CRM and VoIP: A Perfect Fit

Updated: April 30, 2009

Reducing operating costs and boosting customer service are activities that top the to-do lists of today's best-known businesses. Fortunately, these twin goals can be achieved by pairing VoIP with CRM . In fact, with its promises of slashed costs, increased productivity and enhanced efficiency, VoIP is proving to be a perfect fit for CRM systems.

Take, for example, Cisco Systems Inc .'s decision to team up with Microsoft. The latest version of Cisco Unified CRM Connector integrates Cisco Unified Communications VoIP products with Microsoft's Dynamics CRM 3.0 software. With Microsoft's integration of its CRM software with Exchange, a Cisco IP phone can now display results of a CRM Connector lookup. The result: Marketing, sales and service users attain a 360-degree view of the customer.

CRM On Demand

But Cisco and Microsoft aren't the only players to recognize CRM and VoIP's natural marriage. Providers such as Contactual Inc. and Five9.com Inc . deliver a combination of VoIP-based call distribution and hosted CRM application suites. What's more, Five9 also integrates with Salesforce.com and RightNow Technologies Inc. products so that companies using these on-demand solutions can easily add call-center functionality.

And then there's FrontRange Soultions Inc.'s GoldMine IP Voice Suite, a communications suite that combines a company's phone system and its GoldMine CRM software. The GoldMine IP Voice Suite includes a software-based IP telephone system with unified messaging, auto attendants, inbound and outbound productivity applications, and management capabilities.

It's easy to understand the burgeoning mainstream acceptance of VoIP and CRM integration, especially among growing businesses. For starters, VoIP applications are easily remotely hosted and managed — a huge perk for small- and medium-sized businesses that typically lack a sizable in-house IT staff and robust resources. Furthermore, signing up for VoIP service, coupled with a vendor's prepackaged CRM solution suite, costs in the area of $50,000 — highly plausible for a company with budgetary restrictions.

Standards-based VoIP solutions leverage a company's existing infrastructure to reduce overall cost of ownership. Companies can easily simplify their outbound-calling campaigns with an automated preview-dialing application that includes list management, call distribution, status reporting and calling scripts. Inbound screen pops automatically identify incoming phone calls from customers, instantly revealing key customer data. And features such as click-to-dial allow users to perform tasks such as dialling directly from contact records, as well as tracking and recording calling activity.

But these unique features are more than simply a boon for businesses. Rather, they possess a "cool quotient" that "adds to the customer experience," according to Paul Greenberg, author of "CRM at the Speed of Light." "And coolness isn't an unimportant factor in a customer's experience with a company," he added.

Gotchas

There are, however, potential pitfalls surrounding the union of VoIP and CRM. Factors such as substandard voice quality can easily frustrate customers and prompt them to take their business elsewhere.

Warned Greenberg, "dropped calls, poor sound quality and downtime are going to affect a customer's experience no matter what." After all, he added, VoIP alone "doesn't increase customer loyalty or create customer advocates." A combination of CRM excellence and a high-quality VoIP system, however, can easily clear a company's to-do list.

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