Finding software can be overwhelming. Software Advice has helped many higher education institutions find the right CRM software to increase engagement and improve operations.

Showing 1-20 of 278 products

Zendesk Sell

Zendesk Sell (formerly Base) is the web and mobile-based customer relationship management application that allows B2B and B2C sales professionals to manage sales, track leads and engage proactively with customers from anywhere. The... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 128 recommendations

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Deployments: Cloud
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NetSuite CRM

NetSuite CRM+ is a cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) solution for small and midsize organizations. NetSuite caters to thousands of customers across a wide range of industries including wholesale distribution, manufacturing,... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 88 recommendations

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FreeAgent CRM

FreeAgent CRM delivers a next-gen work experience on a customizable cloud-based platform help teams unlock productivity and grow sales effortlessly.  Stay in the zone, with AI-guided selling. See only what you need when you need... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 60 recommendations

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Salesforce Sales Cloud

The Salesforce Sales Cloud is an on-demand CRM platform offering applications for small, midsize, and enterprise organizations, with a focus on sales and customer relationships. This Salesforce platform has CRM capabilities that include... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 46 recommendations

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Thryv

Thryv is an all-in-one business management solution designed to help small businesses with essential business functions. With Thryv, business owners can expand their online presence, improve any customer relationship, and streamline... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 38 recommendations

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Deployments: Cloud
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Claritysoft

Claritysoft is a cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) solution designed for midsize and large enterprise businesses. It offers sales automation, customer service and support, marketing automation and social CRM within... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 22 recommendations

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Shape

Shape's cloud-based solution offers tools designed to manage online marketing and promotions, capture leads from online sources, organize sales pipelines, connect with customers and automate everyday tasks. Shape is suitable for businesses... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 17 recommendations

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BenchmarkONE

BenchmarkONE (formerly Hatchbuck) is a sales and marketing solution designed for small to midsize businesses. The integrated solution offers combined sales automation, marketing automation and email marketing features. BenchmarkONE... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 16 recommendations

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Nutshell

Nutshell is a sneaky powerful cloud-based CRM and sales automation tool for small businesses. The Nutshell platform offers sales process and collaboration tools, email sync with Gmail and Outlook, fully customizable reporting, and... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 11 recommendations

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Sales Creatio

Creatio (formerly bpm’online) is a unique synergy of unified CRM and intelligent BPM platform for marketing, sales and service automation. The solution allows midsize and large companies to manage the customer lifecycle from lead... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 10 recommendations

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Deployments: CloudOn premise
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Akero

Designed and developed exclusively for student-specialist marketers and recruiters, Akero helps you improve marketing performance and increase student enrollments. It’s an easy-to-use, subscription-based platform that sits as an... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 8 recommendations

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Deployments: Cloud
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Zendesk

Zendesk is a cloud-based help desk management solution offering customizable tools to build customer service portal, knowledge base and online communities. The solution offers a customizable front-end portal, live chat features and... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 4 recommendations

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Deployments: Cloud
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Freshsales

Freshsales is a cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) solution that helps businesses across different industry verticals to manage their interactions with existing and potential customers. Key features include one-click... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 4 recommendations

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Really Simple Systems

Really Simple Systems CRM is a cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) system designed for small and midsize organizations. The solution comes in both free and paid editions. The free edition offers only sales force automation... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 3 recommendations

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Oracle Sales Cloud

Oracle Sales Cloud is a sales management application under Oracle’s umbrella of hosted customer experience (CX) products. An emphasis on modern interface design, simplified cloud-based implementation and a highly functional native... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 3 recommendations

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TeamSupport

TeamSupport is a business-to-business (B2B) support software solution designed to help companies resolve individual tickets while building stronger customer relationships. The solution goes beyond ticket management to streamline customer... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 2 recommendations

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Salesforce.com Service Cloud

Service Cloud from Salesforce is a cloud-based customer service management solution that is designed to initiate customer service activities from anywhere. Built on the Salesforce1 Platform, Service Cloud works to centralize and optimize... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 2 recommendations

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Quick Base CRM

Quick Base is an application development platform that enables people to build business applications without coding. The platform is cloud-based and accessible on any browser or mobile device. Users can build apps on Quick Base by... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 2 recommendations

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SolarWinds Service Desk

SolarWinds Service Desk is suitable for companies seeking a help desk solution that offers IT service management (ITSM) functionalities. SolarWinds Service Desk offers comprehensive service desk functionality that helps businesses... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 1 recommendations

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Vivantio

Vivantio is a service management solution that allows users to create custom processes that align with internal business operations. Key features of the solution include dashboards, charts and reports, routing, assignments and forms... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 1 recommendations

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Buyers guide

Customer relationship management (CRM) software is central to modern business. It helps maintain and organize all of a company's information on its relationships with customers and is the foundation for creating more valuable relationships.

But what about higher education institutions (HEIs)? They aren't "businesses" in the normal sense of the word. HEIs have a range of relationship types—with prospective students, enrolled students and graduates—that don't fit any of the standard business world's molds. So what exactly is higher education CRM software, and how are colleges and universities using it? Read on to find out!

What Is Higher Education CRM Software?
How Is CRM Different From Other Higher Education Software?
Common Features of Higher Education CRM Software
Key Considerations for Purchasing Higher Education CRM Software

What Is Higher Education CRM Software?

Higher Education CRM software, and CRM software in general, serves one overarching goal: to create more valuable customer relationships. This includes making existing relationships more valuable as well as creating new relationships to in turn create value.

In the business world, more value usually means simply more money. But few schools are entirely profit-driven, so what exactly does "creating value" really mean in the context of an HEI? It can mean:

  • Attracting new students and increasing enrollment
  • Increasing student engagement in school activities
  • Growing community involvement with school programs
  • Strengthening relationships with alumni and faculty
  • Improving relationships with donors and alumni

These are some of the broader goals of higher education CRM software. We'll discuss them, and the specific CRM applications used to meet them, in more detail below. Before doing that, however, it will be helpful to first distinguish CRM from the other software platforms used by institutions for higher learning.

How Is CRM Different From Other Higher Education Software?

There's no shortage of software designed for HEIs. Traditionally, the most common type used by learning institutions is called school administration software. Another commonly used term is "student information system." These systems are designed to manage the mission-critical aspects of school administration, such as:

  • The application process
  • Class enrollment and scheduling
  • Tuition invoicing and billing
  • Class attendance and student grading
  • Class credit and graduation requirements
  • Student and parent contact information

Screenshots of student-facing portals in STARS school management system

Example screenshots of student-facing portals in STARS school management system

As you can see, school administration software focuses on the nuts-and-bolts activities of school administration. It operates in relatively black-and-white contexts where, for example, a student is either enrolled or is not; a bill is either paid or is not; and classes are either attended or not.

Contrast this with HEI CRM software, which operates in the much larger and much less black-and-white areas of school administration. It can help schools in the following areas:

  • Finding and attracting applicants from different pools and groups
  • Improving course offerings to increase retainment and better meet student needs
  • Strengthening student and alumni relations to improve fundraising
  • Clearly communicating a school's mission statement and benefit to the community

Put another way, school administration software and HEI CRM systems are both used to manage information. While school administration software uses that information to facilitate the school's daily operations, HEI CRM uses it to improve relationships while working toward a school's larger strategic goals, such as those listed above.

Common Features of Higher Education CRM Software

Speaking very generally, most HEIs seek CRM software to improve their recruitment programs, improve communication (with students, parents, donors and the general public) and improve fundraising efforts by strengthening relationships with alumni.

To meet these goals, HEI CRM systems help with data collection and analysis and the launching and management of campaigns that are based on that data analysis. Features and applications that are commonly built into HEI CRM systems can include:

Email marketing Automate email campaigns, measure their performance and iteratively improve them based on data from previous campaigns.
Recruit management These tools manage the entire pipeline of new applicants and recruits, automating many of the steps in these lengthy processes.
Data integration tools These apps help integrate data from other systems (e.g., school management and student information systems) to improve the CRM and vice versa.
Social media apps Social media monitoring apps help school administrators keep track of relevant online discussions and help coordinate the school's responses.
Contact information management A core app in all CRM platforms, these databases ensure schools use the right details when reaching out to applicants, students and other interested parties.
Personalized communications Personalization tools help automate the above (and other) activities by helping schools customize communications based on a recipient's current status or success of previous communications.

While CRM as a type of software has been around for decades, only in the past five or so years have vendors begun tailoring it to the specific needs of higher education institutions. It's a relatively young market, and offerings vary greatly between vendors. HEIs looking for a system that includes CRM capabilities along with other features might be interested in higher education ERP systems.

Give our advisors a call at (844) 687-6771 if you need help determining which vendors offer which specific applications.

Key Considerations for Purchasing Higher Education CRM Software

Adoption: Single department or entire school? One lesson learned from the world of business is that CRM systems work best (and return the most value) when they're used by all of a company's customer-facing departments. Before a school begins the selection process, it should first have a clear understanding of how the system will be used across campus, not only in one isolated department.

Deployment. Cloud or on-premise? CRM software is typically offered as a cloud-deployed (aka Software-as-a-Service or SaaS) or as an on-premise solution. With cloud software, the school subscribes to the platform and the vendor manages everything on the back end. With on-premise software, schools typically pay a one-time licensing fee but then manage the installation on their own servers.

Integration. Integrated or stand-alone? As discussed above, most colleges and universities already use multiple different systems of software. Before settling on a new CRM system, the school should determine what degree of integration it needs with existing systems. This determination should be made with help from the school's IT staff.