data to its fullest potential, routing the caller to the representative with the appropriate skill.
    Impact: Evenly distribute premium customer calls to top-performing sales associates, or route calls to representatives in the same time zone, or even define personal customer service agents fully aligned with certain customers without having to build complex software solutions.

  • Interactive voice response (IVRs): IVRs are widely used in call centers to automate customer interaction—reducing operational costs and better routing calls based on customer intentions.
    Impact: Create flexible IVR rules and directly link dial options with skills-based routing rules. Store every interaction with the customer for future analytics and customer profile enrichment, right from the telephony system into CRM.

  • Softphone: With ever-more mobile and geographically dispersed sales forces, organizations must be able to route phone calls from and to different devices, including cell phones, desk phones, and softphones.
    Impact: Not only does a softphone have cost advantages when completely replacing the desk phone, it’s also a vital extension of the CRM platform—increasing agents’ mobility and efficiency.

  • Call recording/Speech to text: Being able to record phone calls with customers has a number of advantages, including compliance, litigation, sales planning, and data mining.
    Impact: A recording of any past conversation can be easily retrieved for a specific customer in CRM. Phonetic indexing or transcription provide the means for converting phone calls into searchable text, enabling reporting and insights.

  • Dashboards and monitoring: Define—and monitor—key metrics in real time to track and improve overall customer satisfaction, sales throughput, operational speed, and employee retention.
    Impact: The telephony system should collect data about each phone call and relate it to the appropriate CRM records, so that it can be analyzed to enable insights into both customer behavior and call center operations.

As you get started, remember this: Create a user interface that’s simple and dynamic enough to allow information to flow quickly and seamlessly through the customer engagement cycles—providing your customers with a first-class experience.

Victor Silva

Victor Silva is a solution principal in the Slalom New York CRM practice. In his customer engagement projects, Victor shares his deep technology expertise and experience with clients looking to make use of CRM platforms to increase sales throughput and efficiency, or improve customer satisfaction.


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