The different types of CRM software: an overview of features and benefits
The ultimate goal of any business is to serve its customers and bring them the most relevant and valuable offers. While some companies prefer to take a guess, others make data-powered business decisions and automate the majority of the processes in order to provide prompt and customer-oriented service.
A customer relationship management system is a must-have tool for any business that wishes to grow, remain competitive and eliminate the guesswork from the business decisions. However, there are different types of CRM software so it’s important to differentiate between them in order to maximize its value and bring tangible benefits to your business.
What is CRM and why you need it?
A CRM system is a tool that does a whole lot of useful functions and significantly facilitates the everyday activities of the marketing, sales, and customer service departments. Due to the automation of processes, the CRM system enables the users to keep the focus on the most important information and operation, leaving minor or mundane tasks to the system.
The key features of a CRM system are:
Automation of processes: i.e. automated follow-ups with no need to manually monitor the customer’s activity
Centralization of data: the system keeps all customer-related data in one place and displays it upon request
Tracking of processes: the system tracks customer’s activity and all interactions of an employee with the customer
Data analysis: analysis of the customer’s behavior and suggestions of the most efficient activities based on this data
Distribution of the data between the departments
So how exactly does a CRM system optimize one’s business and make it more efficient? Let’s have a look.
Keeping everything in one place
It’s already hard enough to remember all the interactions that you had with a customer and to plan the time for a future follow-up (or a few). Imagine how harder it gets when you have hundreds of customers and each of them demands a timely follow-up, a provision with the necessary information or materials, or a change in a request.
The CRM system automatically tracks the customer’s activity, notifies the employee whether it is time to call, follow-up, or send an email. As well, the system shows the customer’s status so the specialist can immediately understand at what sales stage the customer currently is. So in general, a CRM system provides an immediate and informative overview of a single customer and all past, present and future interactions.
Detailed analysis of the customers and their behavior
CRM systems are capable of tracking and analyzing the customers’ behavior and providing informative detailed reports. Such reports help the marketing and sales specialist to better understand how exactly the customers interact with the business, how they respond to the placed offers, and what the biggest touchpoints are.
Better organization of processes
When all the processes are automated and kept in one place, it becomes much easier to monitor them and to take action at the right time. The use of CRM enables the specialists to easily find the needed information, plan an action, see its efficiency and follow the best practices recommended by the system.
What are the different types of CRM systems?
Before talking about such Goliaths of the CRM world as Salesforce or SugarCRM, we need to talk about the three common types of CRM systems:
Each serves a specific purpose and is suitable for specific business needs. It is important to differentiate between the three in order to find the most suitable solution for your business.
Operational CRM is responsible for operations aka all the customers’ activities and interactions between the specialists and the customers. This CRM type automates and streamlines marketing and sales processes and helps provide a better customer experience.
Operational CRMs facilitate communication with the customer due to a number of features:
Tracking of all interactions and their centralization: the system provides a specialist with all the records about the past interactions notifies about the customer’s status, displays all customer-related information.
Scheduling of sales activities: this includes scheduled follow-ups, calls, and emails. The system can notify the specialist when it is time to contact the customer and suggest the best way to do so.
Optimization of marketing and sales processes: operational CRMs can automatically add new leads or prospects to the system, automatically contact them (after a certain action is taken), and identify the new possible leads.
Better team management: in addition to the customer-related data, the system also stores the information about all the activities performed by the team. This helps managers monitor the team’s efficiency and analyze the actions.
Who should use it?
Operational CRMs are great for businesses that rely strongly on marketing and sales and have multiple complex processes going on. Because operational CRMs help streamline and automate the majority of the processes, they are suitable for almost any company and especially for the ones with a strong customer focus.
Analytical CRM focuses primarily on the data and provides users with deep insights into the efficiency of marketing campaigns, customer behavior and preferences, demographics, etc. The use of analytical CRM helps better understand the marketing and sales efforts, measure the customers’ response and align the strategy in correspondence with the collected data.
Here is all the data that analytical CRM takes care of:
Customer’s profile: analytical CRM provides an advanced look at the demographics of your customers, including their age, gender, location, occupation, etc.
Insight on the products and efficiency of campaigns: the system users get access to the advanced reports on the efficiency of the marketing and sales campaigns, best-working ones, the most popular and the least popular products.
Employee performance: the system provides the data on the performance of the team members and allows to monitor it.
Data storage and integration: the system collects the data from different integrated sources, stores and processes it.
Data mining: the system automatically identifies certain patterns and provides clear reports on them. An example of such a pattern would be a record on the main reason for the customers’ dissatisfaction after analyzing all customers’ profiles.
Who should use it?
Companies with a data-driven approach that value metrics and want to make data-powered business decisions. As well, this type of CRM software is recommended to companies with a big data record so it might not be the best choice for startup and new businesses.
Collaborative CRM helps share the information across the company’s departments and makes this information transparent and available to multiple users. With the help of a collaborative CRM system, users can get immediate access to the customer’s data and see all the past and present interactions.
Here is how collaborative CRM benefits the company:
Recording the method of communication preferred by the customer: allows specialists to contact the customer in a preferred way
Transparency of customer-related activities: every employee with access to the system can see the interactions with the customer and the current status of the deal
Improvement of the customer experience: with the help of the record on customer activities and interactions with the company, specialists can optimize their way of communication with the client and improve his experience
Centralization of data: this CRM type collects and unites all the data on customer’s behavior and activities, presenting it to specialists in a well-organized manner
Who should use it?
Collaborative CRM is perfect for companies with multiple departments or offices or if there is a need to share the information in a quick and efficient manner across multiple users.
How to choose the right CRM for your business
There is a big variety of CRM systems to choose from and it’s quite easy to get confused in all the options. Though the choice of CRM is individual for every company, we can give you a basic checklist that can serve as a starting point in the process of choosing your perfect software:
Define your business and goals: do you want to steadily grow through building customer loyalty or you need an explosion of growth? What do you plan to achieve with the CRM implementation? Based on the answers, you can have a look at different options.
Define who will be using the CRM. For example, if it’s only for marketing or sales purposes, then you can most probably exclude collaborative CRMs from your list.
Research the available options and create a list in accordance with the presented features and price.
Try different CRMs by requesting a trial in order to get a better understanding of the system and evaluate whether it is user-friendly and intuitive.
You need to clearly understand your goals and business objectives before implementing any new software. This will significantly narrow down your options and facilitate the search for the most suitable CRM.
What are the top 5 CRM systems for small and medium businesses?
To facilitate your search, we collected five CRM systems for small and medium businesses that combine advanced functionality with suitable pricing and easy navigation.
Zoho CRM comes in different plans: Standard, Professional, Enterprise. Each plan has a different set of features, with the Enterprise plan being the most advanced. In this way, Zoho is suitable for business of any size and comes at an affordable price that starts with 12 $/month (Standard Plan).
Among some of the most praised Zoho features are great ticketing, tracking of the customers’ activity, notifications, scheduling tools, different automation options.
Agile CRM is a great choice for small and medium businesses as it offers a Free plan (for 10 users) and affordable prices for other plans, like 8.99 $ for a Starter.
Agile CRM has a strong focus on marketing and has quite impressive features, including 50+ plugins, drag-and-drop marketing automation, integration with the most popular third-party services (i.e. Google, Shopify), and gamification of the sales processes.
Probably one of the most well-known CRMs, Hubspot is a free tool designed specifically for small businesses. Hubspot covers marketing, sales, and services needs and provides all the basic features that help companies automate and streamline their processes.
In addition, Hubspot is easily integrated with Shopify and Salesforce and has an informative blog with useful tips on growing one’s business.
SugarCRM is focused on customer experience and provides all the necessary features that help optimize and improve it. The system allows to map the customer journey, track all the interactions between the customer and your company, perform drag-and-drop automation of processes and more.
Though pricing might be a bit tricky and starts from 40 $/per user/per month (reaching 1000 $ per month for 10K contacts), SugarCRM is an efficient solution that can be quite affordable for small and medium businesses.
Salesforce is one of the most well-known CRM systems out there and has a solution specifically for small businesses. Its Essentials plan starts from 25 $/month and is packed with all the essential customer relationship management features.
Salesforce is one of a few CRM tools that combine the features of analytical, collaborative and operational CRMs in one comprehensive solution. As well, Salesforce can be easily integrated with an array of third-party services.
Apart from CRM integration, many companies often need additional services related to CRM. Judging from our experience, the most common requests include:
Integration of a CRM system with the existing or third-party software
Development of an interface for a CRM-connected application
Thus, when choosing a CRM system, also pay attention to the ease of its integration with additional services and think about the possible future optimizations that will call for the help of experienced developers.