Business Benefits to FSM-CRM-ERP Systems Integration
Published On: August 16 2013
These days everything starts with the customer and his or her experience. From this perspective—of the customer experience—the service sector must ensure fluency in its operations so that the customer is satisfied and does not go to social media to publicly vent or complain. Certain industries such as manufacturing and services industries, such as utilities and insurance, are some of the most pressured from this perspective. Smooth or seamless integration among field service management (FSM), customer relationship management (CRM), and enterprise resource planning (ERP) software plays an important role in the customer experience picture, as it provides the necessary pieces of the customer puzzle to the customer service and field service employees, sales and marketing teams, as well as operations. Indeed, the main objective behind integrating systems is to ensure a fluent flux of information so that records can be easily created and managed.
When it comes to customer data, integration among FSM and CRM and ERP software needs to ensure that the data stored in FSM systems—for example, customer location data, best route, etc.—is complemented by the financial details residing in ERP system and the entire customer profile that exists in the CRM system. One challenge to overcome when integrating FSM software with both ERP and CRM systems from a customer data perspective is making sure that the data is clean (no duplications, no incompletes, etc.), coherent, and congruent. In addition, data must be readily accessed (latency as a result of integration should be minimal, for example) by a field service agent who is talking live with the customer.
Having a comprehensive customer profile populated with information from all three systems (FSM, CRM, and ERP) can enhance the delivery of products and the services associated with them (installation, implementation, etc.). Based on this integration, a field service employee can see whether a client has used the same or a similar type of product before, and if so, know the client’s level of satisfaction with that product. In view of this information, a field agent can determine if there are areas that require extra attention.
For instance, in the case of a new account, ensuring that the customer becomes informed with respect to best practices may be the best thing to do. In the case of a returning customer, working to solve previously known struggles with the products is probably where the focus of the service provider should be.
All the billing and invoicing performed in the FSM system must also be reflected in the ERP system or financial software solutions, and must even go beyond ERP and be displayed in CRM software. Conversely, ERP/financials information must be reflected in FSM and CRM systems. That is, all three systems should be in sync and up to date.
From an FSM system perspective, before allocating resources in response to a customer request, a manager should be able to see the credit limit of the customer, or whether the customer has been completing payments as required by contractual agreements. If financial issues are blocking the delivery of service, then having access to this information enables the service department to start an inquiry about the delays in payments. This may also be a good opportunity to verify whether the client is eligible for a credit limit extension—thus ensuring that the customer is well attended to.
And from the CRM perspective, financial data can help a sales rep figure out how to negotiate discounts faster—the financial profile shows the loyalty level of the customer. Or, it can help toward spotting opportunities for cross-sale or up-sale.
Asset data is typically stored in ERP systems. The ERP system may also need to pull some asset data from other systems. Depending on the complexity of the assets, data about assets can be stored in enterprise asset management (EAM) systems; and data about design, technical specs, etc., can be stored in product lifecycle management (PLM) systems, for example. The FSM system needs to use that data both ways: from ERP to FSM (get instructions on how to fix things for instance, or push spare parts inventory information from ERP into FSM when field technicians need to know which parts are available) and from FSM to ERP (for example, include repairs in the history of the equipment, or capture meter data through FSM and push it into ERP to invoice the customer for the energy consumption). The CRM system also requires some asset information when mapping the customer experience: from quote to sales to post-sales (maintenance, repairs, returns, etc.).
The consistency of asset data across systems is particularly important for keeping track of the maintenance and repairs of products. FSM systems receive triggers from equipment that is already in use when the equipment shows low performance or becomes defective, etc. From a customer experience perspective, a service provider can be proactive and not only address issues before the client becomes aware of them, but also identify the equipment/products that tend to break extensively.
The latter can be done thanks to the historical asset data—typically residing in ERP systems. This type of information can be further passed to the manufacturer, thus ensuring that the quality of products is in check, and that customers’ potential worries are well contained and addressed before they become problems.
Customer experience relies on a full picture of the life cycle of the customer interaction with a company’s ecosystem. In order to have that image handy, a company may want to prioritize setting up the integration among enterprise systems—such as FSM, CRM, and ERP. These systems must be in sync so that customers are not put on hold for days or even weeks to confirm contractual terms or credit limits before operations can move ahead to service equipment or otherwise attend to the customer’s needs.