Modern call centers need much more than phones. Today, customers interact with companies in complicated and dynamic ways. Email, chat and a variety of social media channels act as multiple points of contact for businesses. So, just having a phone won’t cut it.
The future of business is a one-stop cloud contact center shop. And it starts with a CRM.
What is a CRM?
CRM stands for customer relationship management. Today, people use the term colloquially to mean a repository for customer information and interaction. A CRM is a platform that connects customers and businesses. It facilitates, stores, measures and reports on business activities across departments including sales, customer service, marketing and IT verticals.
In 1999, former Oracle employee Marc Benioff created the cloud company Salesforce. Since then, it has become synonymous with CRM.
The platform gained notoriety as a cloud-based infrastructure for innovation and administrative automation. Unlike its predecessors, Salesforce could execute cross-company business functions without the need for on premise serves and massive hardware. Taking a PaaS (Platform as a Service) approach to market, Salesforce allowed developers to access its code and create multitenant add-on applications. The result was a billion-dollar innovation economy that continues to grow.
Prior to the cloud CRM inception, businesses typically stored and connected customer information on their own servers. Sales managers would collect and compile excel sheets on leads, prospects and customers and store them in folders within their company’s servers. They’d create manual reports to analyze quarterly productivity and determine everything from total revenue to future resource allocation. Similarly, marketing managers, customer service manager and IT managers created their own reports, plans and campaigns through tedious manual processes. Executives spent gobs of time sorting through data.
Likewise, communication and collaboration was tedious. Reports, assessments and internal requests clogged email inboxes. And tools to help with the creation, management, distribution and analysis of campaigns required several redundancies and manual adjustments.
The Phone Barrier
Of the manual day-to-day processes employees endured in the past, many centered around phone calls.
Contact center agents had to field orders, returns and complaints, register that information into a database and then disseminate the details to other parties within the company (e.g. order fulfilment, tech support, customer relations). When taking inbound calls, agents would need to sort through their files to locate any previous customer interaction logs and manually route the caller to the correct department.
On the outbound side of the business, sales reps had to prioritize their leads for the day, manually dial-out to each prospect, take notes on every customer interaction and circulate the information to team members.
What is CTI?
With the formation of the cloud CRM, companies finally had a database that could house everything they needed to run a business. But there was still an information gap. The CRM was a storehouse of customer knowledge, but to make that knowledge actionable it needed more tools … Specifically, computer telephony integration or CTI.
Companies who invested in Salesforce had the benefit of a system that could run reports, log details and showcase information across departments. The platform also had applications that could compile information automatically through digital channels like email, website cookies, live chats and social media. This greatly reduced administrative work and improved the customer experience. But manual input was still a part of the process.
During an inbound call, agents/reps still had to search for customer details in the CRM. After a call, agents/reps still had to enter new customer information.
Then, CTI applications came into play. Developers (like those at NewVoiceMedia) built software with application program interfaces (APIs) that could create phone channels natively in Salesforce. The concept was simple – add the phone to the CRM.
The Emergence of the Cloud Contact Center
The CTI phone system’s basic form allowed customers to program their phone numbers into a dial pad within Salesforce. The phone could then create a bridge between outbound and inbound calls, the Salesforce database and agents preferred device (desk, mobile or computer phone). The result was a unified and mostly automated dashboard for all phone based business operations. No more excel sheets. No more manual reporting. A complete cloud contact center.
With CTI, companies could data dip into their CRM pool of data. As a result, the CRM could perform advance functions such as:
• Automatic dialing
• Soft phone
• Automatic call logging and Recording
• Local Presence
• Voicemail Drop
• Hot Desking
• Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
• Skills-based Routing
• Intelligent Routing
• Simple Authentication of the Caller
• Centralized and Simplified Call Reporting
• Inside View of Multiple / Global Call Centers
• Access to Market-leading Technology
Click here for full details on key Salesforce CTI features.
What does this mean for businesses?
Today, companies that use a CRM with a CTI integration save immense amounts of time and money. Sales representatives don’t waste time trying to prioritize leads and create dial lists; they focus on selling. Customer service agents don’t have to ask customers for their information multiple times or manually search their system; they solve customer issues faster. And reports and stat tracking? It’s done in an instant – auto-tracked and accessible across the business.
Most companies still have compartmentalized departments with specific job functions associated with the phone. Silo’d offices have managers that purchase tools explicitly for their department. Inside sales representatives purchase CTI for their sales needs and customer service agents use it for their service needs. But the future of CTI lies in its ability to compile information on customers across different departments and channels. Sales persons that can understand their customers’ previous service interactions, and vice versa, stand to benefit from a more tailored customer experiences.
And That’s Not All…
Sales and service are simply features that can be turned on and off within the intelligent communication platform. Holistically, the platform is a phone/computer/database with insurmountable capabilities.
As an API that operates on data in the CRM, the CTI tool can be used with other applications to augment the system further. For example, a geo data mapping function could work with the CTI system in the CRM to determine which geographic region had the most potential value. The phone could then shift certain sales agents’ lead lists to focus on high-priority regions for prospecting. Add predictive and AI elements to the mix, and there is potential for massive profit and tremendous leaps in the customer experience.
It all depends on how far down the tech rabbit hole you want to go.
To Sum Up
A cloud contact center with CTI can do a lot to improve the customer experience. The technology behind the scenes may seem confusing, but the takeaways are simple – fewer administrative tasks, less hardware, higher revenue and greater customer satisfaction.If you are looking for tools and applications to help your business, explore your CRM and CTI options schedule demos and consult with your company leaders. There is a lot this technology could do to improve your business – too much to cover in one article. But education is the first step.
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About Chris Bucholtz
Chris Bucholtz, director of content marketing at NewVoiceMedia, spent 15 years as a technology journalist, covering CRM, customer service and telecommunications among his many beats. He was the founding editor of InsideCRM and has managed marketing content for SugarCRM, Aplicor, Relayware and CallidusCloud. This year will be Chris’ 11th Dreamforce.Read more from Chris Bucholtz