Customer relationship management (CRM) software has become a powerful business tool. With a CRM tool such as Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Infusionsoft, or Oracle CRM On Demand, all customer data — including interactions and insights — is centralized for easy access and management.
As powerful as CRM applications may be, they are built for a single purpose: customer relationship management. Integrations, such as a data validation plug-in, can extend the functionality of CRMs, but only if APIs are created, and more importantly, well documented so that the third party developers can actually understand them.
CRMs provide a centralized location for storing customer data and interactions. Early CRM applications, such as ACT! and Telemagic, were basically databases that stored customer phone and address data along with notes about the customer, recent orders, and so forth. Typically shared over a network, these programs allowed other employees to review contact notes as needed. They were also commonly used to create mail merge documents.
Today, modern CRMs are hosted on the cloud and loaded with robust contact relationship management, marketing automation, and social media features. These sophisticated applications are tightly focused on managing the customer’s journey. That’s what they’re designed for, and that’s what they do best. They are purposefully built to this end.
It’s a huge undertaking to create a piece of software to manage both the customer data (names, addresses, and contact information) and every single interaction across a multitude of channels. Small or large, CRM developers maintain a laser focus on their core product and its purpose. They’re concerned about making sure their software lives up to its core promise. They’re not necessarily concerned about extending their software to accommodate various users’ wish lists.
How User-Friendly APIs Ultimately Improve CRMs
While a CRM may have a plethora of tools built into it, the possibilities become endless when the CRM has an API that can be used by third party developers. For example, when Service Objects is able to integrate with a CRM’s API, we are able to create a data validation plug-in to clean up, standardize, and validate the data contained within the CRM.
This is valuable to everyone involved including:
- The CRM developer — They don’t necessarily have the time or desire to add functions like data validation because their priorities are focused on the core product. With an API, valuable functions can be added without the developer having to expend resources on them.
- The third party developer— Third party developers benefit by being exposed to the CRM developer’s customer base.
- The end user — End users are happy to have external tools available through their company’s CRM platform where they can easily add the unique functions they want.
Creating an API for developers opens the door to new possibilities. A company like Service Objects can use the API to access the client’s data within the CRM, validate it, and then push it back in. With data validation plug-ins, the process is seamless for end users, the data quality improves, the business can operate more efficiently with less waste, and operating costs go down.
But there’s a catch: an API has to be available for a developer to use — complete with meaningful and current documentation. Integrations, such as a data validation plug-in for CRM, are magnitudes easier if the API documentation is up to date and organized.
We implore API creators to work hard to make a good API and supporting documentation. Doing so helps us all, and, most importantly, it helps all of our clients.