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Compare Customer Relationship Management Software

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Jay Ivey, Market Research Associate
Last updated: October 31, 2014

Top 10 Most Recommended Customer Relationship Management Systems

 
Salesforce.com Salesforce.com is the market leader among cloud-based CRM providers. They serve a wide range of industries and business sizes. Because the system is Web-based, users can access this powerful solution anywhere with Internet access.
        80 Reviews
 Price
 Demo

816

Recommendations
in the last 30 days
InfusionSoft Built for small- and medium-sized sales and marketing teams, Infusionsoft offers tools for managing customer relationships from contact to conversion. They serve users in a variety of industries from health care to hospitality.
        50 Reviews
 Price
 Demo

511

Recommendations
in the last 30 days
NetSuite CRM+ NetSuite CRM+ provides a breadth of features for increasing sales, marketing and support efficiency. Managers can closely monitor performance and forecast future sales, while fine-tuning processes for maximum efficiency.
        4 Reviews
 Price
 Demo

131

Recommendations
in the last 30 days
LeadMaster Lead Management An industry contender since 1998, LeadMaster is an extremely comprehensive, fluid sales lead management software, offering an arsenal of web-based solutions for sales force automation, lead tracking, and more.
        15 Reviews
 Price
 Demo

80

Recommendations
in the last 30 days
Propertybase Propertybase is a Real Estate-specific Customer Relationship Management solution. Web-based, it is powered by Salesforce, and integrates with hundreds of existing services and apps.
        2 Reviews
 Price
 Demo

75

Recommendations
in the last 30 days
 

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Salesforce.com Service Cloud Built on the powerful Salesforce1 Platform, Service Cloud is a robust and user-friendly customer service solution that allows companies to engage customers and deliver exemplary customer service from anywhere.
       0 Reviews
 Price
 Demo

71

Recommendations
in the last 30 days
Zendesk Used by over 20,000 global companies, Zendesk has made a name for itself as a sophisticated, yet simple web-based help desk solution.
        14 Reviews
 Price
 Demo

64

Recommendations
in the last 30 days
Hatchbuck Hatchbuck is an all-in-one sales and marketing software for small to midsize companies; it combines email marketing, CRM and marketing automation. Sales and marketing teams can effortlessly manage contacts and email campaigns.
        13 Reviews
 Price
 Demo

61

Recommendations
in the last 30 days
Freshdesk Freshdesk simplifies customer support by centralizing all customer interactions into a single, affordable, web-based solution. Phone calls, emails, web chats and even social media outreach is fully supported in this solution.
        17 Reviews
 Price
 Demo

56

Recommendations
in the last 30 days
SalesOutlook CRM SalesOutlook CRM was designed to build upon the practicality and familiarity of the Microsoft Outlook platform. The system integrates easily with Constant Contact, providing an efficient way to create an ideal email campaign.
       0 Reviews
 Price
 Demo

50

Recommendations
in the last 30 days
 
 


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Buyer's Guide

Customer relationship management (CRM) is the process of managing an organization’s interactions throughout the entire customer life cycle. CRM software applications support the automation of these processes and best practices.

An Overview of CRM Software

CRM systems vary widely in capabilities, pricing and underlying technology, from basic contact management to sophisticated enterprise suites for sales, service and marketing, to platforms that foster customer connections. Moreover, the market includes industry-specific CRM solutions (e.g., real estate or pharmaceutical sales) and best-of-breed solutions for specific CRM functions (e.g., field service or help desk).

We developed this guide to complement our CRM reviews. The following sections will help potential purchasers find the best customer relationship management software package for their business:

Here’s what we’ll cover:

What Is CRM Software?
CRM Software UserView Survey
CRM in Action: A Use Case
Common Features of CRM Software
Market Trends to Understand
Pricing: Web-Based vs. On-Premise
Recent Events You Should Know About

What Is CRM Software?

The primary purpose of CRM software, sometimes known as contact management software, is to consolidate customer information into one repository, so users can better organize and manage relationships. Additionally, these applications automate common processes and provide tools for monitoring performance and productivity. Systems vary, but the best CRM software will include at least the following four core functions:

Customer data management. Most products provide a searchable database to store customer information (such as contact information) and relevant documents (such as sales proposals and contracts).

Interaction tracking. These systems document conversations held by phone, in person, through email or other channels. These interactions can be logged manually, or automated with phone and email system integrations. Depending on the product, some systems can also track interactions on Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms.

Workflow automation. This standardizes business processes, usually through a combination of task lists, calendars, alerts and templates. Once a task is checked off as complete, for example, the system might automatically set a task for the next step in the process.

Reporting. Management can use these CRM tools to track performance and productivity based on activities logged in the CRM system—for instance, how many new contacts were added to the database that day, or how much revenue was generated. These tools can also be used for forecasting, such as for the next-quarter sales pipeline.

CRM Software UserView Survey

Which CRM systems are companies using? What are their benefits and challenges? Take our survey and view the survey results in real-time. Click here to take our survey.

CRM in Action: A Use Case

Let’s say you currently store customer contact information in Excel spreadsheets, appointments in a calendar and files in Dropbox, Google Drive or another document management tool. When someone calls, you have to toggle between each of these tools to figure out whether they’re a prospect or existing customer. Worse, you don’t immediately know if they’ve spoken to anyone else in your company. Past interactions might be trapped in someone’s inbox, paper notes or only in employees' memories.

Depending on where this caller is in the customer life cycle, not having this information in one place can lengthen their time to conversion, limit return sale possibilities or slow issue resolution.

If you had automation software in this scenario, you could simply pull up that account and see every meeting, phone or email conversation you or your team has ever had with that person, as well as past agreements and marketing materials sent. You might also see, for example, a contract attached to that opportunity that’s awaiting signature and a task for one of your sales reps to follow up. So you transfer the call.

Sage_Act_Dashboard

A contact profile in Sage ACT!

After the sales rep hangs up with the contact, he might close the task to follow up, then pick the next step in the process from a dropdown menu: “Did they return the contract?” The due date for this task is set for the next day, when the rep will receive an alert to follow up if the agreement isn’t returned.

You can see how this alternative scenario increases efficiency and productivity. And it prevents important activities from falling through the cracks. Managers benefit, too, by having ready access to reports that show key performance metrics and progress toward goals.

Sage_Saleslogix_Dashboard

Reporting dashboard in Sage SalesLogix

This scenario described core functionality, but these technologies are also widely used in a broad range of CRM applications. Below is a brief explanation of each of these application types.

Common Features of CRM Software

Marketing automation Lead management (including tools for lead generation, scoring and nurturing), email and event marketing, landing pages, Web and marketing analytics tools and campaign management.
Sales force automation Contact and opportunity management, workflow automation, territory management, sales forecasting, pipeline analysis and reporting.
Customer service & support Trouble ticketing, knowledge management and knowledge base systems, self-service solutions, case management, live chat and surveys.
Field service management Dispatching, scheduling, invoicing, inventory management and order management.
Call center automation Call routing, recording and monitoring; load balancing, call list management, autodialing, scripting, computer telephony integration (CTI) and interactive voice response (IVR).
Help desk automation Trouble ticketing, knowledge management, self-service, IT asset management, network management, service level agreement (SLA) management and remote control.
Channel management Lead and contact management, partner portals, partner relationship management and market development funds management.

Market Trends to Understand

As you compare CRM software, it’s important you keep the following industry trends in mind. For a summary of recent trends among buyers, check out the results of our 2013 BuyerView report. Below is a summary of other recent industry trends.

Social CRM. The biggest trend is the convergence of customer relationship management and social networking technologies, loosely referred to as “Social CRM.” In fact, five top industry analysts recently predicted this trend as having the biggest impact on how customer tracking software programs evolves.

Today, this intersection of social and client management software can be as simple as adding Facebook data to customer profiles. Or it can be more complex, with niche social media analytics products that tap into social APIs and generate leads, mine for customer sentiment or traffic and prioritize social customer service requests.

Radian6_Social_Dashboard

An example of a social media stream with contact details from Radian6

Mobile CRM. Mobile applications for customer relationship management are becoming increasingly sophisticated and popular. These tools don’t just port functions to a mobile interface—top CRM software vendors will offer apps that leverage the unique capabilities of mobile devices, such as GPS and voice (click here for a more detailed description of common iPad CRM features).

An outside sales rep could, for example, pull up a map of their current location and see pinpoints for accounts in that area. Or, a customer service rep might have the ability to speak a query into their mobile app, rather than try and type everything out on a tiny smartphone keyboard.

Pricing: Web-Based vs. On-Premise

In 1999, Salesforce.com entered the market as the first major player in the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) CRM space. Today, a majority of CRM products—particularly those built for small businesses—are now SaaS solutions, though on-premise options still exist. The deployment method you choose should be a key consideration when conducting your CRM software comparison. Pricing between these two models usually (but not always) differs in the following ways:

  • Cloud-based software, also called Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), is typically priced on a subscription basis determined by the number of “seats” (sales reps, support agents, field technicians etc. who need to access the software). This type of software is housed off-site on servers managed by the software company. Because the software is delivered in a Web-browser, it can be a great option for Mac-based offices. For additional details on Mac CRM options, visit this guide.
  • On-premise customer management systems usually require purchasing a perpetual license upfront, with no recurring subscription cost. But users might also pay additionally for upgrades, customizations or maintenance. This software is housed on the buyers’ servers.

Recent Events You Should Know About

Customer relationship management systems have come a long way since the ‘90s. Here are several recent events in CRM history:

Salesforce.com raising $1 billion with offering. Salesforce.com announced plans to offer $1 billion in long-term convertible debt, with the option to raise another $150 million. The sum is likely to pay for another round of acquisitions. In recent years, Salesforce.com snapped up two companies for its “Marketing cloud:” social listening software Radian6, and social campaign firm Buddy Media. The move closely follows Oracle’s acquisition of marketing automation vendor Eloqua.

Sage sells CRM product lines. Accounting software veteran Sage announced plans to move closer to its core business by selling Sage ACT! and SalesLogix. Email marketing firm Swiftpage purchased the lines for a reported $101.2 million. Sage acquired the companies in 2001 when it purchased Interact Commerce for $260 million.



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