DSC Tech Library
Customer Relationship Management
This section of our technical library presents information and documentation relating to CRM Solutions and customer relationship management software and products.
Providing timely customer service information is vital to maintaining a successful business. Accurate information provided in an organized and thoughtful manner is key to business success.
TELEMATION, our CRM and contact center software, was originally built on this foundation. The ability to modify Customer Relationship Management software is important in this ever changing business environment.
Telemation Customer Relationship Management solution and contact center software is ideally suited for call centers throughout the world.
CRM in the call center and contact center
Position in the enterprise
CRM software has a central position in the contact center's communications infrastructure and interacts directly or indirectly with virtually all customer-facing client and server applications in the enterprise. See Figure 2, "Central Position of CRM Technology."
Central Position of CRM Technology: Various inbound and outbound channels (e.g., e-mail, Web, phone, etc.) connect the customer to marketing, sales, customer service, and support. A centralized customer database accepts recent activity from any channel and drives follow-up actions.
Relationship to computer telephony integration
To receive and manage inbound and outbound calls, call centers and contact centers today employ a wide variety of telephony systems, including automatic call distributors (ACDS), interactive voice response (IVR), predictive dialers, and other equipment. To be effective, CRM should provide built-in support of computer telephony integration (CTI) to enable the following capabilities:
CTI integration reduces the amount of time spent on each call and improves response time in resolving customer inquiries. The result is improved productivity and customer satisfaction.
- Screen pops—When a call comes in, the ACD or IVR system passes the caller's identity (Caller ID) to CRM software. As the phone rings at an agent's desk, CRM software automatically pops up the appropriate forms with information on the caller. This saves time and enables the agent to focus more quickly on resolving the customer's issue.
- Outbound dialing—When agents are not answering inbound calls, they could be making outbound calls to follow up with customers and cross-sell products. Support for outbound dialing enables agents to initiate calls from within the CRM software.
- Simultaneous screen transfer—This function allows sending the call and the appropriate customer information to another agent from within the CRM software.
CRM vendors make telephony application program interfaces (APIs) available via software development kits (SDKs). In turn, CTI suppliers work with the SDKs to integrate their solutions with respective CRM software suites.
CRM software components (e.g., CSS) are organized with a structure consisting of:
The layers are logically split and physically distributed among clients and a variety of servers. The application logic functions as a middle tier of one or more intermediate servers, also known as application servers. Respective application servers stand as intermediaries to the database engine and manage transaction processing and network communication between clients and data servers. This minimizes network traffic and, because most of the client processing is offloaded to the application servers, allows the use of smaller clients.
- Interface layer—graphical user interfaces (GUIs) and browsers
- Application logic layer
- Data server layer
Key architectural characteristics
Certain architectural characteristics should be considered when evaluating any CRM solution. Key characteristics include:
- Scalability—Scalability refers to the ability to support large-scale deployments with expanding numbers of concurrent users. This is a tougher requirement than simply having the space for additional user names and passwords. More importantly, it ensures that the electronic transactions of large numbers of concurrent users will be processed without loss, duplication, or mutilation. At the high end, this means support for thousands or tens of thousands of agents and possibly millions of users in a Web environment.
- Performance—Performance relates to the response time a user experiences when interacting with the application. This is different from scalability; for example, it is possible for an environment to scale well but have screen pops that are unacceptably slow. Using commercial servers, subsecond response should be achievable at a load of thousands or tens of thousands of transactions per hour—representing the activity of thousands or tens of thousands of concurrent users—on behalf of sales quotations, selling opportunities, customer requests and any other functionality available with the software.
- Upgrades and migration—The CRM suite should be upgradable to new releases of the software on an ongoing basis. This enables in-house development, modification, or customization of the application without having to be concerned with integrating new releases or migrating to new versions of the application. For example, an application developer may decide to create a new custom table using tools provided with the CRM software or to build a custom window for entering and querying information from this table, or subsequently change the definition of the custom table by adding new columns or changing column attributes. Later, after upgrading to a new version of the same vendor's software, the developer's customizations should be automatically recognized and integrated.
- Interoperability—CRM systems should be able to interface in a variety of methods with other applications in the enterprise, including database, CTI, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.
- Internationalization—In today's global business environment, CRM solutions should support the ability to display and store data, error messages and warnings in different languages. There should be support for various code sets, including single-character (e.g., Extended Binary-Coded Decimal Interchange Code [EBCDIC]) and double-character (e.g., Unicode).
- Reporting—Reports are indispensable for viewing operations across the enterprise. The CRM software should gather data without disrupting normal activities and should provide information at any level of detail. Administrative personnel should be able to schedule the vendor's standard reports and create customized reports.
- Reliability—In the software realm, CRM products should be thoroughly tested by alpha (in-house) and beta (external) users. Known limitations, problems, bugs and workarounds should be documented and supplied to the user community. As no two enterprises are the same, or use CRM in exactly the same way, post-beta users may experience new problems. The customizations in upgrades and migration, above, should be usable without rework as new software works its way into operation.