Customer Relationship Management Software for ILS:
An Initial Investigation
John F. Coogan
May 15, 2003
The library wishes to investigate using a Customer Relationship Management
System (CRM) to track and manage our large volume of reference transactions
with UMUC patrons. This report will discuss what CRM technology is, how it
might be used at ILS, and what questions to ask when evaluating a CRM system.
It will then briefly examine several CRM systems and conclude with some
Please note that other departments at UMUC are interested in implementing
CRM technology. IT has been examining several alternatives, but no decisions
have yet been made. A key question will be whether the library can “piggyback”
on the CRM eventually chosen for the University or whether the library will need
to implement a separate CRM system.
What is a Customer Relationship Management System (CRM)?
A CRM allows an organization track and manage communications with its
customers. It includes contact information for each customer, a record of
transactions with each customer, and a knowledgebase of information to facilitate
the business process (e.g. information about the company’s products). The
purpose is to build strong customer relations and put necessary customer and
product information at the fingertips of all employees who need to interact with
customers. These systems are also used for “forecasting trends and accessing
business performance” (Microsoft). Substitute “patron” for “customer,”
“reference transaction” for “sales transaction” and “reference statistics” for
“business performance” and the usefulness of a CRM in a library setting
becomes apparent. While many CRM’s are geared toward business (GoldMine,
Microsoft CRM), some are geared specifically toward educational institutions
(CollegeWare) or libraries (RefTracker).
How might a CRM be used at ILS?
A “wish list” of functions for a CRM to perform for ILS would include:
1. Record each patron transaction, whether by e-mail, phone, chat or walk in.
Provide a record identifying the patron, question asked, answer given, and
staff member handling.
a. Note: Future patron communications may include voice over IP
(VOIP) and video. These features were not taken into
2. Categorize transactions (e.g. research question, database problem, etc.).
3. Track status and resolution of questions; show pending questions; allow
staff to hand off questions to other staff.
4. For each patron, show patron name, type (student, faculty, etc.), contact
info. and history of transactions. Should also have the ability to record
transactions with anonymous patrons or patrons outside of UMUC (e.g.
alums, patrons from other USM institutions).
5. Filter library transactions from other types of transactions (e.g. students'
communications with advisors), if the CRM is shared with other units at
6. Provide a searchable knowledgebase to use in answering future
questions. Ideally, this can be used by staff as well as by patrons (through
a Web interface). Library staff should be able to select which questions
and answers go into the knowledgebase.
7. Generate meaningful reference statistics, such as the number of phone, e-
mail, chat, and in-person transactions during a given time frame, or
transactions handled by a given librarian.
8. A calendar function (showing who is on duty when) would be a plus.
9. A “push” function which can allow communication (e.g. email) aimed at
targeted groups (e.g. faculty) would also be desirable.
The minimum requirements from this wish list would be: recording all patron
transactions, categorizing transactions and generating reference statistics. The
other features are highly desirable.
What questions should be asked when evaluating a CRM?
In addition to the features listed above, the following should also be weighed
when evaluating a particular CRM for implementation at ILS:
10. How are patrons entered? Can the CRM accept data from ADAM (or
PeopleSoft) to pre-populate it, or do patrons have to be entered by library
staff on a case-by-case basis (an option which may not be acceptable to
11. How do patron transactions get entered? Can e-mails and chat sessions
be captured directly into the system or do they need to be logged
manually? Manual logging is a definite minus.
a. At present, phone calls would need to be logged manually.
However, if UMUC eventually implements call center technology
(which identifies incoming callers whose phone numbers match a
customer database), could those calls be captured directly into the
CRM? In other words, could a record of the call be generated
automatically in the CRM, with the patron identity already filled in?
The librarian would then just need to enter information about the
nature of the call.)
b. Walk ins, of course, would always require manual login.
12. What Administrative features does it have (e.g. how controllable and
customizable would it be for us)?
13. Does it integrate with other systems and products (e.g. UMUC’s e-mail
system, Microsoft Office products)?
14. Will it be shared with other units at UMUC or be a library-only application?
(See item 5, above.)
15. Where will the system reside – remotely on the vendor server or here at
UMUC? If it will reside here, what setup and maintenance will be required
16. What setup is required on staff computers? Is there a Web interface or
does a software client need to be installed on each staff machine?
17. What staff training is required?
18. What are the initial and ongoing costs?
19. Can the staff at LSSI (who will be providing 24/7 reference service) have
access to it?
Options: What are some possible products?
Three products are considered briefly below: GoldMine, which UMUC is
currently using (but may be moving away from); Microsoft CRM, which IT has
investigated as a replacement for GoldMine; and RefTracker, a product
designed specifically for libraries. UMUC is also investigating a product called
CollegeWare, designed for managing communications with students; however, I
was not able to get much information on this product and so have not included it
in this analysis.
Please note that this is an initial overview. Information was gleaned from product
brochures and conversations with UMUC staff and product sales representatives;
it may be somewhat incomplete or unconfirmed.
Please see the “CRM Comparisons” chart (crm_comparison.xls) for a more
detailed comparison of the three CRMs discussed below. Features in the
comparison chart are numbered 1-19 and correspond with the 19 items listed
Goldmine is a business-oriented CRM which is currently being used at UMUC as
a contact management system to track communications with students from
recruitment through graduation. It was set up and customized by IT. However,
this product apparently has its limitations and UMUC is considering replacing it.
o E-mail sent to firstname.lastname@example.org could go directly into the system.
o Has “push” capability to do e-mail blasts targeting specific majors.
o Has some calendar functions.
o Integrates with Microsoft Office products.
CONS: If the library were to “piggyback” on the current setup, it would
have very limited usefulness.
o LSSI chat sessions would need to be logged manually. (Unknown
whether future integration with LSSI chat service would be
o Reference transactions could not be categorized as we would wish.
o Only students are in the database (not faculty, staff, or others). An
ADAM “dump” may be possible but is not currently set up.
o Library transactions could not be filtered from other UMUC
o Reference-oriented stats may not be available.
These functions may possible with further customization or a separate
implementation for the library. More in-depth information about the
product would be needed to make this determination.
Cost: If we piggyback on the current installation, additional licenses may
be needed (cost undetermined). If we purchase a separate installation,
Bobby Dugger from IT guessed that it would run about $3000 for
installation on a Dbase platform and about $11,000 for installing on an
Preliminary evaluation: Piggybacking on the current installation would
not give us the functionality we need. We could ask IT to make further
customizations to the existing installation, or to purchase, set up,
customize and maintain a separate installation for the library. However,
given that GoldMine may be on its way out, implementing this product for
the library may not be advisable.
Microsoft CRM is a business-oriented tool geared toward sales and marketing. A
demonstration of this system was done in IT late last year, but we do not know
the outcome. From what I gather, it is a fairly new product but is supposed to
integrate well with other Microsoft products.
PROS: According to the sales rep I spoke with, this product could be
customized to perform all the functions in our wish list above.
o The CRM can be integrated with Microsoft Outlook (which we will
have eventually), so e-mail be captured directly.
o An Adam or PeopleSoft “dump” may be possible, if those programs
can output data in XML format. (Would it be able to use Microsoft’s
Active Directory for patron information, if UMUC implements it??)
o The system has the “push” capability of sending targeted e-mails.
o It may be possible to keep library transactions separate from other
University transactions by setting up a separate “instance” for the
o The system integrates with Microsoft Office products.
o May be able to integrate with future call center technology.
o LSSI chat sessions would need to be logged manually, but future
integration with LSSI’s chat service may be possible (depending on
Cost: If the library were to set up this CRM independently (not
“piggybacked” on a UMUC installation), the cost estimate was $15,000 to
$20,000 ($30,000 maximum).
Preliminary evaluation: If UMUC as an institution implements this
product, it may very well meet the needs of the library. We would want to
ensure that our needs are taken into consideration when the product gets
customized for UMUC. More concrete information is needed for a full
evaluation. If UMUC does not buy this product, it may be too expensive
for the library to buy on its own.
This product was designed specifically for library reference by a company called
Altarama and is available through LSSI. There is a lite version which we will get
when we implement LSSI’s Virtual Reference ToolKit. The full version is
described in this report and offers much more in terms of functionality and
PROS: This product was initially intended for library reference, so it would
not need a lot of customization to make it usable for us.
o E-mail can go directly into the system if patrons use the online
o LSSI chat sessions are integrated.
o Can record, characterize and track reference transactions with a
rich set of data.
o When patrons submit questions online, they can check the status of
their question online.
o Good reference statistics would be readily available.
o Librarians can determine which questions go into the
knowledgebase, and the knowledgebase can be made available to
patrons on the Web.
o We can customize the system ourselves, defining the look and feel,
as well as levels of staff permissions.
o Can be used to manage ILL requests. (I have not investigated this
o Staff at LSSI (who will be providing 24/7 reference service) would
o Not sure whether patron data includes as much information as we
would like. Patron data may not be searchable (but this may be
available in a future version).
o Although e-mail submitted via online question form is captured
automatically, e-mail going directly to email@example.com (bypassing
the form) cannot be integrated at present. This feature may be
available two releases from now.
o At present, system cannot accept data from ADAM or PeopleSoft.
A later version may be able to link to an external patron file (e.g.,
output from ADAM or PeopleSoft). For now, patrons input their
own contact information when they chat or fill out the online
question form. Data for other patrons (not coming in through chat
or the online question form) would need to be entered by librarians.
o Calendar function is not currently available, but a separate product
called ScheduleSource can work with the CRM.
o Currently not able to integrate with call center technology, but this
may be considered in future releases.
Cost: Current cost is $3000 per year per seat (we may need only one
active “seat”, possibly two), with a one-time $6000 set up fee (which
includes training). (We may get a break on the set up fee if we already
have the LSSI chat service.) If the system were installed on server at IT
(instead of letting LSSI host it), there would be additional setup and
Preliminary evaluation: This product appears to have what we want in
terms of the kind of information it tracks and reports. However, capturing
the data would be problematic, as the system cannot currently integrate
with our e-mail system or accept data from ADAM. If future releases
allow integration with Microsoft Outlook (for e-mail) and interaction with an
external source for patron data (e.g. Adam or PeopleSoft output files),
then it may be well worth considering. The product is fairly new and may
need time to “ripen.”
Summary of Options:
See attached spreadsheet (crm_comparison.xls).
As of this writing, there are many unknowns. My recommendation is that when
IT makes a decision about which CRM to implement for UMUC, we do a more in-
depth evaluation of that particular system. If it can be tweaked by IT to meet our
needs, then we can “piggyback” on it. While UMUC is in the process of
evaluating different CRM packages, it would behoove us to make sure that our
needs remain on IT’s “radar screen”.
If it turns out that the CRM finally chosen by UMUC does not meet our needs, we
may then investigate alternatives. LSSI’s RefTracker could be re-evaluated later
on, if future versions are able to integrate e-mail and patron data from ADAM or
PeopleSoft. When the library implements LSSI’s chat service, the RefTracker
Lite version will be available as part of the package. We should examine it and
think of ways that we could use the full-blown version. We may even want to try
a small pilot study of the Lite version if, once we’ve seen it, we think it may be
Sources for information in this report included:
Brandt, D. S. (2002). Automating Your IT Help Desk. Computers in Libraries, March 2002,
Hurley, H. (1999). Making the Internet Work for Customer Care. Telephony, February 22,
Conversations with Bobbie Dugger (Network Support Engineer at UMUC) and other UMUC
staff, regarding GoldMine.
Product literature for Microsoft CRM and conversation with Mikah Sellers (sales rep).
Product literature for LSSI RefTracker and conversation with Linda Arret (consultant).