Guest Column | January 7, 2014

The Value Of Voice In CRM

By Steven De Korne, Vice President of Marketing, Vertical Communications

For years, companies serious about customer service — and the impact it has on the bottom line — have invested in customer relationship management (CRM) tools for gathering business intelligence. When it comes to giving sales teams the ability to quantify customer communications and allowing them to track which customers require follow up and which issues need to be addressed, these systems have proven themselves to be indispensable. CRM data provides end users with a framework for identifying, harvesting, and managing critical information, and extracting the insights needed to improve relationships across the customer base.

That said, there has always been one vital ingredient missing in the formula for creating a well-rounded, comprehensive summary of sales activity and customer knowledge. That is the analysis of voice communications, so vital to any business. Modern unified communications (UC) technology — which incorporates voice — captures a number of detailed analytics, particularly in a contact center environment, such as the number of dropped calls, the number of customers forced to wait on hold, the duration of that wait, the quantity of calls handled by an agent, and how quickly an issue was addressed. Such vital metrics add deeper dimension to CRM, shedding light not only on the quality of calls, but also on the individual performance of employees.

Making Data Actionable

Integrating CRM and voice analytics can create a more encompassing and meaningful view of sales activities. An executive could see in granular, empirical detail which salespeople are performing and which agents need coaching. That executive would also be able to determine peak call times during the day and staff the department accordingly.

Businesses could also map customer records against voice data to see how data correlates with sales to identify which strategies — and which personnel — are succeeding. Voice data makes CRM information actionable — and by definition, more useful and valuable. It draws more direct connections to disparate customer records and individual employee performance. It locates, without prejudice, exactly where tactics have failed or triumphed and, most importantly, where improvements can be made.

CRM In SMB:  Smaller, But Not Less Sophisticated

The CRM market, and, in particular, the third-party hosted CRM model, has its origins in the enterprise space, where large companies have the resources to support sizable sales teams and staggering amounts of raw customer data. But SMBs share the same need to exceed customers’ expectations and enhance the experience.

While SMBs may have less financial and human capital to invest than their larger counterparts, SMBs are embracing CRM, realizing that business intelligence tools can be even more crucial in environments defined by restrictive budgets and limited staffing.  Moreover, an argument can be made that because of their smaller size, SMBs have opportunities to form even more meaningful relationships with their customers. In this scenario, the performance of each employee is fundamentally more important, since each salesperson is responsible for a greater percentage of the total outcome of the group.

In addition, hosted CRM providers such, NetSuite, and Microsoft Dynamics are recognizing these evolving opportunities, and have done quite well in addressing this changing market. The more intuitive user interfaces, greater scalability, increased affordability, and more rapid deployment times usually associated with these offerings are now making hosted CRM services particularly appealing to small businesses.   

Real World Results

The benefits of an integrated CRM/UC system can be substantial. The increased functionality alone enables customized, efficient, and powerful solutions to be created that not only support a more accountable and productive sales staff, but can also populate complex and relevant data trees — the intelligence needed to serve customers in ways the host company never could before.   

Players in the automotive sector, for example, have begun to combine voice analytics with industry-specific CRM packages, such as Higher Gear and Dealer Socket, and have done so with notable results. One dealership in New Jersey, for instance, combined granular data mined from its sales team’s phone activities with traditional CRM information and created intricate reports that measured a number of insightful metrics. The company displayed these analytics in real time on a wallboard, where performance was transparent, and management was on hand to help coach and guide employees that needed help in improving performance.

In another example, a law firm in New England integrated its CRM solution with its communications solution to create a sophisticated incoming call routing system. Its customer record system noted the progress of each client’s case, and automatically applied a status level associated with different points in the legal process. Individual calls were then routed to a series of nearly 20 different automated recordings corresponding to their status. This level of automation increased productivity significantly for the firm, saving the staff from having to perform client updates manually.

And in Europe, an industrial supplier that operates in multiple countries merged its CRM and telephony systems to address several unique challenges. Instead of having agents juggle incoming calls in several different languages, the system now identifies the origin of each call, and then directs it to the appropriate “language desk.” This simple improvement saves the organization several process steps, and obviously enhances the customer experience. In addition, the solution also identifies callers whose payments are more than 60 days past due and automatically routes these calls to the accounts payable department. To enhance performance further, salespeople also enter a separate code into the CRM system to categorize call content, such as tech support, billing questions, complaints, and product usability, and deliver these reports to management, helping to identify performance strengths and improve process efficiencies.

These few but telling examples demonstrate how a holistic, insightfully nuanced reflection of actual sales activity and customer support can become a true differentiator for any company looking to deliver superior service. By adding a voice component to the CRM platform, an end-user customer can gain a more comprehensive view of their team’s performance through the lens of fact-based business intelligence, empowering them to substantially improve the productivity, efficiency, and profitability of their company. And this is the ultimate value that voice brings to CRM.