Integrating VoIP and CRM

Updated: April 30, 2009

A growing number of businesses are looking at VoIP's cost, productivity and efficiency benefits and are deciding that the technology makes a good fit with their CRM systems. Besides its cost advantages, VoIP allows businesses to document interactions between employees and clients, a capability that isn't generally possible with traditional telephony. The information collected can be viewed alongside customer transaction data, enabling a business to get clearer profiles of its customers. Additionally, IP telephony transfers voice in data packets, which makes the technology relatively simple to integrate with CRM applications. Another advantage is that VoIP can be hosted remotely, making it easy for a mobile workforce to use.

Going Soft

Perhaps the ultimate level of VoIP-CRM integration is softphone service, which embeds CRM functionality directly into VoIP telephony. Offering such a system forces otherwise reluctant sales reps to embrace CRM technology, boosting their productivity and giving sales managers a continuous and reliable performance tracking system.

CRM vendors are quickly recognizing that softphone service is a capability that many businesses would like to use. Salesforce.com, for example, recently announced a version of the Skype VoIP software that will work with its flagship CRM package. The special version of Skype, developed by German VoIP specialist PamConsult, enables Salesforce users to incorporate phone communications into their CRM applications.

Users of Skype for Salesforce can make and receive calls or initiate text chats directly with other Skype users. Contact names and presence indicators can be imported automatically into Salesforce. Non-Skype users using traditional phones can be called with a single click and the package can be used for conference calls with up to ten Skype or non-Skype users. Skype for Salesforce is available at no cost through AppEchange, Salesforce.com's on-demand software directory.

In the Call Center

In the call center, VoIP-CRM integration can slash telephony costs while providing new and innovative features. A key way VoIP-CRM integration can help call centers is with click-to-call service. This approach connects a Web site's visitors to a business with a simple, clickable icon. People can use this technology to ask questions about a product or to place an order. Click-to-call can be difficult and complex to set up with a traditional phone system , but VoIP's ability to seamlessly merge with Web sites makes click-to-call as easy to implement as a MAILTO: link in a database file.

Inbound screen pops are another way VoIP-CRM integration can add efficiency and productivity to a call center. For instance, the Cisco Business Communications System — a VoIP platform designed to integrate with Microsoft Dynamics CRM — can identify incoming phone calls from customers, instantly recalling data from an organization's CRM system. When a call comes in, the agent receives a pop-up window on his or her desktop with a complete picture of the customer's relationship with the company.

Businesses pondering VoIP-CRM integrations face two options: starting from scratch or layering VoIP onto an existing network infrastructure. Both approaches work well, although starting from scratch tends to be more costly but less problematic, while adding VoIP to an existing infrastructure usually costs less but involves a series of integration challenges.

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