Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software
Best Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software
- Top Rated Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software include: Nimble, Base CRM, Workbooks, Sage CRM, Pega Customer Engagement Suite, Pipedrive, Salesforce, Insightly, HubSpot CRM, WORKetc, and Oracle Sales Cloud.
- Other Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software on the TrustMap include: Zoho CRM, Oracle CRM, Infusionsoft, Agile CRM, Bullhorn CRM, NetSuite CRM+, Microsoft Dynamics 365, SAP CRM, and SugarCRM.
- A complete list of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software is available here.
TrustMaps are two-dimensional charts that compare products based on satisfaction ratings and research frequency by prospective buyers. Products must have 25 or more ratings to appear on this TrustMap, and those above the median line are considered Top Rated.
Customer Relationship Management Overview
What is CRM Software?
Customer relationship management (CRM) is a business strategy that stresses good ongoing relationships with customers. It holds that maintaining these relationships drives growth and profitability. There are two core elements of this customer-centric strategy:
Presenting a unified face to the customer
Providing a seamless customer experience
CRM software can help by synchronizing customer communications among business units. Sales, marketing and customer service can all get on the same page. It’s a system of record for touch points throughout the customer lifecycle.With CRM tools companies can track, automate, analyze and optimize customer interactions. At the core is a database of contact information and interaction history for each individual customer.
Customer Relationship Management Features and Capabilities
In general, customer relationship management technology provides the following sets of capabilities:
Customer Data Management
CRM software collects and organizes customer data. This includes contact information and interactions via email, phone, web chat and social media.
Sales Force Automation
CRM software helps streamline and automate certain sales-related duties. These tasks may include:
Creation of quotes
Updating contact information
Evaluating employee performance
Many CRM software products include some marketing automation features. Others integrate with dedicated marketing automation products. Some features to look for include:
Landing page creation
Customer Service & Support
CRM software products often provide customer support-related features. Many also integrate with standalone customer support software (i.e. help desks and call center software). Customer support features may include:
Customer support portals
Additional Features & Considerations
Some CRM software products also offer project management and social media management capabilities.
Additional considerations when evaluating CRM software include:
Deployment type (on-premise vs. hosted)
Security and privacy
Ease of integration
Benefits of Using a CRM System
CRM systems hold a number of benefits for both small businesses and enterprises. When implemented properly, CRM can:
Create a single storehouse for customer data
Provide greater visibility into sales, marketing and customer service processes
Help optimize customer communications
Shorten sales cycles
Improve customer retention
Help companies understand and address the needs of customers
Increase customer satisfaction
Increase operational efficiency
Free up employees to focus on customer interactions
CRMs are usually sales-focused. But there are benefits for marketing as well. Marketers usually store their leads in a CRM system, and often help with database management. Integration with marketing automation, CMS, and eCommerce platforms can improve marketing campaigns. Information in the CRM helps marketers target their messages sent through these systems to the right people. These communications can then be tracked within the CRM. They may also use the CRM to report on marketing goals, like lead engagement and leads passed to sales. Having a shared database can help align sales and marketing efforts as well.
All-in-one marketing tools typically include both CRM and marketing automation functionality. They often also have content management, SEO, social marketing and eCommerce capabilities. These tools are aimed at small businesses looking for basic features. Larger companies tend to favor a best-of-breed approach, integrating their CRM,marketing automation, and other systems.
CRM software is usually priced by user on a monthly subscription model. Price per user depends on the extent of the features you are looking for. Subscriptions can start as low as $12/mo. per user for small businesses. Enterprise level tools rise to hundreds of dollars per user per month. This tier typically has more automation, reporting, integrations, and customer support features.
Excerpts from TrustRadius Buyer's Guide to CRM Software
Customer relationship management can refer to both a business strategy and a software system. The CRM philosophy assumes that the best way for an organization to increase sales and profitability is by focusing on relationships with customers. This customer-centric view can help businesses better understand and address customer needs and wants, thus optimizing the sales cycle and improving customer conversion, satisfaction, retention, and loyalty.
A critical part of a CRM strategy involves providing a seamless customer experience and presenting a unified face to the customer. Most businesses enlist the help of technology to track, automate, analyze, and optimize customer interactions throughout the sales lifecycle, from prospect to lead to purchase to renewal or upsell.
The technology can help unify and coordinate all customer-facing functions, including sales, marketing and customer service, and should provide a single source of truth for all customer data. Because it touches all customer-facing functions, CRM software is essentially a technology system that helps businesses identify, nurture, convert and retain customers
CRM software began as contact management software, allowing for efficient storage and access to customer contact data. It evolved into sales force automation software, which in addition to contact management, helped to automate certain business tasks, thus improving employee efficiency and providing a more consistent sales process. Sales force automation software then evolved and expanded into the CRM software of today, which includes several feature sets and involves multiple business functions.
CRM software is designed to compile and organize customer data, including interactions across multiple business units and multiple channels, such as email, telephone, live chat, social media, and direct mail. Having a unified repository for customer data is critical in providing a seamless customer experience. For example, if a customer has just interacted with customer support because of a critical product bug, a sales rep needs to factor that experience into a renewal outreach. On the positive side, a salesperson can use interaction histories to better tailor an upsell pitch.
CRM features related to customer data management include:
- Ability to find and merge duplicate contacts
- Ability to upload/import contacts from a previous system
- Auto-population of fields
- Interaction logging and tracking
- Integration with email clients (e.g., Outlook and Gmail)
- Integration with social profile data and interaction histories
Sales force automation involves streamlining many of the tasks involved in the sales process. Tasks that might be automated include sending emails, creating price quotes, tracking opportunities, updating contact information, and sales forecasting and reporting. Other tasks involved in sales force automation might include processing orders, monitoring inventory, and evaluating employee performance, though those functionalities are more likely to exist by integrating the CRM with other software products such as accounting, ERP, and HR systems.
Sales force automation can help increase employee efficiency, as well as standardize (and optimize) the sales process.
CRM features related to sales force automation include:
- Workflow automation
- Territory management
- Quota management
- Opportunity management
- Sales forecasting
- Pipeline visualization
- Sales reporting
- Activity management and logging
- Contract management
- Product & price list management
- Quote management
- Order management (through integration with accounting software)
- Calendar management
- Interaction tracking
- Channel / partner relationship management
Marketing automation involves streamlining certain marketing processes, allowing marketers to provide prospects with a more targeted, personalized experience at scale. Many organizations use a standalone marketing automation software product such as HubSpot or Marketo, often integrating it with their CRM system; however, many CRM systems provide some basic marketing automation functionalities.
CRM features related to marketing automation include:
- Email marketing & triggered emails
- List management
- Lead management, including lead generation, scoring, qualification, routing and nurturing
- Creation and customization of landing pages & web forms
- Event marketing
- Marketing analytics
This component of CRM software helps automate and streamline customer service activities, such as help desk, call center and field service management. As with marketing automation, some companies use standalone software solutions for these capabilities such as Zendesk or Desk.com, often integrating them into the CRM system; however, CRM software also provides some of this functionality.
CRM features related to customer service & support include:
- Knowledge base
- Customer support portal
- Case management
- Live chat
- Call center management
- Help desk management
- Field service management
- Support analytics
This component of CRM software helps users initiate, plan, collaborate on, execute, track and close projects. As with marketing automation and customer service, some companies use standalone software products for project management, such as Basecamp or Clarizen. However, some CRM software products also natively offer project management features. Some, such as WORK[etc], are more focused on project management.
CRM features related to project management include:
- Time sheets
- Task management
- Billing and invoicing management
- Social collaboration
- Workflow and approval processes
This component of CRM software helps companies leverage social media channels in engaging with customers. It can involve both pulling data from social profiles for inclusion in the contact record, as well as facilitating engagement with customers via social channels. Again, the CRM system might offer some of these features natively, or integrate with standalone social media management software products. Some products specialize in Social CRM, such as Nimble.
CRM features related to social CRM include:
- Social profile data integration
- Social media interaction tracking
- Social media monitoring
- Sentiment tracking and analysis
- Social media engagement
Because maintaining a unified face to the customer is a key component of the CRM strategy, many CRM software tools also facilitate internal collaboration among different users and business departments.
CRM features related to collaboration include:
- Group discussions
- Task assignments
In addition to the above sets of capabilities, there are other factors to consider when selecting a CRM system.
On-premise (technically, “on-premises”) software is installed and run on a company's own computers or servers. It typically involves an upfront purchase of the software and infrastructure, plus ongoing maintenance. Some potential advantages of an on-premise CRM software solution include enhanced security, more control over the data, more customization options, and offline access to data.
Traditionally, on-premise licensed software was the most common deployment model for CRM software products, but the cloud deployment model has become pervasive. This is also known as Software-as-a-Service, hosted, or on-demand software. In this case, the software vendor hosts all the data on its own servers, and the company rents the software, usually on a per-month/per-user basis. Users access and manipulate the data via web application. Typically, hosted CRM software involves lower upfront costs, less time to implement, and greater usability.
Hosted CRM software can be either single- or multi-tenant. Single-tenant means that each of the vendor's servers contains one organization's data. Multi-tenant means that computing resources (servers, databases, etc.) are shared among many different organizations. Multi-tenant software saves on hardware and energy costs and allows for greater backups and redundancy. However, the cost per API call tends to be higher for multi-tenant software, as a high volume of API calls from one organization affects the performance of the software for other “tenants.” Also, the data from a multi-tenant CRM solution might not be as easily transferable (when switching solutions) as with a single-tenant solution.
The ability to turn data into insights is critical for a CRM system. Reporting and analytics should cover the various use cases of the CRM system, including sales, marketing and customer support. In general, the system should allow users to evaluate existing sales, marketing and support processes for the purposes of optimization. Reports and dashboards should be customizable.
This addresses an organization's ability to configure the CRM software to best fit its specific use cases and workflow. Factors that make a CRM system more customizable include the ability to create custom fields and custom objects, the existence of a scripting environment, and the availability of an API for custom integration.
Because CRM technology acts as a database for all customer information, it can be a central component of achieving and acting on a “360-degree view of the customer,” which is a key tenet to a customer-centric business strategy. Therefore, many organizations connect the CRM solution to other business technologies. For example, by sending CRM data into your marketing automation software, you can implement marketing campaigns that are more highly targeted and personalized. Importing data into the CRM tool can also be beneficial. For example, pulling in data from your web analytics tool can provide additional insights on each customer. Other integrations, such as CRM and enterprise resource planning (ERP), might increase operational efficiency by connecting customers in the CRM to orders, invoices and payments in the ERP.
Systems that organizations might want to integrate with the CRM software include marketing automation, ERP, business intelligence, social media management, content management, web conferencing, billing, accounting, document signing, email marketing, help desk, e-commerce, and sales intelligence.
Lack of user adoption is often the biggest obstacle to achieving the benefits of CRM. If no one is inputting data, then the software is useless. Therefore, the usability of the CRM solution is a factor that cannot be ignored. It should be relatively easy and intuitive for sales representatives, customer service professionals, and business managers to input data, access data, and run reports. The more resistant team members are to the concept of CRM, the easier to use the software needs to be.
Because CRM software is a repository for customer data, security is a concern for many organizations. Companies can help protect data integrity and privacy by using role-based authorization to give users access only to the data they need, and the ability to perform only the actions they need to perform. Multi-level authentication and single sign-on capability (a centralized authentication mechanism allowing the user to access multiple systems with a single, centrally managed password) also help reduce security risks.
Whether you're switching from another vendor, migrating from a homegrown solution, or you've been simply using spreadsheets, implementing CRM software can be resource intensive. It generally requires being very clear about your business processes, configuring the software to match those processes, and cleaning, organizing, and importing all of your data. As part of the TrustRadius review process, we ask end-users about their likelihood to continue using the software. One of the most common answers from CRM users is that, though they are unhappy with the product in some way, they will continue to renew because of the level of investment involved in setting up a CRM, and the difficulty of switching.
Ideally, a CRM software product should be able to grow with your organization. If you're planning on growing, you'll probably need more storage space, more API calls, and more users. Your sales process might also change as you expand, so your CRM software should be both flexible and scalable.
Many companies use a consultant or service provider to help implement a new CRM system and align it with business processes. One factor to consider is the availability of consultants or technical resources with expertise in the software, as well as the prevalence of online documentation and forums to provide further support.
A related factor is the availability of third-party apps, plug-ins and integrations, all of which help companies tailor their instance without a heavy reliance on technical resources.
In general, CRM software (when implemented correctly and widely adopted) promises to increase profitability by increasing sales, improving customer satisfaction, and increasing operational and employee efficiency.
Using a CRM can provide greater visibility into sales and marketing processes. This can help businesses optimize and shorten the sales cycle, increase customer retention, better take advantage of upselling and cross-selling opportunities, and increase sales force accountability.
By maintaining one repository of customer data, organizations can better understand their customers, better address their needs, and provide a more seamless customer experience across different touch points. This can also help keep customers or sales tasks from slipping through the cracks.
By automating certain business processes and providing a single source of truth, CRM software can help increase operational and employee efficiency. Users can access the data they need without sending emails or spreadsheets back and forth. CRM software can also help create a more consistent sales cycle, and make the sales process person-independent. For example, when account managers leave the company, the company has access to customer interaction data and a substitute can easily pick up where the original account manager left off.
In order to provide the benefits listed above, CRM software much be implemented and used properly. Every organization is different; however, the following are some common mistakes that organizations make when initiating a CRM program.
CRM is no different than other software categories. Thinking that the technology is a silver bullet will get you nowhere. Most experts advise that organizations establish and implement business processes before even thinking about a technology solution. Once the business processes are in place, finding and implementing the right solution is much easier. Otherwise, you might overpay for a solution that provides unnecessary functionality, or spend valuable resources implementing the solution sub-optimally.
This dovetails with the usability issue mentioned above. You can't reap any benefits from a CRM system that no one uses. It's important to consider the needs and the workflow of the sales representatives, marketing and customer service professionals that will be inputting data into the system above all others. Those users should be the first to experience the benefits of using the system, in order to encourage adoption. Features that make data insertion easy – such as the ability to sync data through your email inbox, and mobile access to the CRM – can also help facilitate adoption.
Implementing CRM can be a timely and costly initiative. One of the easiest ways to have a program fail is to try to do everything from the get-go – i.e., integrate the CRM with all other existing systems at once or utilize the most advanced features. It's best to prioritize a couple of initiatives, implement them and start to see the value before tackling other areas. Such ‘quick wins’ can help with user adoption.
The flipside to this pitfall is that a siloed CRM program won't be as successful as an organization-wide one. There is a delicate balance between trying to take on too much and being too limited.
Having clearly established business processes can help you avoid this pitfall. It's important to understand up front what kind of data needs to be collected, how it should be labeled and organized, and what the processes for updating or changing data are. This helps avoid problems like having multiple entries for the same entity. It's also important for your organization (and your software) to be flexible to change, because as your CRM program matures, you might discover data necessities that you didn't foresee. It's best to address these changes structurally rather than using manual work-arounds, which can lead to disorganized data down the road.
- The Best Customer Relationship Management Software
- GreenRope Ratings & User Feedback
- Infor CRM Ratings & User Feedback
- Insightly Ratings & User Feedback
- Microsoft Dynamics CRM Ratings & User Feedback
- NetSuite CRM Ratings & User Feedback
- Sage CRM Ratings & User Feedback
- Salesforce Ratings & User Feedback
- SAP CRM Ratings & User Feedback
- SugarCRM Ratings & User Feedback
- Workbooks Ratings & User Feedback
- WORK[etc] Ratings & User Feedback
- Zoho CRM Ratings & User Feedback
- Additional CRM Software Products to Consider
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Products
Insightly is an online CRM solution targeted at small and mid-sized businesses. Over 1.5 million worldwide small and mid-size business Insightly users build relationships, accelerate sales and deliver projects. It is the #1 Gmail, G Suite & Outlook CRM. According to the vendor, businesses use...
Salesforce is a web-based CRM application that enables users to forecast revenues and track leads. It is a leading sales, service, and marketing app. Salesforce.com's Sales (CRM), Service, Platform and Marketing applications are designed to help companies connect with customers, partners, and...
Infusionsoft is a small business-focused, comprehensive sales and marketing platform, which includes basic contact management, CRM, marketing automation and e-commerce capabilities into a single, subscription-based SaaS product. Functionality included in Infusionsoft's software includes: Automated...
The HubSpot CRM system connects to tools already in use. It integrates with Gmail, Google Calendar, Outlook for Windows, Apple Mail, and Google Drive. Deeply integrated with HubSpot Marketing & Sidekick - HubSpot CRM and HubSpot Marketing run off the same inbound database, meaning every piece...
Zoho CRM is a simple, very low-cost CRM option for the smaller end of the SMB segment. The product has several useful integrations with other products, including QuickBooks, and Google Apps and Google Docs. The product also has an integrated project management module.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a CRM system providing sales, marketing, and service (help desk) functionality. It is offered in two flavors: Online (competing directly with Salesforce) and on-premise. The Microsoft Dynamics family of business applications includes other related products for ERP and...
SugarCRM is an open-source CRM system designed for SMBs. The product has about 170,000 paid subscriptions and is growing fast. The product features strong marketing capabilities and is a fully-featured platform for a relatively low cost.
WORK[etc] is an all-in-one cloud-based business management system with integrated CRM, projects, billing, help desk, reporting, and collaboration. The system supports popular third-party apps such as Google Work for Business, Xero Accounting, Quickbooks, Outlook and Evernote.
LeadSquared is a marketing automation and CRM platform. It includes landing pages, email marketing, lead management, analytics, connectors, and WordPress Plugins.
Pipedrive is a customer relationship management (CRM) software built to help small teams to drive sales.
SAP is best known as an ERP vendor and their enterprise CRM product tends to be used by customers who are already using SAP's ERP other solutions. SAP CRM also includes marketing resource management (MRM) capabilities. SAP has recently combined SAP CRM with analytics, mobile, collaboration, and...
Bullhorn’s CRM software is a web-based solution built for companies that need to closely manage and nurture prospect and customer relationships. Bullhorn provides comprehensive CRM functionality whether the user is a consulting firm that needs relationship management insights and detailed...
NetSuite CRM is built on the same code base as the NetSuite ERP product and is usually used by customers who are already using NetSuite for ERP/Accounting.
Sage CRM is an SMB-oriented CRM platform offered in both SaaS and on-premise editions. Unlike the Sage SalesLogix product, the SaaS version is a true multi-tenant offering. The platform offers excellent integration with Sage ERP and accounting products. It is also a good global solution and is...
GreenRope aims to be a one-stop shop for sales, marketing, and operations. GreenRope includes advanced marketing automation capabilities, sales force automation, and a tool box of features to help manage and operate the business.GreenRope's CRM aims to help business owners, sales managers and...
Workbooks offers cloud-based CRM, marketing automation and business applications to the mid-market, at an affordable price. Workbooks extends beyond sales, marketing and customer support to include order management and fulfillment, invoicing and supplier management, and aims to offer a price which...
Really Simple Systems is a customer relationship management (CRM) software deployed via cloud with built-in features like email marketing.
Infor CRM delivers tools for individuals, teams, and companies focused on increasing sales performance and the insights to optimize sales, marketing, and service strategy and execution. Infor CRM provides sales teams with rich customer information from interactions and transactions across the...
Freshdesk is a SaaS based customer support software for businesses of all sizes. The vendor's value proposition is that Freshdesk is priced affordably, and is free forever for any number of agents. There are four other plans available that come with a whole lot of features. The vendor says...
Sparkcentral provides a cloud-based customer engagement platform that caters specifically to customer care teams within large enterprises, enabling them to deliver real-time social customer service. Sparkcentral's software generates profiles on every social customer, and ensures that the right...
ONTRAPORT offers customer relations management services that help with content management, such as creating and hosting webpages; lead tracking, which includes collecting customer data and behavior; traditional marketing approaches, such as e-mail, SMS, social media, and direct mail; managing...
Booker is a leading appointment scheduling, point-of-sale, and business management software that powers thousands of spas and salons worldwide. The software includes a complete suite of management tools, and provides integrated online booking, marketing, and more. Booker is completely web-based,...
Nimble is a social customer relationship management (CRM) system with features such as contact management and data-driven analytics.
FollowUp Power CRM for Construction is a customer relationship management system for the construction industry. Features include lead tracking, sales pipeline analysis, closing ratios, quota management, and dashboards.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Articles
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