In the 21st century, the customer is the lifeblood of any successful business. Because of this, business leaders are leveraging every last tool in the shed to make sure their company is prepared for this new-age customer.

While software and technology resources come and go, the one that has stood the test of time is customer relationship management (CRM) software. In fact, global spending is expected to grow to about $36.5 billion by 2017, according to Gartner.

A key reason why CRM software is expected to boom has a lot to do with what the software can actually do for a business. To maintain existing customers—while growing their base—companies need to focus on building relationships and deriving valuable information about their customers. Unfortunately, all too often, the data that businesses collect on their customers sits in siloed, disparate technology solutions. It’s only when companies successfully integrate their data that service agents and marketers can share information and better understand their customers.

By being able to successfully aggregate customer data, businesses can have richer interactions that feel more fluid, legitimate and (in general) human. A robust CRM software can turn a me-and-you conversation into a conversation about OUR business relationship, in that no matter what department is initiating contact with the consumer, that employee owns a 360-degree view of interactions with your business.

Key findings from a Software Advice online survey found that more than 26 percent of CRM users described customization and integration as a “major challenge” for their CRM integration. While the study went on to explain that CRM technology has grown and evolved to become more user friendly and intuitive and boast solid core software, the most difficult part of the equation remains integrating data across different software and key technologies.

If you’re one of more than a quarter of businesses having difficulties with CRM integration, follow these steps to find the solution:

  • Identify your integration problem: There’s a good chance your CRM software could be outdated. If this is the case, you’ll want to invest in new technology that can handle your integration needs. Or, perhaps your CRM is too complicated and causes confusion amongst users. Before you can tackle the integration obstacle, you must first understand your chief challenges.
  • Plan your integration: Now that you’ve identified whether your CRM integration problem is caused by outdated software or a complex usability, it’s time to plan the next steps. What does your dream CRM platform look like? Do you want to integrate data from your customer service department and your marketing department? Sales department too? You’ll need to identify the data that will feed the CRM.
  • Make the (easy) decision: Considering the impact CRM software can have on any business, you’ll want to make sure everything is running smoothly. There should never be a guess as to whether your CRM will have the right data, or be equally as functional across your tablet, smartphone and computer. If your IT department isn’t equipped to handle this type of undertaking—and if you’re not willing or ready to hire IT staffers— then outsourcing may be the way to go. There are a number of third-party companies that specialize in CRM integration and can handle everything from installing the new software to integrating all of the data you’ve chosen to use. They will even coach your staff on how to use it to its full potential.

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