Integrating Outlook with CRM is a key capability of many CRM systems and other packages today. By seamlessly linking with Outlook features and functions, a CRM solution can deliver more value, while enhancing usability and boosting user adoption rates.
Microsoft Outlook is one of today’s most commonly-used business applications, particularly among sales professionals who rely on accurate, up-to-date contact information and well-coordinated communication to perform effectively and achieve their objectives. In fact, leading analyst firm Forrester Research has stated that more customer information resides in Microsoft Outlook that in any other system.
Many experts strongly believe that tight integration between a customer relationship management (CRM) package and Microsoft Outlook is the key to enhancing solution usability, and in turn, boosting user adoption rates.
Sales reps, who are often slow to jump on the CRM bandwagon, are more likely to use a new application when it is embedded in an environment they are already familiar with, and is already a part of their daily routine. Additionally, integration with Microsoft Outlook can significantly minimize data entry – one of the primary reasons sales staff have been reluctant to embrace CRM solutions in the past – by eliminating the need to add and maintain prospect and client information in two separate systems.
Microsoft Outlook integration also makes customer relationship management more valuable and beneficial by allowing email – the primary form of customer outreach – and CRM functionality to complement each other. With Microsoft Outlook integration, a CRM system can truly provide the 360-degree view of all customer activities and interactions that sales reps need to make the most of their opportunities.
Several years ago, many CRM vendors began making Microsoft Outlook integration a top priority. Realizing that this capability was critical to their success, they rushed to incorporate it into their solutions. Siebel Systems acquired Upshot Corp., a small hosted solution vendor that had already extended its offering with Outlook functionality.
Salesforce.com launched its Office Edition, which links its various CRM modules for sales force automation, marketing automation, service and support, and other customer-facing operations to Word, Excel, and Outlook via Web services.
Enhanced versions of SalesLogix, GoldMine, Maximizer, NetSuite, Interface Software, and other popular customer relationship management applications were also introduced, to provide the Outlook integration that many companies were suddenly demanding. Even the smaller, lesser-known vendors began to add a Microsoft Outlook plug-ins to their product portfolios.
Of course, any company that considers Microsoft Outlook integration to be a critical component of its implementation is likely turn to Microsoft CRM when selecting a solution.
Through its Business Contact Manager, Microsoft has been able to extend and enhance Outlook with the basic CRM capabilities required by smaller businesses. As a result, it can compete directly with other CRM vendors who focus on the small- to mid-market. Additionally, the company can use the Outlook/Business Contact Manager combination as an entry-point solution for growing companies, then encourage those clients to upgrade to more sophisticated and feature-rich Microsoft CRM systems as their needs change.
Almost every CRM solution on the market today can be seamlessly linked to Microsoft Outlook, delivering such capabilities as two way synchronization of contacts, calendars, and activities; dynamic association, integration, and tracking of all email correspondence; and the ability to utilize all features of the CRM application from within the Outlook interface.
This integration dramatically increases productivity by tying together two critical customer-facing functions, while ensuring more widespread acceptance and use of a CRM system by giving users a comfortable, familiar interface to work within.