FrontRunners quadrants highlight the top software products for North American small businesses. All products in the quadrant are top performers. Small businesses can use FrontRunners to make more informed decisions about what software is right for them.
To create this quadrant, we evaluated over 1,000 Customer Relationship Management Management products. Those with the top scores for their capability and value made the quadrant.
Scores are based largely on reviews from real software users, along with other product performance details (e.g., what features they offer, how many customers they have).
Every product in this quadrant offers a balance of capability (how much the products can do) and value (whether they’re worth their price/cost) that makes them stand out in the race for small business software success.
FrontRunners has four sub-quadrants:
Depending on the specific needs of a software buyer, a product in any of these sub-quadrants could be a good fit.
Why? To be considered for the Customer Relationship Management FrontRunners, a product needed a minimum of 20 user reviews, a minimum capability user rating score of 4.0 and a minimum value user rating score of 4.0. In most cases, we evaluate hundreds of products and feature 20-25 as FrontRunners; all products that qualify as FrontRunners are top performing products in their market.
For some buyers, a specific FrontRunners sub-quadrant might be best. For example, a CRM product in the Leaders quadrant may feature a robust set of contact management functions that will be applicable to a broad array of businesses, while a product in the Contenders quadrant might focus more specifically on one capability, such as interaction tracking.
You can download the full FrontRunners for Customer Relationship Management report here. It contains individual scorecards for each product on the Frontrunners quadrant.
You can find the full FrontRunners methodology here, but the gist is that products are scored in two areas, Capability and Value.
To be considered at all, products must have at least 20 reviews and meet minimum user rating scores. They also have to offer a core set of functionality—for example, all CRM products must feature contact management, interaction tracking and lead management capability, as well as some combination of email campaign support, workflow automation, forecasting/reporting, call center management and/or customer support.
From there, user reviews and other product performance details, such as the product's customer base and the features it offers, dictate the Capability and Value scores. Capability is plotted on the x-axis, and Value is plotted on the y-axis.
For more information about FrontRunners, check out the following:
Have questions about how to choose the right product for you? You’re in luck! Every day, our team of advisors provides (free) customized shortlists of products to hundreds of small businesses.
Check out the FrontRunners External Usage Guidelines when referencing FrontRunners content. Except in digital media with character limitations, the following disclaimer MUST appear with any/all FrontRunners reference(s) and graphic use:
FrontRunners scores and graphics are derived from individual end-user reviews based on their own experiences, vendor-supplied information and publicly available product information; they do not represent the views of Gartner or its affiliates.
Providers listed as Runners Up were considered for inclusion in the quadrant, but were ultimately not included for one or more reasons: they did not have enough reviews; they did not meet the reviews score minimum; they did not meet the ultimate Value and Capability minimum scores; or they did not meet our functionality requirements for the market.
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. Watch the 60-second video below to see CRM software functions and benefits in action.
Note: This page focuses on general CRM systems. If you're looking for customer service-oriented software, check out our guide here.
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?
A Comparison of Top CRM Solutions
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
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). While most general CRMs offer this functionality, it can also be incorporated into other industry-specific systems. For example, customer management is a core component of salon management software, which is described in more detail here.
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.
There are many popular CRM solutions on the market, and it can be hard to understand what distinguishes one product from another and which is right for you. To help you better understand how the top CRM systems stack up against one another, we created a series of side-by-side product comparison pages that break down the details of what each solution offers in terms of pricing, applications, ease of use, support and more:
Top Infusionsoft Comparisons
Top Hubspot Comparisons
Top Marketo Comparisons
Top Pipedrive CRM Comparisons
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.
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.
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.
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 Integration||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, customer experience platforms, 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.|
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.
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.
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:
Everstone acquires C3. In October 2016, Indian equity fund Everstone Capital, along with co-investor Sunrise BPO, acquired US-based CRM solutions provider C3 (Customer Contact Channels) in a deal worth USD 150 million.
Freshdesk acquires Pipemonk. In January 2017, major CRM vendor Freshdesk bought Bangalore-based startup Pipemonk (which helps companies move data between cloud platforms) for an undisclosed amount.
Gartner notes CRM software market grew 12.3 percent. In May 2016, Julian Pouter, research director at Gartner, noted that the greater than 30 notable CRM acquisitions from 2015 had led to a 12.3 percent growth in the market.
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