Skype this week announced the release of a new version of what it's calling Skype for Salesforcewhich, as the name clearly suggests, is an integration of its voice-over-IM-protocol service with the on-demand CRM platform Salesforce.com.
Since we missed the first version, released about 15 months ago in conjunction with the launch of Salesforce's AppExchange program, we decided to take this opportunity to take a look.
Available for free download on Salesforce's AppExchange (where it goes by the name Skype CTI Connector 2.0 - Basic Edition), the software adapts Skype's well-known telephony and instant messaging features to the Salesforce.com interface, and links its call history and other record-keeping activities to the Salesforce CRM database.
VoIPplanet.com spoke with Skype director of business development, Scott Miller, about the genesis of Skype for Salesforce.
"It arouse out of mutual interest," Miller explained. "They approached us about being a marketing partner in the AppExchange platform, because they felt that if they could mash Skype functionality into the Salesforce functionality, it would be a wonderful demonstration of what Salesforce was trying to achievethird party companies integrating into Salesforceand it was one of the simplest and most obvious integrations you could do."
The first version was immensely popular, according to Miller: one of the five most popular applications on AppExchange. "It got downloaded a ton of times, and people's biggest complaint was 'Bring us more.' " Hence the version released this week, which boasts far deeper integration between the two applications.
Here's how it looks:
Users import or enter Skype usernames into their Salesforce contact lists, where they are cross-linked by "opportunity," organization, and all the rest of the criteria used in CRM operations. Salesforce then displays Skype presence indicators next to Skype-enabled contacts, which, when clicked, activate a context menu that presents all available Skype actionsStart call, Chat, Conference, Voicemail, etc.
Calls to other Skype users are free, of course, with calls to landline and mobile phones on the PSTN billed at normal SkypeOut rates. Organizations can also purchase any of Skype's premium subscription packages, such as the Unlimited Calling plan, available in North America.
Outgoing calls or chat sessionseither one-on-one or multipartyinitiated from the Salesforce interface are automatically logged to the database, along with any appended, text-based notes or comments. All calls with a given contact are recorded on that contact's active history.
The Salesforce.com system will automatically attempt to link an incoming call with a CRM record as welldisplaying the appropriate record if it is successful.
Conference calling using Skype for Salesforce is very flexible, and appears dead simple. Conferences of up to 10 participants can be stored and launched with a single click, and new participants can be added to ongoing calls, by selecting Hold, clicking to call the new party, and then returning to the call in progress.
To launch a conference call from an opportunity, you open the opportunity, check off the constituent contacts you wish to connect with for this call, and click the Start Conference button.
Finally, the integrated system provides one-touch reporting of call activities. There's a My Calls Today button on the Skype CTI panel. Other reports are available by Caller, Called Party, and covering user-defined time periods.
We asked Scott Miller whether "Basic Edition" suggested something beyond the basics. He indicated that while this might be the case, he wasn't at liberty to discuss it. A probe about integration with other Web 2.0, SaaS applications drew a similar response.
What Miller was willing to comment on was Skype's larger purpose in undertaking the Salesforce integration: "It helps us get into the SMB space," he explained; "helps us to show off the features that 196 million registered users are already usingdirectly to the business community. A big reason to do the deal with Salesforce was to have a nice way to get into that channel," he concluded.
So, we'll be keeping our eyes peeled and our ear to the, er, headset. We'd bet on seeing more interesting integrations from Skype in the future.