Unified communications does not, by itself, fix problems. Just because your customers' employees can click-to-call or get voice mail as email doesn't mean they're getting the most out of UC. The real aim of UC is to help companies operate more smoothly and with greater productivity — needs that have grown especially important in a struggling economy where every dollar matters. When they're deploying UC, end users expect to make the most of their not-insignificant investment. So, one important way to help them do that is to combine their UC with customer relationship management (CRM) platforms.
UC-CRM integration "can change the way our clients' businesses run," said Jim Watt, president and CEO of IT reseller and consultancy Dynamic Solutions Group. That's because it boosts staff productivity. Here's why. Many companies have CRM platforms — think Salesforce.com, ACT, SugarCRM, Microsoft Dynamics and so on — in place. They also have IP phone systems with UC and its accompanying features. These components all do their jobs well, but do not automatically talk to each other. Together, however, they add a whole new level of efficiency.
"CRM has a 360-degree view of the customer," said Watt. "When you mirror with the UC system, you're getting more accurate data more easily." For example, CRM with UC works with inbound and outbound calls. The CRM piece will dial the phone and provide a notes screen with pertinent information from previous client discussions. "[You] know who the customer is, any conversations we've had," said Watt. "You're prepared for that call and can react if it's your best customer or your worst customer."
Randy Kremlacek, owner and president of TeleDynamic Communications Inc., an IT reseller, said there's growing recognition among end users that this kind of functionality can be done, and at affordable prices. "People are now asking, where before, they never asked because they thought it was going to be proprietary software."
They all want to achieve one goal: higher productivity, Kremlacek said. Take a recent TeleDynamic implementation as a mini case study. Every time a customer, new or existing, called San Francisco's largest cab company, they had to provide all of their information (phone number, address, etc.). Repeat data-gathering was a waste of call center agents' time. As a result, TeleDynamic proposed that it program the company's UC and CRM platforms to work together and recognize callers' numbers. If customers have called in before, the automated system would ask them whether they wanted to be picked up at their home address or any of the alternate addresses they had used in the past. The cab company was sold. TeleDynamic did the job and the results are hard to argue with. The cab company handles about 80,000 calls per month. Now, 60,000 of those are fielded by the interface built by TeleDynamic. The best part is, for the cab company, "there are zero costs associated with that transaction," said Kremlacek.