Integrating CRM and CEM systems to manage your call centre

1st Jun 2011
Dan Lee explains how integrating CRM and CEM systems helps companies manage complexity at their call centres.
For customers, call centres can be like the proverbial box of chocolates - you never know what you’re going to get. A poorly trained, underpaid outsourced representative? An empowered Zappos all-star? Or someone in between?
Most of the agents at your call centre likely fall in the 'in between' category. Your company has training programs and incentive structures in place to encourage high performance, and some midlevel service manager at least talks the talk about satisfying the customer. But something is holding everyone back from achieving a truly stellar record as a call centre, and the customer’s experience remains mediocre.
Improving call centre customer experience can generate key business results. A study conducted by HyperQuality found that a travel services company, with two call centres and more than 400 agents, posted a net ROI of over $100,000 during a frequent agent evaluation pilot program.
Other studies by the same group show that improving call centre operations can also reduce operating cost and increase quality and satisfaction metrics, while a targeted training program triggered a 5.9% increase in CSAT scores.
This article outlines one strategy for improving call centre operations and driving improvements for your business - seamless integration of two different yet complementary monitoring systems.
It’s possible to track contact center metrics manually, but past a certain point, that approach becomes inefficient as employees spend more time following a cumbersome process for keeping track of case histories than they do on the phone with customers. Contact centre managers use a variety of tools to help manage their agents and processes, including tools for monitoring and recording calls, logging customer interactions or booking new orders, and managing agent performance.
Many growing businesses traditionally turned to customer relationship management (CRM) systems to track customer data and trouble tickets - both behind the scenes and for frontline interactions. Data from puts the figure at over 50%. A CRM system manages many of these tasks and/or aggregates key metrics generated by other tools. CRM systems provide contact center managers with access to this type of back-office information all in one place for easy tracking.
Customer experience management (CEM) systems are a newer class of system that captures and manages feedback and satisfaction scores directly from customers who have interacted with contact centre agents. Timely customer feedback helps managers provide better coaching to their agents, correct issues quickly and efficiently, and ultimately improve customer satisfaction.
Another way to think about this distinction is that CRM systems follow the customer’s value to the business, but CEM systems monitor the business’ value to the customer. In truth, managers need both of these systems to capture a comprehensive view of the customer experience. Call it the yin and yang of call center management - each has strong capabilities in its domain, but together they provide a powerful combination that pulls together traditional contact centre metrics and direct customer feedback.
But like manually tracking contact centre metrics, toggling between two different systems is a waste of time, too. Here’s how one client solved that problem.
Case Study: Global financial services institution
CRM and CEM integration in real time:
  1. At a global financial services contact center, customers are randomly selected for a follow-up customer satisfaction survey.
  2. If a customer gives the agent a low score on the initial survey, then the CEM system generates an alert to the CRM system, which contains all the customer information.
  3. The call centre agent or manager does the necessary follow-up to resolve the customer’s complaint and updates the case in the CRM system.
  4. The update is transmitted to the CEM system so that all aspects of follow-up can be monitored by different employees in either system.
  5. Effectively, all case histories, from surveys to follow-up actions, can be administered and tracked.
How it works
Integrating CRM and CEM systems helps some of the world’s leading companies manage complexity at their call centres. There are many ways to accomplish this integration, depending on the needs and requirements of your situation. We highlight two approaches below:
  • Batch file updates. This approach is ideal when managers don’t plan to use the information - perhaps call centre metrics like first call resolution or average handle time - right away. Data is aggregated periodically, say once per day, into a file sent to the partner system for automatic import.
  • Real-time updates. This approach, though more expensive, provides agents with immediate feedback and managers with training opportunities. The two systems exchange data in near real time as information changes. Real-time updates also enable event-driven messages and alerts, closed- loop feedback, and customer recovery in the case of negative experiences. In this case, the faster the feedback gets to the agent, the better - for both closing the loop with the customer and quickly preparing the agent to improve how he or she handles the next call.
Integration, especially in real time, is a delicate process. When it’s done poorly - delayed, fragile, or inaccurate - two systems that are supposed to have the same data actually have different data. This inconsistency can lead to mistakes that more than cancel out the potential benefits; for example, a customer could be called twice for follow-up if a case was marked 'closed' in only one system. So it’s important to make sure a competent vendor engineers your integration.
Choosing a vendor
Here are a few traits of a quality vendor:
  • Cutting-edge technology. Look for quick product release cycles and certain functionalities, like the ability to store recordings of calls in real time for training or follow-up purposes.
  • Stellar history of CRM/CEM integration. Check references to make sure previous integrations were successful. A good rule of thumb: the more experienced the vendor, the fewer problems you’re likely to encounter.
  • Resistance to formatting breakages. Integration can break down due to a simple variable change. Look for a solution with built-in checkpoints to prevent loss of integration. High-end systems are more resistant to problems caused by this type of inconsistency.
The ROI of seamless CRM and CEM integration for call centres is clear. Armed with tools and metrics from both sides, agents and managers will spend less time manually syncing two systems in order to provide consistent customer support - which means more time on the phone actually handling customer issues and creating more loyal fans of your business.

Dan Lee is the senior director of product solutions for Medallia, Inc. He has over 20 years of product management and engineering experience. Dan’s most recent endeavor has been launching Medallia’s Contact Center Experience CEM solution.

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