After the economic recession, the importance of a CRM system has become clear to many. Companies have had an increased focus on building customer loyalty while at the same time increasing their customer portfolios. While most large and medium businesses have had CRM systems for quite a long time now, there has been a significant increase in the use of CRM systems among smaller businesses. It is also worth mentioning that CRM systems are more common in the private sector than the public.

What is a CRM system? CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management which is quite descriptive in itself, but regardless of this I feel the need to dig deeper into the meaning of “Customer Relationship Management” in order to understand the possibilities such a system can give a business.

The simplest form of a CRM system could be an overview of your customers’ names, addresses and phone numbers. Of course, you wouldn’t need a sophisticated CRM system for this; you could simply use an Excel spreadsheet. In order to get into the true spirit of “Customer Relationship Management” we need to think a bit more advanced. Imagine you own a small company which sells insurances, and you have three employees: A phone salesman, an insurance consultant and a person in charge of the economy. Your business is run as a simple workflow:

  1. The phone salesman calls random individuals and asks them if they are interested in buying your insurance.
  2. If the individual is interested, the phone salesman books a meeting with the insurance consultant and your new potential customer.
  3. If the meeting goes well and the insurance consultant is able to sell the insurance, the person in charge of the economy takes care of the invoicing.

A CRM system could take care of the workflow in this example. The phone salesman would register the potential customer’s details in the CRM system and assign the potential customer to the insurance consultant. The insurance consultant could register the time and location of the upcoming meeting, and any additional phone calls that has to be made. When the deal is closed, the person in charge of economy could bill the customer using the CRM system, and keep an overview of all recent and upcoming invoices.

This is where the power of a CRM system becomes clear; your will at all times have a complete overview of all past and ongoing activities. In theory, your company could be run without your three employees ever having to see or speak to each other.

So what could make your company even more powerful? You already have a well-functioning workflow, but in this case the customer has to be in contact with three different people before the insurance is bought. How many more insurances could you sell if the potential customer himself could book a meeting with the insurance consultant on your EPiServer website?

Take Sally Doe as an example, she’s looking to buy a new insurance and stumbles upon your EPiServer website. Here she’s able to book a meeting with your insurance consultant, supplying her contact information and all necessary insurance details. By integrating your EPiServer website with your CRM system, the information supplied by Sally Doe could be registered directly in the CRM system. So in fact, Sally Doe is doing the job that the phone salesman did previously. A year passes by and Sally has moved since the last time she was in touch with your company, but luckily she’s able to log on to your website and change the address herself. This means that the information in your CRM system will be up to date at any time, due to the fact that it is integrated with your website.

I’ve integrated three different EPiServer websites with Microsoft Dynamics CRM within the last couple of years. These websites belonged to three very different customers with varying needs and interests, and this has made the integrations extremely interesting. However, while developing these integrations, I saw a need for a “ready to go” CRM framework that could make the integrations as cost efficient and easy to implement as possible. As a result, I created Epinova.CrmFramework which does exactly this. Epinova.CrmFramework is at the moment only compatible with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0, but I have a goal of creating a Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 version by the end of this year.

Epinova.CrmFramework is an open source project. If you are interested in trying it out or using it in one of your own projects you can find all technical details on Codeplex: http://crmframework.codeplex.com/

If you are interested in information on how your company could benefit from integrating your EPiServer website with your CRM system, you’re welcome to get in touch!