Finding software can be overwhelming. Software Advice has helped hundreds of companies choose the right customer engagement software so they can scalably create more engaging interactions.

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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: 126 recommendations

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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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HubSpot Sales Hub

HubSpot Sales is a cloud-based sales automation software designed to build, automate and accelerate the sales process. The solution allows sales personnel to connect with promising leads and convert them into successful deals. HubSpot... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 84 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: 57 recommendations

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Zoho

Zoho CRM is a cloud-based business management platform that caters to businesses of all sizes. It offers sales and marketing automation tools with helpdesk, analytics and customer support functions. Zoho CRM helps users respond to... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 47 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: 42 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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Top Producer Systems

Top Producer is a web-based CRM system suited for agents or brokerages in the Real Estate industry. The system helps agents personalize follow up and manage clients from initial contact, to long-term repeat and referrals. Build your... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 31 recommendations

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SalesNOW

SalesNOW by Interchange Solutions Inc. is a cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) and sales force automation solution that allows sales teams, management and executives to manage aspects of sales cycle including contact,... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 26 recommendations

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Deployments: CloudOn premise
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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: 25 recommendations

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LeadMaster

LeadMaster is a SaaS-based all-in-one lead management solution that offers capabilities to capture, track and follow up with leads. The solution comprises of integrated modules for sales force automation, customer relationship management,... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 20 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: 19 recommendations

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iHomefinder

iHomefinder is a CRM and marketing solution designed for real estate agents, teams, and brokerages. With marketing automation tools, this solution enables real estate agents to save time while generating business leads. iHomefinder... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 19 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: 17 recommendations

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Maximizer CRM

Maximizer CRM is an integrated customer relationship management (CRM) solution suitable for organizations of all sizes across various industries. This solution can be deployed on both on-premise and in the cloud. Maximizer CRM features... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 14 recommendations

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Deployments: CloudOn premise
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vCita

vCita LiveSite is a customer relationship management (CRM) solution designed for small businesses that offers interaction tracking, lead routing, lead management and mobile CRM within a suite. vCita LiveSite combines different streams... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 14 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: 13 recommendations

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BNTouch Mortgage CRM

Grow your mortgage business, free up time, automate your marketing and put together a digital mortgage experience for your borrowers, all from one central hub. With BNTouch Mortgage CRM you can build a website, utilize a digital 1003,... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 11 recommendations

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OpPlan

OpPlan is a SaaS solution that enables businesses of all sizes to streamline processes related to sales, benchmarking, forecasting, team collaboration, customer relationship management and more. Salespersons can utilize the platform... 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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Buyers guide


Last Updated: July 8, 2020

“Customer engagement” is a term that has seen increased usage in recent years, particularly in the world of customer relationship management (CRM) software. Because the concept of customer engagement is directly tied to the functionality of CRM, the terms are sometimes used interchangeably.

However, some CRM software vendors are now providing solutions with a direct focus on customer engagement—designed to foster better connections with customers and add an interactive, dynamic element to what has traditionally been a one-sided relationship. Because this shift can be confusing, we’ve developed this buyer’s guide to help prospective customer engagement buyers navigate the market.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

What Is Customer Engagement Software?
Customer Engagement and Key Business Outcomes
Benefits of Customer Engagement Software
Common Customer Engagement Software Features
Pricing: Web-Based vs. On-Premise

What Are Customer Engagement Platforms?

The emergence of customer engagement platforms marks a shift in the larger CRM market, as mobile and social media have created a wider space in which businesses and consumers can interact.

Whereas traditional CRM products have been rooted in information-gathering and the storage of basic customer data, engagement platforms change this one-sided relationship into an interaction, automating processes that involve customer participation.

Some vendors offer solutions that provide sales and support automation for issue resolution across social channels. For example, some systems integrate customer complaints on Twitter into an overall profile, allowing support agents to gain a wider view of the conversation with that customer.

Other vendors offer marketing automation systems that can adapt along with current or prospective customers—for example, by automatically updating customer segments as their behaviors and demographics change.

Customer engagement platforms encompass a variety of applications and, depending on the product being offered, can include considerably different features. But the common thread tying all customer engagement solutions together is an emphasis on personalizing interactions throughout the entire customer lifecycle.

According to Paul Greenberg, a respected author and CRM thought leader: “When it comes down to it, most of the [vendors] in this market may call themselves customer engagement companies, but [they] don't compete with each other because their products are so different … There is no definition to this emerging market yet.”

Customer Engagement and Key Business Outcomes

People make purchase decisions based on a variety of factors. Some are strictly rational (I need this item and this price is acceptable), while others are entirely emotional (I love this store so I should buy something!). Although it’s a fluid mix that varies between individuals, time and place, researchers in the field of behavioral economics have identified a few general trends that are almost always true.

For starters, highly engaged customers (i.e., those who speak highly of a company because they feel it’s trustworthy and cares about their specific needs) spend more and are more loyal. This is true in both good and bad economic times, as well as across different cultures and industries.

For example, researchers at Gallup report these industry-specific findings:

  • Retail banking: Fully engaged customers bring in 37 percent more revenue per year and maintain higher account balances.
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  • Hospitality: Fully engaged hotel guests spend 46 percent more per year.
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  • Casual dining: Fully engaged customers make 56 percent more visits per month.
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  • Consumer electronics: Fully engaged shoppers visit their preferred retailer 44 percent more often and spend nearly 30 percent more per trip. 

These numbers alone should make any business decision-maker pay attention. But in addition to these bottom-line business benefits, there are additional organizational and workflow efficiency benefits to be had when a company uses a customer engagement platform to improve engagement.

Benefits of Customer Engagement Platforms

Because customer engagement products are so diverse in the range of features offered, they also bring with them a diverse array of benefits for different types of software users. These include:

  • Multichannel customer service and support. Whereas legacy support centers have centered around a team of representatives manning the phones, customer engagement solutions in the customer service and support realm allow these representatives to not only answer calls, but also to respond to complaints on Twitter, resolve customer issues on Facebook and maintain uniform messaging across multiple channels—interacting with customers when and where it’s most convenient for them.
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  • Interactive marketing and sales automation. Some customer engagement products boast the same types of marketing and sales automation features found in traditional CRM products, including email and event marketing, Web analytics and campaign management—but with an interactive component. For example, while traditional marketing automation solutions allow users to send marketing emails, customer engagement solutions allow users to also review past customer email responses and use them to craft new messaging (in some cases, even automatically).

Common Features of Customer Engagement Platforms

Again, because customer engagement solutions are evolving, there is no uniform definition for the features a given product will include. However, a number of solutions currently packaged as customer engagement platforms do offer some of the following features:

Web self-service Allows customers to resolve problems and answer their own questions online, without assistance from support representatives. Can reduce assisted interaction time without compromising the customer experience. (In fact, Web self-service may increase satisfaction, as it can reduce issue resolution time and empower the customer to search for and retrieve exactly what they want.)
Multichannel customer support Integrates customer service and support interactions across different communication channels, particularly social media. Platforms that provide a view into all types of customer interactions at once—as opposed to email or phone interactions alone—allow support reps to easily communicate with customers in whatever way is most effective.
Social media management Creates uniform social media messaging, communications and strategy across a company. This may include social content creation and social media analytics capabilities. Whereas traditional CRM platforms have treated social media as a separate category from a company’s more traditional communication channels, customer engagement platforms tie social into the overall business model.
Customer engagement analytics Analyzes past and current customer sentiment and satisfaction data, to assist with decision-making around future customer behavior. Similar to the customer analytics features included in some traditional marketing software solutions.
Content personalization May include interactive tools that tailor content towards individual customers (as opposed to “one-size-fits-all” content creation). May also include content-monitoring capabilities, to ensure that no duplicates are sent to the same customer and that customers are only getting the number of communications that they’ve indicated they want.

Pricing: Web-Based vs. On-Premise

Pricing for these solutions is dependent on the deployment model, the number of users who need to access the software and the degree of functionality required. Deployment models include:

Web-based, or “Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).” This software is hosted in the cloud, on servers managed by the software vendor, and can be accessed by any user with an Internet connection. It is priced on either a monthly or an annual subscription fee, based on the number of users who will require access to the software. This is the most popular deployment model in the CRM and customer engagement platform markets.

On-premise. This software is hosted locally, on the buyer’s own servers. Buyers must purchase a perpetual license up front for ongoing use of the software; there is no additional subscription fee. However, users might see additional fees for upgrades, customizations or maintenance. While on-premise customer engagement platforms are not a common option, they may be the right fit for certain businesses (especially those that focus on data analytics).

Customer engagement platform pricing generally increases along with the breadth and depth of functionality the system offers. Packages on the higher end of the pricing spectrum tend to include more robust functionality, while those on the lower end more often include less functionality.

Whichever deployment model you choose, one basic rule applies: the greater the functionality of your customer engagement solution, the higher the price will be.