How to integrate a CRM system with other tools

How to integrate a CRM system with other tools

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    This blog post provides guidance for businesses looking to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of their customer relationship management (CRM) system by integrating it with other tools.


    CRM integration is the practice of linking third-party apps and tools with the main CRM operating system to consolidate their utilities in one operating environment. Some CRMs come with nominal features, while others are all-inclusive with structures that allow easy application of various added tools.

    In the older computer era, businesses would manually move their data from single/multiple apps to the CRM, resulting in lost energy and time efficiency. Shuttling data backwards and forwards can impede data transference and analysis. Modern businesses use multiple apps which can result in isolated data silos and data fragmentation, hampering the smooth progression of the customer journey.

    But when a CRM is enabled as a cohesive multi-tooled hub, workflows are agile and unified, delivering data access to all stakeholders. Further, real-time tool addition and subtraction is painless and secure, determined by business needs.

    Covered in this article:

    Benefits Of CRM integrationIdentify The Tools You Want To Integrate With Your CRM SystemAssess the compatibility of the tools with your CRM system
    Choose the right integration method, such as API or Zapier
    Plan and implement the integration process
    Test And Validate The Integration To Ensure It is Working As Expected
    Train Your Employees On How To Use The Integrated System

    Benefits Of CRM integration

    Ideally, CRM integration joins the end-user or customer-facing operational business angles to the backend where services are generated. Streamlined and reliable data flow is key to ensuring operational efficiency and delighted customers. Some benefits of CRM integration include:

    Improved customer care and inter-communication

    It’s debatable whether the CX (customer experience) of using an entity’s products and services is as important as the products and services themselves. Often, the product is the service. But what is certain is that in business environments where “me-too” or semi-identical products and services dominate the arena, differentiation is the by-product of hyper-specialised service and automated, well-timed, and spot-on communication and messaging. The upshot? Lead conversion and customer retention.

    Automation For The Win

    Companies enjoy the pluses of time and energy efficiencies when they use an automated platform to mechanise messaging and record-keeping with data that is clean and correct. For example, CRM integration connecting incoming customer support data with action prompts to internal stakeholders eliminates the need for directing manual workflows. 

    Enhanced Organisational Efficiency

    Internal productivity is amplified when info is merged into a centralised database system. Granular client data can be collected, scaled, retrieved, analysed and deployed with ease when team members aren’t required to login and keep switching between different software. Transparent internal communications and teamwork between departments are other benefits.

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    Identify The Tools You Want To Integrate With Your CRM System

    The oversupply of tools to integrate may prompt companies to over-adopt any tool that carries even the smallest hint of some benefit. Also, some tool integrations promise the world: super-complexity and elevations to central functions. The danger is that an upgrade may focus on one system renovation to the exclusion of all others. Companies should focus on judicious actual daily use cases. These tool upgrades comprise:

    Communication CRM Integrations

    The majority of work teams use a digital calendar as their main scheduler, but the time management waters may become muddied with multiple platform-specific calendars and reminder software. Creating a unified calendar eliminates confused scheduling with automated updating when a meeting or appointment is planned in the unified CRM.

    A popular internal communication method is instant messaging which takes care of company-wide communication. The need to match the same timetable and contact database across multiple systems is prevented through merging the company directory, allowing the easy flow of communication between staff.

    Integrated phone and video networks automatically record every call made by a salesperson and allow them to make notes, attaching the collected data to the customer ID. Sales teams spend a lot of time on the phone, so manual call data recording robs them of time in which they could be nurturing or closing deals.

    IT and Knowledge CRM Integrations

    Service differentiation includes the time it takes for customer service to resolve customer issues. Rapid help desk deployment can mean the difference between closed and lost deals. Employees no longer need to toggle between many platforms to resolve service tickets and risk prolonging wait times. Integrating tickets on a single platform simplifies the process, ensuring issued tickets are linked to the original website and customer profile, with immediate access to customers’ past tickets and consumption patterns.

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    As a customer communication channel, live chat has grown in leaps and bounds (eg ChatGPT and Bard), and an integrated live chat improves on the data already in the CRM, automatically recording the latest interactions. Sales can then target leads with the fresh data the chatbot gleans.

    Data appending is a way to gauge customers’ interests by integrating the platform with the CRM, and connector app integration boosts enhanced functionality, bridging the gap between CRM and apps which wouldn’t typically connect, streamlining the user experience.

    Marketing CRM Integrations

    Disconnecting with datasets can cause badly defined customer segments to derail email creation tools and the CRM, messing up your marketing campaign. Join email marketing programmes and target segments with a matter of clicks - CRM sync leads to detailed personalised marketing. Social media integrations track how end-users interact with social channels and provide historical information. Marketing automation CRM integration enables granular data tracking to scan prospect data and deliver timely, personalised content, facilitating easy acquisition.

    Assess The Compatibility Of The Tools With Your CRM System

    Vigour and Robustness of Integration Tools

    App integration tools provide multiple features (eg workflow automation). Select the one with the widest range of app integration support, ease of installation and use, customisation, intuitiveness, security, and reporting functions.

    Some app integration tools arrive with no-code or zero programming architecture, and with the end-user in mind, allows teams to be operational with integration workflows in no time. Drag-and-drop functions may come with an intuitive operation. Maximising ROI stems from investing in the right CRM application tool, so research the options before buying.

    Business Rationality and Alignment

    When integrating, remember the business logic and set-up needs to set the correct configurations and run the integration workflow with success. Choose from out-of-the-box configurations and pre-defined business logic, or modify the configurations for your specific requirements.

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    Thorough app understanding lets you apply complicated sets of triggers, logic and configuration to get the most out of integrations. The integration must be optimised for formula, use of functions, transformation and data mapping.

    Real-Time Syncing, Dual-Direction Data Mapping

    Here, the ability to map data between apps in a two-way direction comes under the spotlight so that data is accessible on both platforms. Data flowing from one system to another trigger events so data syncing should be real-time. Occasionally, one system acts as the source in organising data in one platform, controlling data fetch and overwriting to eliminate duplicates.

    Security Parameters and Permissions

    Setting up the right CRM and app permissions and security parameters is essential. Arrange the correct user profile on the app before integrating, and create access control and permissions to read, view, or change fields, objects and data accordingly.

    For users to automatically be enabled with access to created workflows, provide the licenses of the apps to be integrated with the CRM. In addition, ensure the workflows and transactions between the CRM and the third-party app(s) are kept securely encrypted with for example, SSL.

    API and Server Compatibility

    Smooth CRM integration means you must set up the correct server needs and API calls to link the systems running the integrations. Confirm the server compatibility with the web API to smooth workflows in order to connect systems at varied endpoints and authenticate data exchange.

    Technical resources and documentation requirements must be aligned, and analyse the right systems and apps to achieve the desired automated, integrated business functions, for example, SaaS, cloud and on-premise app combinations.

    Choose the Right Integration Method, such as API or Zapier

    Zapier notifies teammates about leads and customers with “Zaps” – automated workflow elements. Just connect your source of leads to the most popular communication tool with your team. Every time a new lead comes in, your team is notified so they can take action. Zap templates (pre-made workflows) take minutes to set up, and you can notify in team chat apps, either in a public channel or private message, as well as SMS. Sending these leads to any Zapier-supported messaging service is easy as pie.

    Following up new leads with an SMS or email is a breeze with Zapier, as is automatically signing up these leads for your email newsletter (they have to opt-in first, as per GDPR guidelines), which can increase the odds of working with them. Zapier updates multiple calendars on different apps, and lets you track client meetings in your project database system, as well as notify you of upcoming meetings in the team chat app.

    Zapier lets you set up autonomist workflows which send info to a spreadsheet, and allows you to streamline your socials, automatically tweeting your Facebook post, videos posted to YouTube, WordPress-published articles, and Instagram pics.

    Plan and Implement the Integration Process

    Planning and implementing the integration process requires a plan with manageable steps from purchase to maximising the full use of your integrated CRM. An ideal plan includes: 

    Cleaning customer data

    Messy data that resides in CRM software can become a tangle of outdated customer info, forgotten prospects and churning leads which are unreachable. Cleaning data before migrating it saves time and money and best positions reps to leverage clean systems with the most relevant info. Do this by separating and cleaning data into four categories: 

    1. Active opportunities: Merge duplicates, update deal stages, predicted value and close dates and contact info.
    2. Expired opportunities: Delete opps that have been contact-free for more than six months and delete duplicates.
    3. Active customers: ensure data is up to data and delete duplicates.
    4. Churned customers: delete deals which churned a year ago, with no contact since.

    Get reps to assign leads into these four categories and collaborate with the clean-up. This will also assist your GDPR / POPIA compliance efforts. 

    Put a well-defined sales process in place

    Spend time analysing the sales process, and examine the pipeline stages and their conversion rates. Debate what is and what is not working with the team. Polish the sales process to perfection.

    Migrate a small data amount

    If the CRM automates data migration, all the better. Done manually, refrain from migrating everything at once. Start with, say, expired lead opportunities and test drive its effectiveness.

    Customise the CRM

    Adjust the pipeline stages to align with the sales process your team uses on a daily. Set user permissions to correspond with the team structure. Give SEOs, managers and directors admin access and individual inputters lower-tier permissions. The right user permissions guarantee only the right employees can adjust account settings and delete data.

    Integrate the tool stack

    Install email templates, sales sequences, lead lists, customise lead data, customise dashboard views, lead generation tools, internal communication, analytic warehouses and project management tools, among others.


    Test and Validate The Integration To Ensure It Is Working As Expected

    Integration testing is often referred to as the second level of software testing, succeeding unit testing. It involves testing single software units to detect defects and problems which prevent the integration from working successfully.

    The various software modules are designed by different programmers so testing whether they can work together is paramount. Granular reasons for testing include errors caused by software module incompatibility, client input changing requirements, hardware compatibility, and to verify the data that tools accept is correct.

    Integration Testing Advantages and Challenges

    These include finding interface errors, testing upon a single module completion without waiting for other modules to be ready, and detecting bugs, defects and security issues. Challenges include multiple testing of new and legacy systems, complexity because of the variety of platforms and testing the environment itself.

    Integration Testing Guidelines

    • Only test integration once each module has undergone testing beforehand.
    • Module testing must follow a sequence to prevent overlooks.
    • Set test case strategies to execute in tandem with test data.
    • Identify the most important modules to test first and include every possible scenario.
    • Create test cases for detailed interface verification.
    • Choose test case execution input data carefully.
    • Draft reports on found bugs, send them to developers to fix and test again.

    Six Integration Testing Methods

    1. Big Bang – testing all components at once as a single module bundle; also known as non-incremental integration testing.
    2. Top-Down Approach – testing the high-level modules before the low-level ones.
    3. Bottom-Up – testing lower-level modules first to test higher modules after, on and on until each top-level module is tested.
    4. Hybrid Testing – testing and integrating top and lower-level components as a system; a blend of bottom-up and top-down testing.
    5. Incremental Approach – integrating a bunch of logically related modules and testing them. Then, introduce and integrate more related modules until all are tested.
    6. Drivers and stubs – dummy programmes to provide software testing, simulating missing calling models.

    Train Your Employees On How To Use The Integrated System

    Employee training reduces the system learning curve, simplifying and accelerating the user learning experience. Performance is improved as the learning curve is reduced with practical use, boosting engagement and performance. Learning management systems (LMS) add new employees to the learning platform automatically, ensuring they receive the necessary training. Onboarding improves company productivity by up to 70%.

    CRM integration training enables collaboration on customer support, ticketing and issue escalation. Error reduction through employee training eliminates input errors and redundancy. Sales revenue can be optimised by providing personalised training based on historical customer data as a guide. CRM analytics can be used to track employee learner performance and draft reports on course registrations and training quality.

    Continuous learning requires repeat monitoring and tracking to view the learner’s progress and the gaps in it. Knowledge hubs in CRMs can be stocked with updated content, eg infographics and microlearning videos, encouraging employee learners to engage with content according to their preference for qualitative learning.

    In conclusion, a continuous improvement plan for CRM tool integration and updating ensures the CRM best supports your growing business. A CRM can become limited quickly if not continuously optimised. Technology evolves and CRMs are no exception. Equipping your CRM with the latest features and capabilities via a regular review process guarantees you’ll stay in the game for much longer.

    Enhancing the CX through best-fit streamlined communication and interaction, and improving data accuracy by ensuring it’s current, accurate and synced is obligatory. Data quality control can be effected with regular data cleansing, validation and standardisation.

    Staying compliant with regulations such as GDPR, POPIA and PAIA ensures sensitive customer data remains secure and free from hacking. New automation tools increase business efficiencies and ROI. Staying ahead of the competition is a standard business driver and updating your CRM integration is a surefire way of getting there.

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