Cisco Links IP Telephony to Microsoft CRM

Cisco is taking aim at small and midsized companies with a program that integrates its IP telephony software with Microsoft's Customer Relationship Management software.

Cisco Systems Inc., in its small and midsize business alliance with Microsoft Corp., last week released a program that integrates its IP telephony software with Microsoft Customer Relatiaonship Management software.

The Cisco CRM Communications Connector integrates Ciscos CallManager Express with Microsoft CRM, giving small and midsize businesses a unique way to improve customer service and decrease operational costs, said officials at Cisco, in San Jose, Calif.

The connector, released for free to Cisco IP Communications-certified channel partners, opens customer contact records on an employees screen when customer calls come in, automatically creating a new call-activity record. At the same time, when SMB users execute Microsoft CRMs click-to-dial feature from a customer contact record, the connector creates a new call-activity record.

"The beauty of having the IP telephony product tied in with the CRM [customer relationship management] software is that when a customer calls in, you can have it pop a screen right to that customer contact information," said early-user Randy Olsson, director of network engineering at engineering services company Coleman Technologies Inc., in Orlando, Fla.

"For an account manager or service manager dealing with multiple tens or hundreds of customers, its hard to know from call to call what your last conversation was. When the customer calls now, youre informed."

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read about the Microsoft CRM 1.2 Feature Pack that is due for release in August.

The connector also tracks call duration, creating an associated phone activity record; captures calling information such as called number and start and end times; and creates a new CRM customer record when a new customer call arrives.

The connector uses Microsofts Outlook or Internet Explorer as the main client for task and contact management at the users desktop to minimize training requirements.

Although fewer than 28 percent of companies with 100 to 500 employees have implemented any CRM applications, that number may change as more vendors adapt their offerings to the SMB market and as vendors such as Microsoft work to make it pervasive, said Helen Chan, an analyst at The Yankee Group, in Boston.

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