Create a Distinctive Competitive Advantage with CRM through Multi-system Integration

Most modern organizations feel that a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution should best be used to provide support to individual departments like Sales, Marketing or Customer Service (Call Center). The truth of the matter is that a good CRM solution needs to be much more than a single point solution, with proper CRM integration which can make different business processes across departments including back offices and customer facing, more efficient and effective.

Why integrate various systems?
So, what exactly should you be looking for in respect to multi-system CRM integration solution? To answer this question you have to understand that the core of any CRM solution involves use of data related to your customer. Such data is normally stored in various systems which can in turn lead to creation of redundancies and inconsistencies because different data related to a customer has to be collected in order to provide proper support to different departments within an organization.

Common set of data
If you integrate all relevant data pertaining to your customers into just one platform, you will succeed in ensuring that personnel across various operations will get to work with a common set of data. Another spinoff of using multi-system integration in your CRM solution is that you can improve communications both within and without your organization.

Better access to information
Different personnel will get to access information about different customer interactions – irrespective of which department contacted the customer. The end result is that integration will give your organization’s personnel an opportunity to react quickly to any issue that arises with your customer. This ready access to information will also mean that personnel across your organization can be made aware of information and other interactions with customers that they may not have been aware of because without integration the organization would be disjointed.

360 Degree View of the customer
The result of efficient CRM integration solution with other core systems is that you can provide a high impact 360 degree view to all the stakeholders which empowers them to improve levels of satisfaction and build long term relationships. Also visibility of processes across the organisation can make them more efficient and reduce costs of sales and service. For example, a detailed view of customer’s product portfolio can understanding buying and selling patterns and thus helps to cross sell and upsell more. Also if there is an irate customer with a pending services request the sales person will know how to smartly pitch the customer by assuring that he is aware of his complaint and will get it solved.

Even though service management modules are often part and parcel of the bigger CRM solution these are not always used. It is therefore imperative that an organization takes a holistic view and approach to their operations. This will help them uncover areas that will benefit the most from being integrated.

An example of this can be seen when you wish to link your CRM solution to several different systems including your marketing department, services department and payment department as well as certain tools including an ERP or Enterprise Resource Planning system which provides full support to management of invoicing and billing. It also makes sense to integrate a third-party system which is handling services related to subscriptions and phone calls.

How to achieve effective CRM integration
This brings us to the question regarding how best to achieve multi-system integration. There are sure to be many challenges that are to be faced along the way and so it makes sense to keep in mind certain tasks which include:
  • Defining the problem as well as business processes 
  • Ensuring Technical Feasibility 
  • Training end users
Real-time integration can be achieved with-
  • Web APIs 
  • Mash ups 
  • Messaging
Batch-mode integration can be achieved with-
  • Batch import/export 
  • File import/export 
  • External API
Define the real problem
When it comes to defining the main problem and the various business processes that need to be integrated it is important that you define the various business processes so that you know how best to integrate them. Different departments will need to look at information within the CRM solution and so you need to define best use instances to ensure that all departments get to use the data in the optimal manner possible.

Ensuring technical feasibility
It is important to understand how different systems can talk with each other and exchange data. Also what is the frequency of data exchange- real time, batches etc. There are many ways you can integrate for example- web services, mashups, import/export etc. The criticality of the exchanged data and security should be taken into consideration.

Training users
Finally, be sure to take time to provide ways and means by which to train your users. For this, you have to provide sufficient time as well as resources so that the training is adequate and that the personnel feel confident and comfortable about using the integrated CRM system. It is also important to create an interface that is easy to use and one that is intuitive. Failure to address this issue can lead to failure of your integrated system.

It is also important to take the right approach to CRM integration with multiple systems. For this, you have to address issues such as the type of business that you are running as well as the size of your organization. If you are running a small business with small number of customers then probably running a single platform CRM solution is advisable. If the nature of system is complex and delaing with a large number of customers and transactions then you need to ensure that you use an integrated system which reduces the time that an agent needs to spend when dealing with customers.

The bottom line is that you need to address the issue of multi-system integration to your CRM solution by taking a holistic view so that you succeed in changing the way that your organization positions itself to the customers. Integration will also help you cut costs while also providing improved service to the customer and it will increase the opportunities to upsell and also cut down time taken to deal with a customer and other prospects.