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Luke Wallace, Market Research Associate
Last updated: June 30, 2015

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.
        1294 Reviews
 Price
 Demo

712

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.
        161 Reviews
 Price
 Demo

306

Recommendations
in the last 30 days
ProsperWorks CRM ProsperWorks is a cloud-based CRM tool built to manage customer interactions through direct integration with email accounts. The program helps users view sales pipelines and track previous calls, messages and meetings.
        1 Review
 Price
 Demo

174

Recommendations
in the last 30 days
Base Base CRM is a full-featured web-based solution that allows B2B and B2C sales professionals in many industries to work on the go. It features native apps for most mobile devices and a straightforward price structure.
        7 Reviews
 Price
 Demo

116

Recommendations
in the last 30 days
Bullhorn CRM Bullhorn CRM is a comprehensive tool to help service-based companies manage their sales and marketing automation efforts. The system can help reduce or eliminate redundant data entry, is mobile friendly and offers an open API.
        6 Reviews
 Price
 Demo

98

Recommendations
in the last 30 days
 

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PipelineDeals PipelineDeals is a cloud-based CRM solution offering contact management and sales force automation functionality to meet the needs of most B2B sales teams without the addition of excessive options or unused features.
        33 Reviews
 Price
 Demo

90

Recommendations
in the last 30 days
Snapforce CRM Snapforce is an end-to-end customer relationship management (CRM) solution for companies of most sizes and industries. It automatically records all phone interactions, from both office phones and mobile devices.
       0 Reviews
 Price
 Demo

81

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.
        56 Reviews
 Price
 Demo

55

Recommendations
in the last 30 days
CXM CXM is a fully customizable customer relationship management (CRM) solution designed for small businesses, service-based businesses and medical practices, while providing enterprise-level security and support.
        5 Reviews
 Price
 Demo

41

Recommendations
in the last 30 days
Infor CRM (formerly Saleslogix) Infor CRM provides a complete view of contacts and interactions across user organizations. Buyers can use this CRM to increase efficiency as they identify prospects, deliver care, acquire customers and manage relations.
       0 Reviews
 Price
 Demo

39

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 in Action: A Use Case
Common Functionality 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 live chat, 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 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.

Swiftpage_Act_Dashboard

A contact profile in Swiftpage 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.

Infor CRM Welcome

Reporting dashboard in Infor CRM

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 Functionality of CRM Software

When comparing CRM software solutions, it’s important to understand the functionality included in each. The most common functions in this type of software are listed in the table below:

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. 

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 have 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

Salesforce launches Salesforce1 for Retail. In June 2014, Salesforce announced the release of Salesforce1 for Retail, a new CRM platform tailored to the needs of the retail industry. The platform includes tools to address the evolving needs of retailers, including multi-channel support, social media integration and real-time inventory levels.

Microsoft acquires Parature. In January 2014, Microsoft Corp. announced it had reached an agreement to acquire Parature, a leading cloud-based CRM solution. Parature will join the Microsoft Dynamics family of customer engagement software, bringing with it industry-recognized knowledge-base management, self-service and social support tools.

Zoho announces release of new platform. In October 2014, leading CRM vendor Zoho Corporation announced the release of a new CRM platform, Zoho CRM Plus. This new suite of tools focuses on multi-channel integration and promises to provide “insight, context and information throughout the entire customer life cycle.”



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