CRM integration literally refers to the integration of other apps and technologies with a customer relationship management tool such as Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics. Find out more about CRM integration below, including what types of technologies you can integrate and why you might want to do so.
What Is CRM Integration? — A Slightly More Technical Answer
Typically, CRM integration occurs with a technical handshake. For example, say you have an inventory or production management tool. You may want to integrate it with your CRM tool so customer service staff can easily see what’s going on with client orders or work requests — or even so clients themselves can handle some self-service tasks like seeing where an order is in progress.
For that to happen, the CRM system and the production systems must “talk” to each other. Programmers or other technical staff can make that happen in a number of ways, including:
Linking the two systems with an existing technology. If you use products such as Microsoft Office, Google Docs or even Slack, you’ve probably used built-in integrations. These are predesigned apps that you can use to link technologies together. This is the easiest way to integrate tools into a CRM, but it does require that someone has already thought of the exact way you want to integrate a tool and built code or an app for that purpose.
Creating a semi-custom link using APIs. Another option is for programmers to code a custom link using existing APIs. API stands for application programming interface, and it’s the type of app that defines how two pieces of software can be integrated. Often, CRM solutions come with API options and your in-house technical staff can build on them to integrate a wide range of other software or apps.
Building a from-scratch link. This is the most time-consuming option and usually is only a good idea if you’re using a proprietary CRM system your technical team built and managed in-house.
The Benefits of CRM Integration
The benefits you get by integrating solutions with your CRM system vary widely and depend on what you’re integrating. Here are some common advantages you can experience with an integrated CRM system:
Build better relationships with customers or clients. CRM integrations help remove some of the friction in communication and other processes, and that can lead to a more appealing customer experience. In some cases, you may be able to invite the client further into the process via self-serve or other solutions that improve relationship management and help you provide the solutions they need.
Increase data and customer insights. Integrating other technology with your CRM helps you gather disparate data about marketing and customer behavior. With a more comprehensive picture, you can better serve customers and create products and service options that match what they actually want and need.
Mitigate duplicate work and risk of errors. Without integrations, you could be doing more work than you need to. For example, if email isn’t integrated into your CRM, you might have a lot of client communication that no one knows about. Either someone has to log all that communication into the CRM or other people aren’t aware of it, and that can lead to misunderstandings with clients. Integrating email into the CRM solves those issues.
Technologies to Consider Integrating With Your CRM System
What you choose to integrate with your CRM depends on your business needs and goals. But here are a few options you might want to consider:
Email. Sales and customer service reps use email a lot — it’s a primary form of communication for many business processes and a powerful marketing tool. Close to 80% of business leaders say email marketing is important or very important for their success. With so much going on in email, it can save time, money and a lot of hassle to incorporate it into your customer relationship management system.
Social media. Businesses do a lot of selling and customer relationship management on social media now. And many customers expect brands to respond to direct messages on social platforms the same day — or even within a few hours. Unless you want to pay someone to babysit your social channels non-stop, integrating them with a CRM is the only way to ensure messages get answered in a timely manner.
Calendars. Sync appointment or task calendars with your CRM to ensure everyone knows what’s going on when and whether they’re responsible for it.
Lead-gen or prospecting software. Ensure leads can flow seamlessly from prospecting systems into CRMs. Otherwise, you waste time importing them or having someone enter the data — which can also lead to errors.
Communication tools for the team. What happens in Slack shouldn’t stay in Slack. Integrating communication tools lets you easily put important notes and ideas where they can be of most use.
Call software. From Zoom to Aircall, integrating the right call management solutions makes it easy for sales and customer service staff to manage their workloads or for teams to stay in touch or handle meetings.
Document management. Integrate solutions that let you manage documents right in the CRM tool. Customer service reps should be able to easily see quotes, invoices, contracts and other documents that can help them answer questions or solve customer issues as quickly as possible.
Tips for CRM Integration
Always begin with a business case. It’s easy to get a case of shiny syndrome when you’re dealing with technology, and integration might sound super neat or handy. But unless it solves a business problem or need and your teams are willing to put it to work, it can be a waste of time.
Include a variety of people when discussing the why behind a potential CRM integration. You might want to include SMEs from customer service, sales and tech, for example, but depending on what the integration is, marketing, advertising and other departments should also be involved.
Once you know integration is supported by your business needs, it’s time to move on to implementation. Some steps you might want to include in this process are:
Validating solutions. Consider apps, APIs and other technical solutions, including the pros and cons of each, to find the right one for you.
Implementing the solution. Work with vendors, your in-house tech teams and anyone else necessary in making the integration a reality. This might be as easy as signing up for a new solution or as involved as developing a solution from scratch.
Test the solution. Take some time to ensure the integration works exactly as planned. Include SMEs from appropriate teams who can put the integration through common work tasks to test various functionalities.
Train others and roll out the solution. Once you’re confident the integration is working well, roll it out to other people, customers and teams. Provide training where necessary to ensure everyone knows how to use the tool correctly — this promotes larger scale buy-in.