CRM Integrations & Capabilities

    As customer relationship management (CRM) platforms have become increasingly common in the enterprise, so have the number of integrations and functionality of the software. Naturally, integration of CRM functions into legacy data environments has become a top challenge.

    What Are CRM Integrations?

    It is the rare piece of software that works in a vacuum, of course, but because CRM requires a full view of virtually all enterprise data, linking it seamlessly to traditional software is not only desirable but crucial in the effort to maintain high levels of customer satisfaction and business productivity.

    But exactly how should CRM integration be architected, and exactly where should the touchpoints be? And most importantly, how can this be done without affecting existing workflows?

    Types of CRM Integrations

    The first step in implementing a successful CRM integration is figuring out what systems need to be integrated. Every data environment is unique, of course, but the most common tie-ins consist of the following.

    Most Popular CRM Integrations

    Email Integration

    Besides being a treasure trove of customer-related data, email is also a highly effective marketing tool. As Zoho points out, a CRM-backed email marketing campaign can be more personalized, friendly and highly targeted to the most prospective leads. At the same time, feedback data can be automatically analyzed to continually refine the overall marketing strategy, both to improve ROI and to warn against tactics that are tarnishing the brand.

    Calendar Integration

    Today’s digital calendars are more like digital scheduling tools, and they have become critical assets to modern sales teams. Consider integrating internal CRM calendars, if they exist, with third-party tools like Google Calendars or online appointment scheduling services. In this way, sales teams can align their sales-related and non-sales-related activities to avoid conflicts, as well as set up alerts so they never miss a meeting.

    Social Media Integration

    Facebook membership now tops 1 billion users, with tools like Twitter and LinkedIn measuring in the hundreds of millions. Social media is now a constant hub of interaction between consumers and providers, which means failure to integrate these platforms into CRM represents a huge lost opportunity to connect and engage in the manner preferred by customers. For small businesses in particular, this is the primary means of tapping into a global marketplace.

    Call Center/Customer Support Integration

    CRM provides customer profiles, while call centers route interactions to the appropriate knowledge source. Get them working together, and you have the power to streamline the resolution process and generate goodwill among customers. Key opportunities include improved self-service capabilities, personalized experiences, the ability to turn service calls into sales and improved agent productivity.

    Marketing Automation Integration

    Sales and marketing work hand in hand, so why not do the same for their software platforms? Integrating the two means that both teams have access to the same information, cutting precious time off of lead generation, customer feedback, and a host of other processes. Most lost opportunities result from failure to connect the dots, and this is particularly true in high-speed digital environments.

    Potential Challenges with CRM Integrations

    Integrating software from scratch is never an easy task. Fortunately, most CRM platforms provide either pre-integrated solutions or streamlined processes to help you get started quickly. After all, CRM vendors have their own sales and reputations to think about.

    Still, some challenges do arise. Home-grown software, for one, may not integrate as smoothly as a leading business solution, particularly if it does not support a popular API. Integration will also require a common database, which means all legacy data on current platform silos will have to be migrated into a new universal domain. This can be a tricky endeavor, considering that most business units have grown accustomed to working with their data just as it is.

    In this way, CRM integration becomes as much a cultural change in the enterprise as a technological one. When changes to an individual’s work processes are involved, the faster and less disruptive the transition, the better.

    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.
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