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 248 products

HubSpot CRM

With its cloud-based, customer relationship management platform, HubSpot helps companies of all sizes track and nurture leads and analyze business metrics. HubSpot is suitable for any B2B or B2C business in a variety of segments, including... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 346 recommendations

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FreeAgent CRM

FreeAgent CRM is a cloud-based sales, marketing and customer service platform that helps small businesses nurture quality customer relationships. The system works automatically by pairing with the user's email to create and classify... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 280 recommendations

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Thryv

Thryv is a cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) solution designed for small businesses across various industry verticals. Features include appointment scheduling, billing and invoicing, contact management, reputation... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 217 recommendations

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Infusionsoft by Keap

Infusionsoft by Keap is a cloud-based sales and marketing solution that offers customer relationship management (CRM), marketing automation and e-commerce functionalities in a suite. It helps small businesses across various industries... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 193 recommendations

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Salesforce.com

The Salesforce cloud is an on-demand customer relationship management (CRM) suite offering applications for small, midsize and enterprise organizations, with a focus on sales and support. The Salesforce app has capabilities that... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 145 recommendations

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Deployments: Cloud, On premise
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NetSuite

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: 131 recommendations

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amoCRM

AmoCRM is a cloud-based customer relationship management solution that helps users manage the sales pipeline. Users can receive feedback and reports about the performance of salespersons. The solution offers lead scoring and nurturing,... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 93 recommendations

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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: 83 recommendations

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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: 35 recommendations

Platforms: MacWinLinux
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Hatchbuck

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. Hatchbuck is a good fit for a wide range... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 14 recommendations

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TeamSupport

TeamSupport is a B2B customer support software that helps teams collaborate together by eliminating miscommunications, improving customer communication and swiftly addressing client issues. TeamSupport has several key features that... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 7 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: 7 recommendations

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Copper CRM (formerly ProsperWorks)

Copper is a cloud-based customer relationship management tool that gives users complete views of their customers. The program is applicable to any industry, including advertising, distribution and real estate. The Copper solution... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 6 recommendations

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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: 5 recommendations

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Reamaze

Reamaze is a cloud-based help desk and customer messaging solution that helps businesses support, engage and convert customers using a single app. It’s suitable for businesses across industries such as higher education, retail, food... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 5 recommendations

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Kloudville

Kloudville is a cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution that caters to wholesalers, distributors and e-commerce retailers and helps them to manage their business operations. Key features include inventory management,... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 5 recommendations

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KIZEN

Kizen offers a cloud-based suite of marketing, customer relationship management (CRM) and sales tools suitable for small and midsize businesses in a range of industries. Features include contact and lead management, form automation,... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 5 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: 3 recommendations

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WebsiteAlive

WebsiteAlive is a cloud-based live chat solution that allows agents to communicate with their customers through chat. The solution caters to various industries such as government, hospitality, sports, entertainment and real estate. WebsiteAlive... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 3 recommendations

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Samanage

Samanage is suitable for companies seeking a help desk solution that offers IT service management (ITSM) functionalities. Samanage offers comprehensive service desk functionality that helps businesses respond to service requests in... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 2 recommendations

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Buyer's guide


Last Updated: March 14, 2019

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.