“A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.”
This quote from business professor and consultant Michael LeBoeuf sums up much of the modern thinking about the relationship between businesses and clients. While maxims like “the customer is always right” may be fading, the reality is, making consumers happy remains a critical component of any successful business.
In the past, managing the relationship between a business and its clients often relied on face-to-face interaction and manually recording information such as contacts, sales, and order history. But the rise of the internet provided a digital alternative. Commonly known as customer relationship management (CRM) technologies, these tools offer businesses an easy way to centralize, track, and manage the interactions and relationships between itself and existing or prospective customers.
CRM systems help companies expand or streamline sales, find new markets, monitor customer data like help desk tickets, improve profitability and, in the end, enhance the customer experience. So how does a company get the most efficient, effective use out of all its apps through a centralized CRM tool?
What is CRM integration?
According to a recent report from MuleSoft, the average organization uses nearly 1,000 separate applications ranging from content management systems (CMS) to payment applications to marketing tools to enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. And these software tools exist in a variety of mediums, such as on-premise hardware or software, or as cloud-based apps.
CRM integration refers to taking these multiple software systems used to manage a company’s customer service, sales, and marketing functions and connecting them to a single, centralized CRM (customer relationship management) system. By doing this, CRM integration ensures a business not only has a streamlined process for handling tasks for sales, marketing, and customer service but also ensures the organization makes the most efficient use of the CRM solution itself by inputting up-to-date, accurate data.
What are different CRM integration strategies?
So how do we understand CRM integration? There are three ways to go about performing a CRM system integration for a business.
- Use applications that work together
- Write your own code to integrate your CRM
- Use APIs to integrate your CRM
1. Use applications that work together
The first, and perhaps simplest, is to utilize applications from the same provider, which generally means they will easily communicate with one another. However, this approach probably is unrealistic, because providers generally don’t have all the application solutions a business might want or need.
2. Write your own code to integrate your CRM
The second approach is to work in-house and write technical code that allows applications to communicate with one another, as well as the CRM. But this approach is less common, because the code can be difficult to maintain and many companies lack the necessary in-house IT resources.
3. Use APIs to integrate your CRM
The final approach is to use an application programming interface (API). An API allows applications to talk to one another. One good example is a rideshare app. Programs like Uber or Lyft connect to outside mapping services, like Google Maps, to show you a map on their own app of where you are in relation to your ride. APIs are ubiquitous in the world of technology and critical to the functioning of everything from this website to your smartwatch.
APIs can be used to integrate your various systems into your CRM (and to connect information from your CRM into your other systems). The strategy of using APIs for CRM integration is common because APIs are readily available, cost-effective, and easy to use. With an API, a company can take its various applications and feed its valuable data directly into a third-party CRM.
Benefits of a CRM integration
There are three potential benefits to CRM integration.
1. Customer communications
The ability to take email and messaging platforms and cross-pollinate them into CRM solutions represents one of the biggest benefits of CRM integration. Once integrated, companies can send emails and manage contacts directly from the CRM and use it for things like sending automated marketing messages. Additionally, a CRM user can set communications based on thresholds, such as response rate, helping businesses increase customer satisfaction and get the most out of existing relationships through email marketing software.
2. Automation opportunities
In addition to the ability to perform scheduled marketing email blasts through marketing automation software, CRM integration can help automatically evaluate the relationship between a business and customers based on predetermined metrics. For example, CRM software can assign a score based on whether a customer responds to or interacts with communications from a business, giving the company a better understanding of customer value. Finally, integrating with a CRM offers a quick and easy solution for automating repetitive tasks, such as scheduling, billing, or logging hours.
3. Organization and efficiency
CRM integration offers companies a way to streamline countless aspects of their operations. Pairing CRM software with enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications, for instance, allows a business to view important customer information such as demographics and contact information, along with their account history, all in one place. Moreover, integrating apps like calendars, internal communications, marketing and even sales with CRM not only centralizes information but also provides organizations with key customer insights that can help increase productivity.
In an age when thousands of siloed applications exist for tasks from email to billing, businesses can waste time and lose out on potential sales as they navigate among these tools. With a properly integrated CRM, companies have a single platform that they can use in tandem with existing technologies like ERP systems, billing portals, or even ecommerce platforms.
Types of CRM integrations
There are a number of different types of CRM integrations, including:
Integrating apps like email represents a powerful tool for businesses, allowing them to send out automated, targeted communications. For further efficiency, emails can be sent directly from the CRM platform.
Law firms can use CRM integration to help retain or build their client base, track high-value relationships, bill customers, and schedule meetings or appointments.
IT and knowledge integrations
Merging help desk systems and live chat apps into a CRM helps keep everything in one place while also displaying critical information such as customer service history.
CRM integration tools can help automatically create bespoke marketing campaigns based on client data and demographics. With prospective customer information on hand, they can also help target and explore new markets.
Social media integrations
By integrating platforms such as Twitter or Instagram, companies can keep tabs on how specific clients engage with marketing or other social media channels. The relevant data is then easily accessible in a centralized dashboard.
CRM integration FAQ
Why is CRM integration important?
Fully integrated CRM systems rationalize an organization’s operations, allowing its various customer-relations tools to interface with one another. This ability to aggregate client data then provides opportunities for time savings, targeted marketing, increased organization, and the expansion of the customer base.
What should a CRM integrate with?
The more applications a business can integrate with its CRM, the better. A CRM system can be integrated with your marketing tools, customer service tools, and payment applications. When integrated data fit under a single umbrella, companies can find needed information in one place, rather than wasting time and energy pulling it from multiple departments or sources.
What is some basic CRM functionality?
In general, CRM deals with customer information, such as contact or demographic data, sales history, marketing response, or customer service tickets. But it is also valuable for improving lead generation and general customer experience through targeted marketing automation, as well as sales analytics or even internal communications.