Unified Communications and CRM
The whole point of CRM (customer relationship management) is to give each customer the best possible service at the margin that best suits the customer.
In other words a low margin customer is directed to an internet website portal or IVR (touch “one” for this “two” for that). A more valuable customer may be proactively contacted before s/he can call in with a problem.
The biggest problem with CRM solutions have been integrating them with the back office systems that contain all the information on the customers and products and connecting the various departments with the information to the customer who needs help.
This is the beauty of unified communications (UC). The idea is simple — but the technology behind it is complex. Microsoft plans to take over the world with its UC concept (OCS) and IBM is fighting back with a product called SameTime. Cisco is in there, so is Avaya, Siemens, and a few others.
Why does everyone care?
Why should you care?
Well, I’ll answer it by asking you a question or two. Do you have an office phone number? Are you always at your desk?
Do you have a cell phone? A pager? An email account? An IM address?
Just how many ways can someone reach you (or more aptly, NOT reach you)?
Now put that in reverse. Say you have a problem and you desparately need to reach a customer or spouse. How many numbers do you have to try? How many voice mails do you leave?
All that goes away with unified communications.
In the best of UC you make one call and UC reaches out and finds the person whereever they are. You call the office phone and they are at the beach — UC calls the cell phone even though you dialed the office.
So you’re at the beach and you told UC that only urgent calls (say from your boss) comes to you, all other calls go to the guy covering for you. You can enjoy your day off. But as you lay there basking in the sun you realize you expect an important email today. You pick up your cell phone and call your UC message box which reads you your emails.
Now let’s tie it back to CRM. Some of the best UCs out there (like Siemens OpenScape) have pre-built connectors to leading CRM software like Microsoft Dynamics CRM, SAP, Salesforce.com — and those that aren’t pre-built can be done quickly with an easy to use SDK (software development kit).
A customer comes in through live chat. Maybe you need to walk them through something. Using IBM SameTime or Microsoft Live Meeting built inside your UC you can graphically show them how to do things — or share documents with them. You solve their problem!
Maybe you need to call in a resource. Perhaps you’re a lawyer and you need to get another lawyer on the phone. UC shows you who is available and you can set up a conference call (not just a 3 way call) easily and on the fly — knowing that the person is there. You can even IM them during the call.
UC brings so many of CRM’s promises to fruition. Now for the commercial.
Gartner Group says of Siemens UC product (OpenScape) June 2006: HiPath OpenScape. . .is the most mature and open UC (unified communications) product in the market today. (It) offers desktop and speech communications interfaces with presence and conferencing and works in multiple PBX environments. . .Of particular interest is the approach that Siemens is taking with vertical industry applications.