ShoreTel package integrates VoIP, CRM

IP PBX maker ShoreTel Inc. is pushing to integrate workflow software with its phone systems in a bid to help users make customer interactions more efficient.

The package, expected to be announced this week, includes a software developer's program to encourage third parties to integrate their software with ShoreTel's and a program in which ShoreTel does the integration. The first result of the in-house effort is ShoreTel Salesforce.com Integration, which lets ShoreTel's voice-over-IP (VoIP) application share data with Salesforce.com's customer relationship management (CRM) package.

For example, sales agents click to telephone a customer from within that user's Salesforce.com files, or the agents receive a customer call while in Salesforce.com and access a screen displaying the sales department's record of that call. Over the course of the day and over many agents, the integration can save significant amounts of time, the company says.

IronPort, an e-mail security firm in San Bruno, Calif., uses ShoreTel Salesforce.com Integration with its sales agents. They call up data on customers or potential customers and click to call them. This capability boosts the number of calls they make in a day and increases the number of sales appointments they schedule, says Andy Halvorsen, the company's corporate IT manager.

Users typically do this type of integration with in-house programmers or hired consultants, says Robin Gareiss, executive vice president of Nemertes Research. That puts VoIP integration out of the reach of smaller businesses that lack the resources to do this customization, she says. Being able to buy integration prepackaged will extend the features to more businesses.

Larger businesses that already can afford in-house customization might want to consider prepackaged integration but should evaluate first how well the integration is done, she says, and weigh how much it would involve to do it themselves. "A large enterprise should look at how complex it is to integrate the PBX with Salesforce.com and how good ShoreTel's skills are," she says.

ShoreTel is also announcing Custom Developer Services, in which it will integrate applications on request. This will put such customization within reach of smaller businesses, Gareiss says. She expects ShoreTel to pick applications that are popular in a particular industry.

Although ShoreTel has traditionally competed with companies such as Mitel Networks Corp. and 3Com Corp., it has also been competing in the past year or so with Avaya Inc., Cisco Systems Inc. and Nortel Networks, which have released more competitive offerings for midsize businesses, Gareiss says.

ShoreTel has also added E911 Notification Application to its phone system: When 911 is dialed, an extension on the PBX network is notified. Previously, when someone dialed 911, the system would try only to connect to the nearest public-safety contact point.

ShoreTel Salesforce Integration and E911 Notification Application are available. ShoreTel Salesforce.com Integration costs $100 per client seat, and E911 Notification Application costs $2,000 for five clients and $5,000 for six or more clients.

This story, "ShoreTel package integrates VoIP, CRM" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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