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(Customer) Relationship Advice – A CRM Integration Primer

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Good communications are key to good relationships. This holds true for personal and business relationships alike.

Moreover, among most enterprises, their most important assets are customers.  And because the quality of the ongoing relationships among a company’s employees and its customers is paramount, it is not an accident that software systems aimed at helping companies to better manage their customer bases are increasingly growing in both sophistication and number. 

There are hundreds of so called “CRM” or “Customer Relationship Management” solutions available, whether premise, hosted, or cloud based; vertically or horizontally oriented; optimized for sales, service, or manufacturing; small or large company focused. A wide variety of choices exist.

UC solutions like ShoreTel are, by definition, central to the way employees interact with their customers every day. Since UC capabilities can be combined to great effect with CRM data and functions, it is not surprising that UC/CRM integration projects are common.

“Integration” when used in this context is however a very general term and not particularly helpful in enlightening specific applications. The following five points may be useful in providing some context around UC/CRM Integration and informing those interested in pursuing these kinds of ShoreTel-based projects.

1. Typical UC/CRM integration goals include:

  • Automating routine tasks by leveraging ShoreTel UC context to drive the CRM system without the need for human assistance. If a phone call comes through with caller ID, account number, or other identifying information, ShoreTel can drive a CRM system to display the caller’s associated record containing (for example) his complete payment, trouble-ticket or personal history. Further, ShoreTel can log a phone call activity record that is then linked to the associated CRM contact and other data, thus facilitating later reporting and business analytics.
  • Embedding UC features directly within the CRM application interface. CRM users can view presence information, then click to dial their clients, transfer and add notes to a call, conference parties, and view call history for a given contact directly within their CRM application, obviating the need to switch among two or more desktop interfaces.

2. ShoreTel offers richly functional “packaged” solutions for some of the most popular CRM solutions used by our customers. These include Salesforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, ACT!, AMS 360, and others.  For a full list, please reference the Applications Catalog.

3. Integration with other CRM solutions can often be accomplished via a combination of pre-built ShoreTel facilities such as ShoreTel EasyPop and ShoreTel Contact Center Agent Toolbar for triggering desktop screen pops or ShoreTel Web Dialer and App Dialer for enabling click to dial from with a CRM interface. Depending upon the extent of functional requirements, custom software can interface with the specific CRM in question.

4. For custom projects, there are always two key questions: First, what is the customer’s work flow and what integration features would best optimize this? Second, what is the software design of the CRM system and what programmatic interfaces are available to allow it to connect with ShoreTel?

5. Typically, the best way to kick of a custom project is via a meeting that includes the customer (to explain their workflow and CRM usage mode), a technical person from the third-party (CRM) system vendor (to explain CRM system software), the ShoreTel Reseller Partner, and ShoreTel Professional Services. Very often after just a one-hour discussion, ShoreTel Professional Services can offer a statement of basic feasibility in addition to a high-level proposal and associated ballpark price quote.

The benefits that businesses can derive from UC/CRM integrations are compelling, often easily quantified, and most definitely worth the effort of defining what is possible.