Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software Overview



Customer Relationship Management Software

What is CRM Software?

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a business strategy that stresses good ongoing relationships with customers. It holds that maintaining these relationships drives growth and profitability. There are two core elements of this customer-centric strategy:

  1. Presenting a unified face to the customer
  2. Providing a seamless customer experience

CRM software can help by synchronizing customer communications among business units. Sales, marketing and customer service can all get on the same page. It acts as a system of record for contacts and accounts throughout the customer lifecycle. With CRM tools companies can track, automate, analyze, and optimize customer interactions. At its core, a CRM is a database of contact information and interaction history for each individual contact.

Customer Relationship Management Software Features

In general, customer relationship management technology provides the following sets of capabilities:

Customer Data Management

CRM software collects and organizes customer data. This includes contact information and interactions via email, phone, web chat and social media.

Sales Acceleration and Enablement

CRM software helps streamline and automate certain sales-related duties. This helps enable sales reps to do their job better and also accelerates sales cycles through automation of repetitive tasks. These tasks may include:

  • Creation of quotes
  • Order processing
  • Updating contact information
  • Sending emails
  • Sales forecasting
  • Evaluating employee performance

As the original source of sales force automation features, CRM systems are the most established type of sales acceleration technology. They are also considered a tool for sales enablement.

Marketing Automation

Many CRM software products include some marketing automation features. Others integrate with dedicated marketing automation products. Some features to look for include:

  • Email marketing
  • Lead management
  • Lead scoring and qualification
  • Landing page creation
  • Web forms
  • Marketing analytics

Customer Service & Support

CRM software products often provide customer support-related features. Many also integrate with standalone customer support software (i.e. help desks and contact center software). Customer support features may include:

  • Knowledge bases
  • Ticketing systems
  • Live chat
  • Customer support portals

Additional Features & Considerations

Some CRM software products also offer project management and social media management capabilities.

Additional considerations when evaluating CRM software include:

  • Deployment type (on-premise vs. hosted)
  • Customization options
  • Usability/UX
  • Mobile access
  • Security and privacy
  • Ease of integration
  • Scalability

Multiple departments may be using the CRM within one organization. These include sales, marketing, customer success or service, and potentially other teams too.

Benefits of Using a CRM System

CRM systems hold a number of benefits for both small businesses and enterprises. When implemented properly, CRM can:

  • Create a single storehouse for customer data
  • Provide greater visibility into sales, marketing and customer service processes
  • Help optimize customer communications
  • Shorten sales cycles
  • Improve customer retention
  • Help companies understand and address the needs of customers
  • Increase customer satisfaction
  • Automate tasks
  • Increase operational efficiency
  • Free up employees to focus on customer interactions

Marketing CRM Software

CRMs are usually sales-focused. But there are benefits for marketing as well. Marketers usually store their leads in a CRM system, and often help with database management.

Integrating your CRM system with marketing automation, CMS, and eCommerce platforms can help improve marketing campaigns performance. Information in the CRM helps marketers target their messages sent through these systems to the right people. These communications can then be tracked within the CRM.

Marketers can also use CRM software to report on marketing goals, like lead engagement and leads passed to sales. Having a shared database can help align sales and marketing efforts as well.

Some marketing automation tools include a built-in CRM system (e.g. HubSpot and SharpSpring). Additionally, some CRM vendors have developed marketing automation capabilities (e.g. Salesforce and GreenRope).

All-in-one marketing tools typically include both CRM and marketing automation functionality. They often also have content management, SEO, social marketing and eCommerce capabilities. These tools are aimed at small businesses looking for basic features. Larger companies tend to favor a best-of-breed approach, integrating their CRM,marketing automation, and other systems.

CRM System Comparison

Here are two key things to consider while evaluating different CRM software products:

  1. Do you need a CRM that has been designed for either a specific industry or department? Some customer relationship management systems have been designed with a specific use case in mind, for example, Pipedrive is especially well suited for sales. There are also a range of CRM products that have been designed for the Financial Services industry. Other CRM products, like Salesforce and HubSpot CRM are ideal for use across industries and across functions.
  2. Does your business need an easy to use and budget friendly CRM solution, or a more comprehensive solution that allows for greater customization and offers advanced features? There are CRM products at both ends of this spectrum, as well as products in between. More advanced solutions may have a longer implementation timeline, have a steeper learning curve, and may need a dedicated administrator. On the other hand, lightweight CRM solutions may take less time to set up and start running, but they may not have the same breadth of features available.