The Cisco CRM Communications Connector, which was developed with the support of Microsoft, will be available to small and mid-sized businesses through either Cisco or Microsoft partners that target the SMB market.
Peter Alexander, vice president, Commercial Market Segment at Cisco, said today's announcement follows up on plans announced by Microsoft and Cisco in February. Cisco reports that this is the first IP Communications application to receive certification from Microsoft. The features, Alexander said, rival those found in enterprise-class call center software and are aimed a businesses with as few as 20 employees, but scales to support businesses with as many as 1,000 employees.
The goal of the Communications Connector is to let SMBs improve customer service and reduce operational costs by tying today's crop of affordable IP telephony products with the granular customer-specific information collected by CRM software. For example, using Cisco CallManager Express and Microsoft CRM, a business could allow everyone in the company not just those who are specifically charged with sales, service or support responsibilities to interact with customers. As soon as a call arrives, information is passed between the Cisco IP Communications system and Microsoft CRM.
Each call received through the Cisco IP Communications system triggers a screen pop that contains the customer's account information and contact history. So employees are able to interact with a complete view into historical information about the customer in front of them. The goal is for the employee to be more productive when he or she is answering a question or closing a sale. The benefit for the customer is that he or she isn't frustrated by talking to someone who lacks needed information.
Because the Cisco system is IP-based, Alexander said, the employee answering the call can be based anywhere a remote or home office, for example. Smaller companies get the benefit of call center-quality technology without having to lay out a big investment in network infrastructure, he said. With the Communications Connector, Cisco IP Communications and Microsoft CRM are integrated on the desktop with no additional hardware required, he added.
In addition to providing the screen pop when a call comes in, the system also opens a screen when either click-to-dial or manually dialed outbound calls are placed. It tracks the duration of a call and other information such the number dialed. It also creates a new record when a new customer (or potential customer) calls the business. The Cisco Call Manager Express software resides on a Cisco Access Router that sites between the Microsoft CRM server and IP-based telephony system.
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