Contact Center And CRM Synergies

Annette Miesbach, inContact
Annette Miesbach

Thus the noble goal for Walmart customer service so aptly described by Sam Walton when the first Walmart opened in 1962. In today’s competitive environment, the objective to provide LEGENDARY customer service is becoming more and more crucial for your company’s success. Let’s start out by taking a quick look at why that is the case.

Big consumer brands are setting new benchmarks. Think Starbucks, where you can choose from 87,000 different beverage combinations. Compare that with the options of the not-so-distant past— with or without milk or sugar.”

Excellence in customer service is one, if not the most, important competitive differentiator today. Product or price advantages can often easily be duplicated by your competition. Legendary customer service, however, is a competitive advantage that is not easily copied. It not only keeps your customers coming back, it creates positive word of mouth, which is one of the most effective marketing tools that exists. Last, but not least, consider the potential impact that excellence in customer service can have to your bottom line: In the “2014 Global Customer Service Barometer” from American Express, three out of four (74%) consumers said that they have spent more with a company because of a history of positive customer service experiences. And over two-thirds (68%) of consumers stated that they are willing to spend more with a company that they believe provides excellent customer service.

“The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best but LEGENDARY.”


The obvious next question is: What exactly constitutes legendary customer service nowadays? What requirements and expectations do we have to satisfy to be considered a customer service champion? Everyone agrees that customer expectations are on the rise. Big consumer brands are setting new benchmarks. Think Starbucks, where you can choose from 87,000 different beverage combinations. Compare that with the options of the not-so-distant past—with or without milk or sugar. Think Amazon, which is literally at your service 24/7, and where getting what you want is just a mouse-click away. Think Apple, for which great customer service and in-store experiences have long been touted as not-so-secret reasons for success. Not surprisingly, customers are starting to expect comparable customer service experiences when interacting with a contact center.

CRM Systems and Contact Centers: Mutual Synergies

How does integrating your contact center and CRM system help to improve customer service and make it easier for your organization to live up to rising customer expectations? What do you need to watch out for before heading down the integration road? What can you expect to happen once you have moved forward with the integration? Let’s explore how to make the most of the mutual synergies between contact centers and CRM systems so that integrating the two is a win-win situation for both parties, and pays off by taking your customer service to a new level.

For starters, I strongly believe that contact center and CRM integration is a two-way road. Customer service quality in the contact center will certainly profit from the integration. However, there are also sometimes overlooked benefits for the CRM system. But, first, let’s look at the well-known advantages for customer service.


At a time when customer expectations for interaction quality are ever increasing, giving your agents access to customer data is almost a no-brainer. It enables your agents to personalize interactions, because you can provide them with customer information from your CRM system before they even start handling a contact. Agents will know who is contacting them, and will have insight into previous interactions, as well as the overall customer situation. Ideally, this should be the case for ANY interaction channel supported in your contact center. With a feature-rich integration, implementation should be quite straightforward for channels like voice, SMS or email—in most cases, you will have one or more phone numbers and email addresses on file in your CRM system that can be used to identify the customer as contacts arrive. For channels like chat, you might want to prompt customers to enter an identifier (such as name or customer number) when they initiate the interaction to provide the agent with background information on the customer from your CRM solution.

crmOnce implemented, the integration will not only allow personalized interactions, but also has the potential to improve average handle time. Just consider how much time each agent in your center spends asking the caller for their identifying information, then pulling up the customer record while possibly juggling multiple different interfaces, windows or screens in the process. Multiply that by the number of agents and contacts handled in your contact center every day—the numbers can be surprisingly high!

Once agents have access to the customer data in your CRM system, they should also have insight into the background details about the interaction. To achieve this, ensure that your integration not only allows you to access and display data from your CRM environment to the agent, but that contact center data such as a track record of interactions (regardless of channel) and other contact center-related data such as customer satisfaction can be written back to your CRM environment. Has the customer recently contacted you? If so, using which channel (or channels)? Are there any open tickets? At the last interaction, what was the customer’s mood? Was he or she satisfied, or did the interaction not go so well? If you can add this type of information to your CRM environment, it becomes a gold mine for the agent handling the next customer contact.

Here’s an example: I will never forget calling our local provider after our furnace had been out of commission for three days in the dead of a Canadian winter. I was trying to find out when—oh, when!—the required spare part for our furnace was finally going to be delivered and bring us relief from the deep-freeze temperatures in our home. Calling in, I was greeted by a sprightly agent’s voice asking me how I was doing today, and what could he do for me… I’m absolutely sure the agent meant well! But this was definitely one of the cases where you think: if only he had known what was going on before he answered that phone!

Another way that integrating your CRM system improves customer service to legendary standards is by allowing agents to respond to customers in the channel that best suits the customer’s situation—without having to grab a pen and paper to jot down a phone number or email address, and having to ask the customer to painstakingly spell out the information. Chances are the contact information is right there in the CRM data. And if it is not there, make sure your agents have the ability to add missing information to your CRM system right away. A practical example: Say that the customer has called in from his mobile device to ask for the delivery date of his order. Having access to all the customer information, your agent can offer to send him an email with the delivery date without having to ask the caller for his email address—and the caller does not have to dig for a pen and paper to write down the date. Easy!


Integrating the contact center with the CRM system also makes for better, richer customer data in the CRM system. Over time, you will gain a holistic view of your customer—one that includes information, such as when you last interacted (and this can and should include in-person interactions, if this is applicable in your environment) and what the outcome of the interaction was—both in terms of business outcome as well as customer satisfaction.

Those data can be very valuable: Over time, you will be able to understand which channel(s) were used in interactions with the customer. This will allow you to determine whether certain customers have a preference for certain channels. Let’s say you are handling social media interactions in your contact center and find that a certain target group of customers tends to interact via that channel more frequently. This knowledge will help you to ensure that your next outbound campaign uses the customers’ preferred channel—social media—instead of blasting them with outbound calls or emails that they will opt out of or simply not read.

If the old adage holds true that it costs five to 10 times more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one (and it does, even though the “multiplier” varies greatly), a practical usage scenario of the data is where you report on customer satisfaction in your last five contact center interactions. Based on the outcome of that report, you could target customers that have lower customer sat scores with a win-back offer—or decide to give some extra TLC to your customer champions.


As Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach once said,

“There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.”

Again, it’s a two-way street: You could also use data such as customer lifetime value or recent orders from your CRM system to assign VIP status and preferential treatment to a certain customer group, and reflect this status in the routing rules of your contact center. And as long as you know who’s contacting you, all this can be done without having to give those VIP customers a different dial-in number or email address, or prompt them to enter a 10-digit identifier every time they call in.

Last but not least, adding information to your CRM system about when and how frequently you have interacted with the customer and which media were used for those interactions is extremely valuable for understanding the customer journey. Customer service excellence is no longer only validated by the one current interaction. Once you understand the series of interactions across multiple touchpoints and channels that constitute the customer journey, you will be able to start providing the legendary customer service that sets you apart from the competition. What your agents need is an “on-ramp” to the customer service highway. And in the end, that is exactly what the data in your CRM system can provide to your agents: the ability to go the extra mile!

As Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach once said, “There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.” Contact center and CRM system integration is what your agents need to make that saying come true for your organization.

Annette Miesbach is a Product Marketing Manager for inContact.

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