How APIs Work and Can Help My Business

PHP coding on laptop

You are starting to hear the term more frequently – API. But what exactly is an API?

API, short for Application Programming Interface, is an intermediary that allows two separate applications to communicate with each other. It is a bridge that allows data to pass from one system to another. With an API, you can allow two different systems with two entirely different technology platforms to exchange information. 

Users don’t see the API – they simply see the web interface. Some values of an API allows for organizations to decrease development, increase functionality, provide additional features, and simplify an experience for users.  API’s are commonly used by many applications, including some you may be using today. 

Examples:

  • Using a multi-hotel booking site – The site that users land on aggregates availability of several hotels. This happens through an API that connects to each specific hotel’s reservation database. The request occurs from a web interface that we see, then that request passes through a bridge, calling out the data from the hotel’s system. In short, an API can access information from one source and present it in another interface.

  • Online shopping – Amazon has an API that allows other websites to allow purchases directly on their site, while the API transfers the information to and from Amazon.

Below are examples of business challenges and how an API provides value. 

Challenge 1: 

Do you use multiple systems to complete a business workflow? 
Let’s take a look at the Sales Cycle and how an API can allow different systems to connect to each other, offering a sales agent an improved experience. 

A basic CRM feature manages customer data and provides the functionality to update and notate customer activities and update the general status of the buying process. A feature that would enhance a sales user’s experience would be to bring telephony features to a CRM. This would enable a direct calling function which allows calls to originate directly from the CRM. A simple click on the phone number within a CRM versus dialing on a phone pad is a time saver. However, most CRM’s don’t come out of the box with telephony: IVR or CTI functionality. Other features may include the ability to record phone calls directly on the CRM’s customer history log, which helps manage your team’s service quality, as well as support future training endeavors. 

Two applications like a CRM and telephony application can be connected together through an API. This type of integration provides great value.

  • Consolidated applications for convenience

  • Increased feature sets to optimize production

  • Time savings for the users.

  • Cost savings to the company. While the efforts to create an API would require investment, the cost by comparison to develop an application with this full suite of features in one software is considerably less.

Challenge 2:

Many businesses have the need to provide customers with limited data through a portal that aligns with their users’ typical needs. A business can create a custom web portal that has limited CRM access which will allow their customers to view relevant data. Through this custom portal, customers can see specific information and interact with limited transactions. This web portal pulls the relevant data from the CRM through an API. Common examples include: medical patient portals, subscription management portals, membership portals, etc. 

Values include:

  • Improved customer messaging. Branded front interfaces can be modified to suit the right content purpose for the user.

  • Flexibility. A custom portal through an API can provide additional flexibility for scaling organizations that need to account for a growing user base.

  • Extension of functionality – through the custom portal, many features that may not be offered in the CRM system can be created within the custom portal. This allows businesses to extend what they can offer to customers and identify processes they can streamline.

Many CRM’s today, like Salesforce, Zoho, Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle, and Hubspot, offer an API that encourages inter-connectivity with other software, allowing a business to expand upon out of the box functionality.

Historically, building a powerful software that allows a business to run like a well-oiled machine required complex custom software, taking time and money to build from scratch. Today, bridging functionalities of different systems through an API has allowed businesses small and large to power up their operations. With over 15,000 publicly available APIs, options are vast to allow you to streamline your operations.

While this all sounds like a walk in the park, API uses and implementations can have varying levels of difficulty. Before jumping the gun and connecting various systems to your live software, be sure to get a deeper understanding of what it takes to build an API. Many considerations should be taken before implementing an API integration initiative and talking to a professional CRM consultant is highly advised. 

If you have any questions or inquiries related to CRMs or integrations, we are happy to help.

Megan Dailey