A study by Gartner Inc. estimates the market for CRM solutions in 2017 to reach $37 billion, compared to $21 billion in 2012. This is despite Sugar CRM's claim that only 0.5% of all businesses who could potentially benefit from CRM have actually implemented a system in any serious manner.

In many ways, CRM serves the same purpose as VoIP through its central role in enabling the sales function and fostering customer retention. Today, some CRM solutions even offer to integrate auto-responder functionality, and therefore help in the active pursuit of leads.
When done right and with the support of a reputable vendor, CRM can deliver the following key benefits:

  • Phone Computer IntegrationCustomer appointments or follow-up calls are always well-timed and never missed, via easy-to-use dashboard features that help the scheduling of calls, sms and emails. Scheduling these activities with the customer's preferences and expectations in mind will create a highly personalized, 'special-treatment'-type customer experience.
  • All relevant information about the potential or existing customers is stored in one location and can be accessed to make engagements more meaningful, informed and pleasant.
  • Data crunching on historical customer data, for example sales and enquiries history, can be used to understand customers' needs better and supply the right product and service offers to the right client, at the right time.
  • Activity management allows the automation of many common but essential tasks, with timed or conditional triggers automatically initiating next steps or reminding staff of critical activities. This saves time and enforces timeliness, ensures that important steps aren't skipped, and demonstrates to the customer that they are being dealt with in a rigorous and professional manner.
  • CRM systems can help manage multi-channel marketing and measure their success, creating a seamless connection between marketing and sales
  • Managers can create unlimited kinds of drill-down analytics to understand the dynamics and sources of success or failure. These can be used to improve targeting or sales strategy, and to train staff to serve customers better
  • Automatically generated reports in all kind of formats, either high level or down to the small details can help management analyze or predict performance, steer the company and make important decisions
  • Finally integration CRM with technologies such as VoIP or email allow the intelligence from CRM to be leveraged into seamless communication processes, internally, across department or office locations and to the outside world, for a holistic, well-informed and highly professional customer experience.

In this way, CRM becomes an effective and useful tool for not just sales, but also marketing, finance and those involve with business analysis and process development. This means very attractive Return On Investment (ROI) and higher revenues from the investment in CRM.

Before making the leap to CRM one must of course understand the exact business improvement requirements, and the implications for those who will use the system, how to facilitate adoption and a steep learning curve.

The Convergence of CRM and VoIP

We have seen that in and of themselves, VoIP and CRM can have the potential to radically improve the performance of a business or organization. It then follows that integrating the two can add further value in countless ways.

While the typical small business maybe be able to operate with a conventional analog phone connection (PSTN or Public Switched Telephone Network) to communicate with the outside world, growing businesses soon find they require on-site telephone exchange or PBX. The reality is that many CRM features lose their impact and functionality when deployed without a PBX. In the past this meant that small businesses were losing out on the opportunities for increased revenues that fully deployed DRM offers - because of the cost of implementing a PBX. VoIP is in fact highly affordable even for start-up businesses. The result? Integrating CRM with VoIP becomes an affordable option to unleash the full benefits of CRM.

Reasons behind Favoring the Convergence

VoiP and CRM integration is now recommended by a growing chorus of CRM system providers and technology experts. It just makes sense to empower users of CRM to get so much more out of the system, for example:

  • Effortless passing through of calls to prospects
  • Quick and easy setting up of conferences calls with multiple users, for example to trouble shoot problems, for product demonstrations, or multi user conferences to troubleshoot problems or give on the fly product demonstrations
  • Seamlessly sending emails or files to the client's email address directly from the CRM/VoIP interface, using the customer data held inside the CRM

These are just three small examples CRM interface. The results are increased team productivity and reduced data entry activity because all activity, phone and CRM, are combined in one convenient dashboard, and not in separate systems. Furthermore since all the communication now goes through the internet, communication costs will be low.

In the next article we will look at some of the consideration to look at before integrating CRM and VoIP