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The Practicalities of CRM and KM Integration

By Chris Hooven, Vice President, Business Development, OSF Global Services

Traditionally, small and medium-sized business (SMBs) have viewed customer relationship management (CRM) and knowledge management (KM) as two different processes. While each is valuable to a company’s success, CRM and KM function separately, which means organizations are missing out on the advantages of the shared data and knowledge housed in the repositories that support their activities.

By integrating these functions, your company can increase productivity, reduce costs, respond better to customer inquiries and elevate brand loyalty. Here’s how:

CRM and KM are strategic tools that, when integrated, can help your company better support your customers and improve the overall efficiencies of your organization. For example, by integrating CRM and KM, you can build a robust arsenal of tested solutions that address typical customer issues. Your service personnel can then access this combined source of customer data and technical information to quickly find the solutions or resources to help resolve customer issues more quickly.

In its report, "The Case for Knowledge Management in CRM", Gartner cited four main KM applications that can be applied to one or more CRM processes. These four KM applications are knowledgebase maintenance and access, expertise management, collaboration and business applications.

When implemented properly, these applications allow your company to extend the knowledge base of the customer data in your CRM; help your support personnel find subject-matter experts to address customer concerns; improve collaboration across your company; and apply new applications that support knowledge-based processes like e-learning.

Gaining the full benefits of integration

The integration of CRM and KM can result in long-term benefits that cannot be achieved with separate processes. Those benefits include:

  • Greater customer insight and knowledge - An integrated approach to KM and CRM enables you to really get to know your customer by analyzing their buying and interaction patterns, as well as flagging problem areas that arise from customer inquiries.
  • Improved response time -With KM search and document management capabilities, your call center agents can find the information they need to address a customer inquiry more quickly.
  • Increased customer satisfaction - The ability to answer customer queries accurately can lead to more satisfied clients and greater customer retention and loyalty.
  • Upselling and cross-selling opportunities - Coupling your CRM and KM capabilities can help you identify customer patterns, revealing potential sales opportunities
  • Reduced time to market -Integration helps you use KM functionality to collect, classify and distribute the customer data collected in your CRM to research and development teams, enabling them to bring products to market faster.
  • Fewer escalated inquiries - By integrating CRM and KM, you can provide more accurate search, document management and expert interaction and opinion, thereby reducing the need for escalations, which are costly and time consuming.

Steps along the integration path

Whether you’re just starting your integration journey or are well down the road, there are steps you can take to help ensure you get the most out of your CRM and KM integration. These include:

  • Formalize ad hoc approach to KM – You probably already have an approach to knowledge management, whether it’s an actual system, a shared spreadsheet or an FAQ page on your website. Now you should formalize this process by considering a KM system that delivers the connectivity that allows you to easily hook in to a CRM system.
  • Take a sophisticated approach to integration – When you are ready to optimize the integration of your current CRM and KM solutions, you should migrate to a more open system and tightly couple KM and CRM to ensure immediate access to your data. This is also the right time to establish metrics tied to customer support.
  • Fine tune reporting capabilities – As you tightly integrate KM and CRM look for a KM solution that delivers robust reporting capabilities. For example, the system should be able to report on how many times a specific customer issue was raised and how often the problem was researched.
  • Factor in social media – Social networking can add volumes of real-time customer data to your knowledge network. You will want to harness the collective intelligence found across multiple social media platforms and integrate that data into your existing CRM and knowledge base systems.

Selecting the right partner

While your company may choose to integrate your CRM and KM systems on your own, there are times when you may want to work with an external service provider that can provide the experience, knowledge and proven methodologies to ensure your integration project is completed on time and on budget.

If you choose to use a service provider, it’s important to select one that has the industry expertise, skilled workforce and long-term commitment that can deliver end-to-end services that address your current integration needs and support your business growth.

To learn more about successfully integrating CRM and KM, download the OSF whitepaper or contact us directly to talk to a specialist.