How to maximize the integration of your Web-based CRM and labor management systems.
Posted Mar 1, 2005
The popularity of Web-based CRM is no surprise. It's easy to use, provides anywhere/anytime access, and enables streamlined operations (especially for those with multiple locations, and remote and/or large sales and support teams). What may be a surprise is the growing number of companies integrating Web-based CRM with Web-based labor management--and why they're doing it.
The trend stems from the philosophy that a business can't be truly customer focused without strong internal functions. Because CRM focuses outwardly on building customer relationships, its success relies on the internal processes/practices that support it. And, what's more crucial to successful internal processes than the workforce itself, especially people who deal with customers directly? Knowledge and control of employee time, attendance, and productivity enables more effective use of CRM data and insight into employee interaction with customers. In other words, integrating labor management and CRM improves customer service.
Picture this scenario: An employee logs into the integrated systems and sees that a shift change has been made to accommodate a new customer. After noting the change the employee proceeds along with his/her usual tasks, which can be performed in real-time from any location through the Web-based interface. The customer for whom the schedule change was made receives excellent service, because of proper resource allocation. The employee's manager later runs a report tracking calls for that customer against the employee and other staff members working the account. This data is then rolled into job-costing figures and used to create schedules that satisfy customers.
To produce this type of real-time data from your integrated systems, create a project road map incorporating these rules:
1. Scout for security issues: A firewall may block programs like Active X Controls and Java applets. To continue avoiding security threats, check that neither system relies on such technologies.
2. Become 100 percent Web-based: Avoid hybrid (Web and PC-based) applications. Hybrids require you to install software at client sites, which defeats the purpose of being virtual.
3. Use a Software Development Kit (SDK): Seamlessly integrate back-end systems with CRM by choosing a labor management system that includes an SDK. It enables select individuals to add rules in the software, override existing rules, and integrate with systems to be implemented at a later date.
4. Do due diligence: If a labor management vendor cannot provide system integration references or can't outline their process for gathering integration requirements, find another provider.
5. Insist on real time: Access to real-time information is one reason companies convert to Web-based systems in the first place. Select applications that perform live data exchange instead of batch processing.
6. Assess the hardware: Many companies need a mix of data collection options (e.g., online login for office staff, and badge swipe or biometric clocks for a shipping department). Choose a system that supports them all. Also, plan in advance to leverage existing infrastructure like telephony, VoIP network and IP phones, and wireless devices.
7. Think analytics: Optimal integration means compiling data across systems. Select applications with advanced reporting to gauge productivity, job costing, resource allocation, and more.
About the Author
Bahan Sadegh is CTO and cofounder of Time America Inc. His responsibilities include technology strategy for the company and all aspects of product development. For more information visit www.timeamerica.com
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