Is the call center destined to be just a CRM feature? Or is it the other way around? Which is the cart and which is the horse?

There has always been overlap between CRM and call center systems. For customer service to function correctly both sides need to work closely together. But over the last decade, the line between the two has been increasingly blurred. It now seems safe to say that the CRM vendors will reap the benefit of this blurriness. Let’s see why this is the case and what it means for the big players in our industry.

How Did We Get Here?

A decade ago, the technology for telephony and voice was complicated and obtuse. Building and maintaining call center software was a domain restricted to those with a specialized skillset. Call center folks didn’t need to defend their turf because they had significant technical barriers to rely on, supplemented by the fact that call center platforms were closed, proprietary systems.

Steadily, those barriers have dropped. First, voice switched from analog to digital and then to VoIP which meant that much of the arcane telephony equipment was replaced with standard IP networking gear. Then PCs became powerful enough to do media processing and routing so, again, specialized hardware was taken out of the picture. Next, regulatory changes created a market of telecom resellers that allowed anyone to buy a phone number and – more importantly – use that number for inbound and outbound calling with cheap per-minute rates. Finally, a new breed of companies emerged– now called “CPaaS” for “Ccommunication Platform as a Service” — that made all the basic telephony functions available via web-style APIs.

This post is recommended for you  Report: #Digital transformation in #business means fighting over digital #talent (download possible)

The CPaaS crowd includes Twilio (now heading for an IPO), Nexmo (recently acquired by Shoretel), Plivo, Plumvoice, Tropo (acquired by Cisco) and Zang (part of Avaya).


The CPaaS Landscape

The emergence of CPaaS meant that any web developer had the skills to be a telephony developer. In other words, telephony became accessible to a much larger group of people… probably a hundred-fold increase. This, predictably, unleashed a torrent of creative voice-based (and, later, SMS-based) innovation. It was only a matter of time before the barriers surrounding the most complicated voice application (call center) crumbled.

Functional Differences

You can list the specific functions that “belong” to a CRM system next to those that “belong” to a call center, and get general agreement throughout the industry. You can see an example in the image below which is adapted from a presentation by Five9.


Call Center vs CRM


But today, you’ll find that many CRM systems can do the functions from the call center column and vice versa.

A great example

Read all at