CRM and KM integration: its time has come

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1 WHITE PAPER CRM and KM integration: its time has come An integrated look at the functions of CRM and Knowledge Management today s business environment

2 INTRODUCTION Until very recently, customer relationship management (CRM) and knowledge management (KM) have been a bit like apples and oranges. Each is valuable to your business in its own way, but for the most part functioning separately. But now, to continue the metaphor, it s time to toss them together and for very good reasons. From your customers points of view, tightly integrated CRM and KM trigger a quicker answer to a question or faster resolution to a problem or issue. For your business, the coupling of CRM and KM enables your call center agents to accomplish more in less time, which translates in to increased productivity, greater cost savings and elevated brand bolstered by responsive customer support. In this white paper, we further discuss the benefits of CRM and KM integration, especially in the age of social media. We provide tips on how to best approach integration while leveraging your existing investments. And we offer advice on how to identify the best partner to help you meet your goals. TABLE OF CONTENTS The evolving relationship between CRM and KM Enter social networking Bringing CRM and KM together 6 benefits of integration Start from where you are today Profile your integration partner with 8 key traits Summary by OSF Global Services. All rights Reserved. Pg. 1

3 The evolving relationship between CRM and KM Historically, customer relationship management (CRM) and knowledge management (KM) have been treated as different disciplines, with the two often sharing the same data warehouse hardware and a vague understanding that both efforts should work to improve business productivity and customer satisfaction. Fast forward and it is clear that CRM and KM have become key strategic tools for all companies, especially in the current competitive and challenging economic environment. For example, by integrating CRM and KM, you can build a robust repository of tested solutions to customer issues. Service agents can access this complete library of technical information as well as customer information, which means they can resolve a complicated customer support issues more quickly. And that can mean the difference between first-call resolution and losing a customer. The value of KM comes in the way it focuses on detailed insight as a means to finding the right solution to a problem. For instance providing quick access to your KM system can help your call center staff locate the right expert at the right time, or find the solution to a complex problem that can then be written once but reused many times. Enter social networking Good news/bad news. Social networking can add volumes of real time customer data to your knowledge network. With today s social media monitoring tools, you can discover exactly how people feel about your products or services, pinpoint emerging issues and use your service channel to proactively reach out to customers and prospects. The challenge is how to harness the collective intelligence found across social media platforms and tie it back into your existing CRM and knowledge base systems. Because to service your customers in this new social age, you need a holistic view of each customer and a standardized service environment that ensures consistent service levels regardless of the communication channel. Bringing CRM and KM together A Gartner report 1 noted that there are four main KM applications that can be applied to one or more of CRM s core sales, marketing and service processes: 1. Knowledge-base maintenance and access. Knowledge-base in CRM is the database that contains customer information, i.e. customer particulars, spending habits, customer preference, etc. Usually, it also contains best practices for servicing the customer by OSF Global Services. All rights Reserved. Pg. 2

4 2. Expertise management. This function enables your frontline office to quickly find subjectmatter experts to address customers needs and concerns. 3. Collaboration. This function enables staff to collaborate in real time to collectively solve customer problems, thereby reducing customer wait time for answers to their questions or the customized solution service they require. 4. Business Applications. This class of applications directly supports certain knowledgefocused processes. Among the applications most relevant to CRM are e-learning and business intelligence. 6 benefits of integration True knowledge-enabled CRM brings your business: 1. Greater customer insight and knowledge An integrated approach to KM and CRM enables you to really get to know your customer. You can analyze a customer s buying and interaction patterns, from which opportunities to make more sales, or save money, may emerge. Problem areas are flagged immediately so you can move to solve them before they escalate exponentially. You can also capture knowledge as agents interact with other agents and customers, adding to the value of your intellectual capital. 1. Improved response time With KM search and document management capabilities, you can decrease the response time for each inquiry. Better, quicker search helps your call center agents find the needed information more efficiently or contact experts more quickly, which also improves response time. 2. Increased customer satisfaction With faster answers to their queries, your customers are more likely to be happy. And this increased customer satisfaction leads to greater customer retention and loyalty. Satisfied customers may even turn into endorsers for the product and company, speaking favorably to colleagues about their experience, which in turn elevates your brand. 3. Upselling and cross-selling opportunities It s always easier to upsell to happy customers (see above). This is an added benefit to increasing customer satisfaction as you integrate CRM and KM. Coupling these two knowledge bases should also identify customer patterns, revealing potential upselling and cross-selling opportunities. 4. Reduced time to market By staying more in tune to your customers, you can collect feedback more quickly and reduce the time it takes to develop and introduce new or improved products. CRM offers a source of valuable customer input, a resource often overlooked. KM provides ways to make the most of customer information through by OSF Global Services. All rights Reserved. Pg. 3

5 applications that enable companies to collect, classify and distribute this data to research and development teams. 5. Fewer escalated inquiries The cost of answering a single question balloons when escalated. By connecting KM to CRM, you can provide more accurate search, document management and expert interaction and opinion, thereby reducing the need for escalation. Since escalation is among the most time and resource-consuming part of the customer service cycle, this can significantly reduce the cost of the customer service. Consider this: In the average call center, approximately 20% of the inquiries are escalated to the second level. With a comprehensive KM and CRM integration, analysts estimate this can be reduced to five percent. 2 Start from where you are today If you are like many smaller companies, you may not have attained the level of deep integration that ties knowledge base activity to CRM-facing customer records. But wherever you are, you can move down the integration path when you: Formalize an ad hoc approach to KM Whether formalized or not, you probably already have your own approach to knowledge management. Maybe it is a shared spreadsheet or document, or perhaps an FAQ page on your website. Now you are ready to begin to integrate KM with CRM. You want to consider a KM system that offers open connectivity making it a system that allows you to easily hook in to CRM and other systems as you evolve to a more mature, integrated solution. Take a more sophisticated approach to KM and CRM integration In this scenario, you are ready to optimize the integration of your current CRM and KM solutions. This gives you the opportunity to migrate to a more open system and tightly couple KM and CRM for more immediate access to the data you need. This is also the right time to establish metrics tied to customer support. Fine-tune reporting capabilities As you look to more tightly integrate KM and CRM, factor in reporting capabilities. Look for a KM solution that gives you a window into data on, for example, how many times a specific problem was researched. You also want to be able to pinpoint issues and better understand scenarios that lead to satisfied customers or frustrated customers. Factor in social media As we discussed, social CRM is a hot topic these days. By harnessing the collective intelligence found across multi-social media platforms and integrating it into your existing CRM and knowledge base systems, your customer service agents can be more productive. For example some companies are offering forums integrated with their self-service sites, collecting the knowledge, by OSF Global Services. All rights Reserved. Pg. 4

6 tips and workarounds shared on peer-to-peer social networks. Then they are using Twitter to proactively push out these tips to customers, which deflects calls to their support centers. Profile your integration partner with 8 key traits You may choose to tackle the integration of CRM and KM on your own. However, if you decide to work with an external service provider, you will want to keep these characteristics in mind. You can use these characteristics to build a profile of the partner that s right for your business. 2. Experience and expertise. Look for a partner who has the proven technical ability to integrate and customize your CRM and KM systems as needed, whether legacy or off-theshelf solutions. Added to that, you want to look for a service provider who has demonstrative knowledge on call centers and how to customize and configure the CRM and KM integration based on your specific needs. One size definitely does not fit all in this scenario. 3. Standardized methodology. The ideal service provider should present a standardized process for approaching CRM implementation. This eschews ad hoc implementation in favor of a proven, rigorous approach to all phases of the implementation from application review to documentation and execution. Such a standardized methodology establishes best practices and, in turn, is much more likely to deliver measurable business results and predictable costs. 4. Responsiveness. Choose an integration partner that is responsive to your scoping parameters, questions and budget requirements. You want to work with someone who listens to your concerns and makes every effort to understand your business and always gets back to you quickly on all issues big and small. 5. Long-term commitment. Particularly if you are bringing together larger CRM and KM systems, you want a partner that demonstrates a commitment to developing a long-term relationship with your firm one that can also provide consulting and end-to-end services to continue to support your business growth. 6. Skilled workforce. Know what kind of workforce the service provider brings to the implementation table. A highly skilled, proactive pool of service professionals with the necessary certifications as applicable can reliably improve your return on investment while minimizing risk along the way. And if yours is a company with global reach, you should also team with a partner whose people are capable and comfortable working in a cross-cultural, multi-language environment. 7. Realistic delivery schedules. You and your service provider should be on the same page when it comes to deadlines, goals and resource planning for your integration project. Unrealistic timeline expectations yours or theirs can lead to real problems that can affect project quality and outcome by OSF Global Services. All rights Reserved. Pg. 5

7 8. Industry expertise. A partner with experience in your industry is an added advantage. It just makes sense to collaborate with a service provider that has had success in managing deployments in your industry under similar circumstances. 9. Reliability and financial stability. You want a partner that s here today and tomorrow. So make sure your partner can go the distance on a foundation of proven financial stability. Ask for company details locations, employee count and number of years in business to help you assess the service provider s reliability. Summary You may feel that your business has mastered the fundamentals of customer relationship management (CRM) and knowledge management (KM). Now it s time to move ahead with a formalized, integrated approach to these solutions, as you begin to focus more on collaborative selling, enhanced reporting, interactive learning and problem resolution through social networking and communities. You can start from where you are today and move successfully ahead, with the right integration partner to help you achieve your combined CRM and KM objectives. About the author OSF Global Services delivers the technologies, customization and experience that help online retailers expand business globally, increase conversion rates and enable their webstore. Our forte is customizing and seamlessly integrating ecommerce environments, from the webstore to legacy applications to frontend and back office systems. Headquartered in Quebec, Canada, OSF has offices in the U.S., Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, UK, Romania and Ukraine. For information on how OSF Global Services can help with your ecommerce requirements, please contact us at call us at (888) , or go to 1 The Case for Knowledge Management in CRM; Gartner Research; 2 Basex-Management Science for the Knowledge Economy; by OSF Global Services. All rights Reserved. Pg. 6

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