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Compare the Top CRM Software of 2019

Compare the best CRM software currently available using the table below.

  • 1
    Kizen Icon

    Kizen

    Kizen

    The Next-Gen Sales, Marketing, and Customer Experience Platform - Kizen’s founding team has been providing marketing, sales, and operational consulting since 2003 to some of the biggest and fastest growing companies in the world. After using over 200 different legacy platforms, we decided in 2018 that it was time to build technology that would unleash the true potential of teams - a next-generation platform built to save time, drive revenue, and deliver personalized experiences customers love.

  • 2
    Avochato Icon

    Avochato

    Avochato

    Avochato is an easy to use text messaging software solution built for sales, support, and operations teams. Avochato offers businesses the easiest way to connect to their customers, get more responses, and achieve higher conversion. It comes with a lead-generation chat widget, live inbox, broadcasting, automated surveys, programmable APIs, message templates, status tracking, and more. Avochato also offers integrations with leading business services including Slack, Office 365, Salesforce, and Desk.com.

  • 3
    Vtiger CRM Icon

    Vtiger CRM

    Vtiger

    Vtiger offers a single, unified product that enables Marketing, Sales, and Support teams to work together and deliver outstanding customer experiences. Vtiger organises customer data in a single place and everyone on the team gets a holistic view of the customer. Vtiger CRM helps over 300,000 businesses improve revenue, customer loyalty, and team performance by breaking barriers between marketing, sales, and support teams. Vtiger's All-in-one CRM helps teams create delightful experiences across the entire customer lifecycle by enabling: 1. Marketing teams to capture and nurture leads. 2. Sales teams to score, track and close resulting deals. 3. Support teams to access complete customer history and provide exceptional support.

    Starting Price: $10.00/month/user
  • 4
    monday.com Icon

    monday.com

    monday

    Simplify the way team works with monday.com, a cloud-based team project management solution. monday.com caters to small to mid-sized businesses in different industries. With monday.com, users can manage different projects and ensure sharing of knowledge among team members. monday.com features a collaborative environment that enables users to create a knowledge base, share files, communicate, make image designs, and more. monday.com also integrates well with different third-party applications like Google Drive, Dropbox, and more.

    Starting Price: $5.00/month/user
  • 5
    Inspection Support Network Icon

    Inspection Support Network

    Inspection Support Network

    A cloud-based solution for inspectors that streamlines business growth, scheduling, workflow automation, agent management and reporting.

    Starting Price: $4.00/inspection
  • 6
    vtenext Icon

    vtenext

    vtenext

    What is vtenext CRM+BPMN? - Open Source nature - Business Process Management engine - Native intergation with Salesforce The result? CRM+BPM= CPM customer process manager Break down the Silo Mentality and connect all the business areas with vtenext, how? Thanks to its Open Source nature it can communicate with every software in use and connect them by using its unique BPMN Engine to design and automate most internal procedures, making the activity chain lean, fast and efficient. vtenext is a complete system to manage the relationship with your customers and, at the same time, optimize all business processes without the need of an IT Expert. Already have a CRM but it is not extended to all the Business Areas because of the high costs? Don't worry, it already provides a native integration with Salesforce, but it can be also integrated with other "first class" CRMs.

  • 7
    SharpSpring Icon

    SharpSpring

    SharpSpring

    SharpSpring is a comprehensive marketing automation platform with robust features, functionality and performance. SharpSpring is one of the most flexible platforms on the market, offering powerful, behavior-based email marketing, native or 3rd party CRM integration, dynamic forms, landing page and blog builders, social media management, universal CMS compatibility, and integration with hundreds of applications. SharpSpring is usually less than 1/3 the cost of the competition, is the easiest company to work with and the easiest platform to use. Marketing agencies should inquire about SharpSpring's special partner program.

  • 8
    Shape Software Icon

    Shape Software

    Shape Software

    Shape CRM helps you manage your business on one easy to use platform. Shape's cloud-based software offers dozens of tools designed to manage and automate your online marketing and promotions via email and SMS, capture and service leads from online sources, organize sales pipelines, nurture prospects and customers, create and send professional online documents, accept online payments, run custom reporting, and automate everyday admin tasks. Shape is the most flexible CRM ever!

    Starting Price: $79.00/month/user
  • 9
    Lucrativ Icon

    Lucrativ

    Lucrativ

    Lucrativ Sales Acceleration CRM. A complete sales CRM software engineered to drive deals. Contact and Lead Management. Built-in Sales Tools (Email/Power Dialer/SMS). Workflow Automation. Fully Mobile. Customizable Reports and Dashboards. The lead info and insights you need to contact leads and close deals with confidence. Set and automate sales cadences to send off to your team for efficient deal closing. Track and analyze sales performance with customizable metrics and real-time reporting. Any successful sales leader will tell you - more calling means more closing. Save time and connect more with Lucrativ’s Power Dialer, our dialer helps you contact more leads faster and even helps you prioritize which leads you should be reaching out to. Data-driven decision making is more than just a buzzword. Get the picture on where your business stands with customizable metrics, real time reporting, and easy-to-read dashboards.

    Starting Price: $80 per month per user
  • 10
    Textedly Icon

    Textedly

    Textedly

    SMS Marketing Services made easy. Instantly send 10 or 100,000 SMS or MMS picture text messages to any mobile phone number. Easily build an opt-in subscriber list. Schedule text messages to go out any time you want. Track text message delivery. Our plans start at only $24 per month. Or try our Annual Plans and pay up-front for one year, and get 20% more messages instantly. Plus FREE bonus messages on the Annual Plan.

    Starting Price: $24.00/month
  • 11
    BirdEye Icon

    BirdEye

    BirdEye

    BirdEye enables you to be the best business. BirdEye drives business growth by getting new reviews and improving customer experience. More than 50,000 businesses use BirdEye to manage their reviews, be found online, collect customer feedback, interact with potential customers, ask customers to refer friends and family, improve operations and increase revenue. BirdEye’s all-in-one software includes review monitoring, review generation, review marketing, customer surveys, social listening, social publishing, social engagement, customer support ticketing, listings, webchat, customer referrals, business insights, and competitive benchmarking. Founded in 2012, BirdEye is headquartered in Silicon Valley and led by alumni from Google, Amazon and Yahoo. In 2019, BirdEye was ranked #60 in the “100 Best Software Companies” in the world by G2 Crowd. BirdEye is backed by Salesforce founder Marc Benioff, Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang, Trinity Ventures and World Innovation Lab.

    Starting Price: $250/month
  • 12
    Arlo - Software for Training Providers Icon

    Arlo - Software for Training Providers

    Arlo Training Software

    Arlo is training management software for training providers who want to save time and crush sales targets. It is a complete training management solution to promote, sell and deliver instructor-led, online and blended learning. Arlo takes care of your public training schedule, private in-house courses and ongoing training contracts, so you to manage your whole business in one system. It saves you time by automating manual processes and helps you grow with slick ecommerce and marketing tools. See for yourself by starting a free trial. https://www.arlo.co/register

    Starting Price: $89.00/month/user
  • 13
    Procurify Icon

    Procurify

    Procurify

    Transform your company's procurement process with Procurify. A cloud-based procurement software solution for mid-sized companies and large enterprises, Procurify lets companies approve, track, report and analyze their spending conveniently, increasing visibility throughout the procurement process and generating cost savings. With Procurify's fast and easy setup process, user-friendly interface, and comprehensive workflow, teams across purchasing, finance, and procurement departments are now more empowered than ever to create a better spend culture within the company.

    Starting Price: $499.00/month
  • 14
    Sitejabber Icon

    Sitejabber

    Sitejabber

    Sitejabber helps you grow your business through reviews by increasing conversions and building a brand consumers will trust. Sitejabber helps you collect authentic business and product reviews directly from your customers to instill confidence in shoppers on your site and convert them into paying customers. Save money by reducing Google Ads spend by getting Google stars next to your PPC ads. Increase your click-through rates by up to 20% and increase your conversions by up to 30%. Sitejabber is an official certified Google reviews partner.

    Starting Price: From $49 per month
  • 15
    Systum Icon

    Systum

    Systum, Inc.

    Become a world-class business through a single operating platform. Systum helps you to manage inventory, operations, sales and customer service all from a single software application. Then, use the power of business intelligence that comes from real-time customer data to transform your growing wholesale distribution business into a highly-profitable enterprise.

    Starting Price: $625/month
  • 16
    Axon Trucking Software Icon

    Axon Trucking Software

    Axon Development Corporation

    Axon Software is innovative and feature-packed, specifically built for trucking companies. Axon offers a flexible set of tools that helps companies save time, increase efficiency and cash flow, and produce happier customers and staff. This includes order planning, dispatch, CRM, accounting, custom reporting, satellite tracking, real-time integration between applications, and so much more.

  • 17
    Phone2Action Icon

    Phone2Action

    Phone2Action

    Phone2Action is a comprehensive digital engagement and communications platform for grassroots advocacy, public affairs, and government relations. Our innovative, user-friendly tools make government participation accessible in the digital age. The world’s leading nonprofits, associations, and companies have used our software to build their advocacy programs and support their public policy goals since 2013. To date, our clients have created more than 22,000 grassroots advocacy campaigns that have driven more than 45 million connections with lawmakers. Our platform includes solutions for grassroots advocacy, strategic communications, and stakeholder management.

  • 18
    Spark Chart Icon

    Spark Chart

    Spark Chart

    Powerful survey software for business consultants and leaders! Create & deploy any type of professional survey. Engage employees and teams to uncover their suggestions and improve performance. Discover what customers say and recommend? Use NPS to measure customer loyalty to brand, company, product or service. 360 degree feedback to find out how leaders are perceived and identify their strengths & development needs? Explore opinions, brainstorm and generate ideas. Conduct research to get a deeper understanding of markets and potential customers. 24 x 7 support & advice from survey experts.

    Starting Price: $25/month Partner badge
  • 19
    Gmelius Icon

    Gmelius

    Gmelius

    Gmelius transforms Gmail / G Suite into your company’s workspace. Your inbox becomes a work hub for communication, collaboration, and workflow automation with real-time syncing across all team members and all devices - web & mobile. Gmelius is a complete solution that lets you manage your customer and project pipelines from beginning to end - without leaving your inbox. It seamlessly bridges the gap between external and internal communications like email and chat, while empowering your team with collaborative tools including shared inboxes, shared labels, shared email templates, email notes, shareable kanban boards, and more.

    Starting Price: $9.00/month/user
  • 20
    Armatic Icon

    Armatic

    Armatic

    Armatic is the highest rated software solution for Payment Processing, Billing/Invoicing, Recurring Billing and Subscription Management. Billing and Invoicing: Create beautiful invoices with our powerful invoice editor synced into your accounting system. Provide a customer portal, automatic charging, payment collection, and apply late fees. Recurring Billing & Subscription Management: Armatic provides enterprise-class subscription billing management for fast-growing businesses worldwide. Enable trial periods, manage plans, or prorate subscriptions. Payment Processing: Armatic is processor agnostic and provides integrations to all types of payment solutions from credit card payments, ACH, SEPA to wires. We handle partial payments, automatic failed payment retry, and automatic payment recovery. Finance Team dramatically reduce outstanding AR with Armatic. Sales teams close more deals, and customer success teams improve customer satisfaction scores with Armatic.

    Starting Price: $35/user/month
  • 21
    Projul Icon

    Projul

    Projul, Construction Project Management

    Projul is a construction project management solution built specifically for your small to medium-sized company that simplifies business and fuels your growth. Say goodbye to multiple spreadsheets and complicated scheduling software. With Projul’s easy to use CRM, innovative scheduling, task management and messaging, your contractors, subcontractors, and office team all stay synchronized.

    Starting Price: $99/month Partner badge
  • 22
    Engage AMS Icon

    Engage AMS

    Engage Software

    Engage AMS is a SaaS platform for associations who are tired of struggling with their existing software solutions. Backed by white-glove support and a willingness and legitimate capability for customizations to meet each association's unique needs, Engage AMS is the system you've been looking for. The platform includes member and event management functionality as well as a completely integrated, robust, open-source content management system (CMS) for your association's website.

    Starting Price: $5999.00/year
  • 23
    10to8 Appointment Scheduling Software Icon

    10to8 Appointment Scheduling Software

    10to8

    10to8 is all-in-one Online Booking & Appointment Scheduling software trusted by thousands of businesses worldwide. Managing multiple clients with busy schedules is challenging. With 10to8 Appointment Scheduling Software, you can offer a convenient online booking page that your clients can use to schedule appointments. Wave goodbye to being interrupted by phone calls and maintain control over your schedule. The intelligent SMS & email reminders will notify your clients of their upcoming appointments which will improve communication & customer experience, and reduce no-shows by up to 90%. The 2-way calendar sync with the most popular calendar apps will rid your business of double-bookings and the awkward situation when two clients turn up at the same time for their appointments. Be more visible online & appear more professional with a branded 10to8 online booking page. Display your services in a professional way and increase online bookings. Get Started Free Today!

    Starting Price: Free Forever
  • 24
    Zen Planner Icon

    Zen Planner

    Zen Planner

    Zen Planner's comprehensive member management software provides everything you need to turn your passion into a successful business. With payment processing & auto-billing, lead-generating Integrated Websites & digital marketing services, scheduling, retail, automations, Member & Staff Apps, in-depth reporting & more, you have everything required to grow, nurture & retain your members. Our software suite is specifically designed for owners of martial arts studios, affiliate gyms, boutique fitness studios and yoga studios.

    Starting Price: $117.00/month
  • 25
    Kangaroo Rewards Icon

    Kangaroo Rewards

    Kangaroo Rewards

    Maximize customer relationships and not just transactions, with Kangaroo Rewards loyalty marketing program. A completely white-label solution, enabling businesses to engage customers via personalized offers and rewards, automated marketing, digital gift cards, custom omnichannel experience and branded app. Kangaroo Rewards offers in-depth reporting to monitor and adjust your program based on your customer behavior and trends. Providing you with the power to increase sales and customer engagement. To ensure program success, a loyalty specialist is assigned to each account to train and assist in the set-up of your loyalty rewards program. At Kangaroo, customer loyalty is more than just a program, it’s our business model. Our loyalty platform integrates perfectly with Lightspeed POS systems (Lightspeed Retail, Lightspeed iPad app, and Lightspeed Ecom), Shopify, Magento and Woo Commerce. Kangaroo is available worldwide in English, French, Spanish & Portuguese.

    Starting Price: $79/month Partner badge
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How to choose the right CRM software

Today’s technology is enabling small to midsize businesses to operate more efficiently, thereby saving on expenses and time. Among the most beneficial of these new developments is customer relationships management (CRM) software, which enables businesses to manage existing customers, potential clients and contacts more effectively. The software can organize and analyze vast amounts of data with lightning speed, improve workflow, and boost customer relationships to new levels. It all adds up to an enhanced ability to compete and to record significantly improved profit margins.

Handling relationships with customers and contacts in these ways was unachievable before these advances in technology without preparing extensive spreadsheets and devoting considerable time, energy and staff resources to do so.

A key to the effectiveness of CRM software is in gathering extensive and detailed information about customers and potential clients, followed by organizing, recording and effectively using that information. CRM software retains information not just on customers’ basic details, but also on each contact or lead that a company maintains, whether by telephone or email. It monitors their interests and their purchasing habits. It provides the tools for following up, cross selling, developing marketing strategies, and tracking invoices more effectively. Some programs can even go so far as to prompt staff to email or telephone customers at around the time at which they have called the company.

The programs also can scan web traffic and social media to identify potential clients based on such aspects as their interests and hobbies. Instead of an employee trying to remember details on customers or searching for it in randomly gathered papers scattered on an office desk or hidden in computer folders with meaningless names, the software retains this information in a central place. Not only is it retained, but it is well ordered in an efficient and logical way. So, for example, the software will automatically send a gift card or message to customers or contacts on their birthdays. New or improved products or services can be broadcast immediately on their release.

CRM software goes even further than organizing information on customers and contacts and maintaining relationships with them. It provides the ability to aim messages to specific demographic groups, such as millennials and seniors. Information also can be directed to specific geographic areas, such as a city, county or state, quickly and efficiently without having to develop spreadsheets to do so or having an employee going through the information and select those who should be served with the information. In addition, CRM software enables employees to set and measure sales targets, to develop effective marketing techniques and even to scan internet traffic and social media for potential leads.

As a result, staff can be freed up to concentrate on the more personal face-to-face aspects of marketing and sales without having to spend their time on inputting vast amounts of information, assessing results, and maintaining regular communications with customers. The result is enhanced sales ability, greater productivity, and more satisfied customers.

Many CRM programs have been developed and a large number are available. Sorting through the various CRM programs can run up costs and eat up time. But it is essential that the programs chosen are the most appropriate to a company’s needs. Here are guidelines to help a business make the right selection.

Evaluate the cost against the features

Clearly small and midsize companies will want to take into account the cost of CRM software. But there is more to the software than the cost itself. The price needs to be balanced against the benefits of the features that are incorporated in the software. The features required by a company depend on the nature of the business that it conducts. Some features will be of little or no use to a particular company, while others will be of significant advantage to it.

In addition to checking out the benefits, a company might want to consider some of the newer CRM programs that offer affordable entry points. As the company grows and it becomes acquainted with the program, more features can be added. A company can choose whether the new features are worth the additional costs in terms of the returns it might receive from them. A company will also want to take into account hidden costs, such as the degree of training that is required to ensure that staff are using the software effectively. More complex software might mean spending considerable time on teaching staff to use it more efficiently. Ideally, the time taken to becoming fully acquainted with the software should be as short as possible and should be measured in days rather than weeks. Clearly a smaller business simply cannot afford to have staff spend large amounts of time becoming acquainted with the new program.

To help answer these questions, it might be advisable to check the support documentation with the program. Just how complex a program is it? What kinds of problems will employees face as they implement it? Another method to determining a software’s cost effectiveness is to try out the program to determine just how long it will take for your staff to be up and running on it. Most CRM programs come with a free evaluation time. Use this time to import information into the program, including accounts, and assign tasks to employees. Evaluate whether the software is effective for your company’s needs or whether it actually creates more work. You might also record how extensively you need to pore over the documentation that comes with it or how many times you need to call support for help. If one program fails the test, try another until you are satisfied with the return on investment it brings with it.

Another factor in evaluating programs is whether the new CRM software will integrate with the systems that are currently being used by your company. Will it be necessary to buy new hardware or switch to new operating systems? Also, effective use of the software might require new smart phones or tablets, incurring additional costs. Even though CRM software is relatively new on the market, the rapid advancement of today’s technology has meant that the programs have become more varied and bring with them more options in addition to the basic benefits. Newer versions enable the program to be implemented in a Software-as-a-service (SaaS) model. Others offer the choice of storing information on the cloud rather than on your own computers or servers. Such a choice can save on costs, lessen complexity, and provide additional security. Another consideration is integrating the CRM software with your telephone system, enabling you to gather information from calls and conversations.

Here’s another aspect to consider. Big CRM packages tend to integrate with third-party providers. Those providers operate many of the tools that you will be using. This adds to the costs of the overall program. It also means you might find yourself dealing with different support systems and you cannot always be sure that the varied programs work effectively alongside each other. Careful evaluation of each program will pay dividends in the long run. Rather than simply buying a package that provides you with all the bells and whistles that today’s programs provide, it is wise to check carefully into the individual benefit of each, using the factors outlined here as a guide.

Assess usability

In addition to the cost and the features, a major consideration when selecting CRM software is to ensure that it is going to be relatively uncomplicated for you and your employees to use. Ideally, after an initial learning phase, staff should find it reasonably intuitive. To test a program’s usability, make sure you consult your employees on it. After all, they are the ones who will be tasked with using it. What might look simple on an initial examination of the program might prove difficult when it comes to actually using the program itself. The way the program works might take an inordinate time to learn.

Employees might find that menus are difficult to find or to use, are too many to go through for relatively simple tasks, or are far from intuitive. They might even find that gaining the information they need involves going through so many hoops that it takes more time than if they had done it themselves without using the program. Having discovered how one aspect of the program works they should be able to apply those basic principles to other aspects of the program. They might be frustrated to find that, for example, the menus work in one way on one aspect of the program, but work in another way on a different aspect.

Make sure, too, that the employees try out the programs in a variety of situations. In some cases, the tasks they are called upon to employ using the software might actually make their jobs harder. They might find, too, that they never use many of the features for which you are paying. CRM software also should be able to alert a user to any major errors, such as entering data in the wrong place. One way to determine usability is to learn the program yourself and then to teach someone how to operate it. Read the support documentation, scan through the FAQs, if any are available, as well as any user blogs you might come across. If — on completing all these tasks — you find it painstaking or even frustrating to teach someone the program, or if you find you cannot understand the program well enough yourself to teach someone to use it, alarm bells should sound.

Even if you find the program relatively straightforward to use, it is nevertheless likely that at some point in the future you might need to call the support line for help. While evaluating the program, therefore, it is a good idea to call the support line when you get even slightly stuck to check out how valuable it is. Check out how long the wait time is, which hours they are available in your time zone, and ask numerous questions.

Not only will this enable you to become more familiar with the program, but you will be able to check out the availability and quality of the support that is provided.

Check out the communications features

Concentrate on those features of the CRM software that you will use and drill down on their practical use for your company. Try not to be blindsided by social media apps that are fashionable and said to be catching on. Chances are that email will continue to remain for the foreseeable future the best way you can communicate with your customers. Almost everyone has email on their desktop, laptop, tablet or phone, which they check regularly. Many of the new social media applications, however, are unavailable on desktops and laptops.

Another benefit of email is that it can convey information, including logos, graphics and pictures more effectively than apps such as Twitter or even Facebook. A well designed email can be appealing and inviting in a way that other apps are not. In short, you should understand the way in which the CRM software you choose will interact with customers and contacts over email. The program you choose should ensure that information contained in email messages is automatically captured and does not have to be manually gathered. Of course, this does not mean you should ignore mobile apps. They are a vital part of communicating today, but they are quite different than those programs that operate on desktops and laptops. So you should evaluate them as a separate entity.

Viewed from a different perspective, an important new feature that is being added to CRM programs today is the ability for an employee to communicate on a mobile device with the data that is stored centrally, either on your servers or on the cloud. This ability should be as effective as if the employee were sitting in the office working on a desktop.

These programs mean that, by using a remote mobile device, such as a smart phone or tablet, staff will be able access all the CRM tools wherever they are in the world as long as they have access to the Internet and whenever they want to do so, even outside regular business hours. Sometimes the communication methods are different when working from a mobile device than they are when using a desktop computer. Switching from one to another can be a learning experience for employees. But for some companies, depending on the nature of their business, it is important that their employees need to be able to communicate in this way. For many, specially those who are constantly on the road, such communication is vital to them. If this is the case with your company, therefore, make sure that they have the ability to plug in to your CRM software from wherever they are using their mobile devices.

Gauge marketing effectiveness

One of the advantages that CRM software is bringing with it is the ability to introduce automation to relationships with customers. In the past, sales representatives, or anyone who had a direct relationship with customers, needed carefully to record tasks to be performed. Examples would be following up a set time after a sales negotiation or at the ending of a trial test of a product or service. Questions might need to be answered, too.

Not only that, but emails would have to be written to each client, ensuring that they are provided with the correct information. Now CRM software performs many of these tasks automatically. In doing so it sharply lessens the prospect of contacts falling through the cracks as a result of neglecting to follow up in time or overlooking to keep track of them in a timely manner. It also can produce customized email templates for each situation or for special offers, making it unnecessary to write each email individually.

Such features are valuable when following up on leads. The reason: In many businesses, potential customers fail to respond to an initial sales attempt. They might set it aside with the intent to decide later. Following up becomes as important to closing the sale as the first lead generation was.

In some cases, potential clients ask questions about a product. Should they fail to receive an answer in a reasonable amount of time, they will move on and consider other products. Using CRM software, particularly when it is linked to a mobile app, staff will be prompted to respond quickly to questions. In the case of existing customers, too, it is often vital to respond as quickly as possible to problems or questions users might have.

Another example would be in the case of, say, a webinar that a company is planning to hold. CRM software can automatically remind those who have signed up for the webinar, delete those who might cancel before it is held, and follow up on those who took part to determine their feedback. Should a client cancel an account, CRM software will automatically try to assess the reason for the cancellation and gather feedback that the disillusioned customer might have. Such programs could also try to persuade customers to return should the problem they faced be resolved. In all cases, speed is of the essence. Here, the fast reaction time provided by CRM software can play a significant role.

These tasks can be undertaken by some programs using advanced methods of artificial intelligence, saving time and boosting productivity. A number of CRM programs include the ability to synchronize various email accounts into a central portal. They also can initiate email marketing campaigns and can include the ability to conduct chat sessions.

Appraise third-party add-ons

An essential element in selecting CRM software is to separate the features that will be provided by the program itself and those that will be delivered through a third-party provider. In doing so, you will need to determine the degree to which these add-ons will operate within the parameters of the system you already are using.

You almost certainly will want to connect email services provided by the program itself or add ons with the existing email programs you are using. If they will not do so, are you ready to switch to a program they will support? The same is true of a calendar or possibly newsletter management software. In some cases the program might indicate that it is compatible with programs you already have. They might describe this as “native integration,” meaning that the company has an application that you can select, download and use. Problem solved. But if the company does not provide such integration, you will have to do some detective work yourself.

A possibility is to have your IT staff (if you have such) investigate and see whether they can build integration with the software for you. You might decide that the software itself will be compatible with what you have, but you need to follow this up with assessing each of the third-party providers — if such exist — individually.

Size up reporting and analysis abilities

A critical aspect of CRM software is its ability to provide you with reports and analyses. They will help you not only to determine the results of what you have been able to achieve using the software, but will enable you better to determine how you should proceed in the future. To assess a program’s reporting ability, check on features that can be customized according to your business. In this way you can assess how your workers have been performing and how customers have been responding. You should be able to produce reports on net sales, demographics on your customers, and track profits in real time.

Ideally, these reports should be exportable. You should be able to save them and print them out if necessary. In addition, using any tool you prefer, you should be able to convert the data into graphic displays of various sorts, such as charts and dashboards. You can then present them to shareholders, partners or others interested in some way in the running of your company. The data will come alive and be more meaningful. An additional benefit will be to combine statistics so that the ratio of, say, email messages to actual sales can be determined.

Rate the degree of security

In today’s world of hackers and loopholes in systems, security has become a paramount concern to most consumers. Failure adequately to protect customers information can be damaging to your reputation. It becomes essential, therefore, to asses a CRM program on its security. A relatively new aspect of security is the storing of data on the cloud. At one level, such storage is considerably more secure than anything saved on your hard drives, where it is vulnerable to theft, fire and other damage. But you need to feel satisfied with the security being provided by the program you are using, particularly where almost all the data is being stored in that way. After all, you are recording information on customers, some of which might be sensitive.

You can test the level of security provided by a CRM software provider in several ways.

One is to research the company providing the software. Check whether it has fallen foul to security failures and how they responded to them, if there were any. Another is to find out where your data will reside, who is ultimately responsible for its security, and what will happen if there is a problem. Among other ways to test the security is to check whether your CRM software fails to adequately record when users change their passwords. Another is to find out whether you can specify each user’s access controls. You can also check on how well the CRM software relates to your existing IT security software.

Examine evaluations of CRM software

Check on how others have evaluated and tested CRM programs. Some will rate the best programs available, whereas others will evaluate them based on the features that they provide and yet others will examine them on cost. Go through the assessments carefully, checking those that crop up regularly on top-10 lists.

For example, some will provide a list of free CRM software, such as Hubspot CRM, Inslightly, Zoho and Freshsales. Others will rate online CRM programs, such as OnePage, Airtable, SugarCRM, and Act! CRM. Yet others will provide a list of CRM packages for small businesses, such as Pipeline, Infusionsoft, Salesforce and AgileCRM.

Then there are lists for CRM software for real estate agents, for corporations, for sales people, for insurance agents…. You name it.

It is important to remember, however, that, even in select categories, each program has its own strengths and its own weaknesses. Some might specialize in outstanding email services, but if your business uses little email, the program might not be for you. Others are great for sales people, but if you have only a limited number of clients, you might need a different kind of CRM program.

Some might be free up to a certain level. If your business expands, you might need to start paying for the software and it’s best to check out what that might be.

Use the criteria outlined above to find the CRM software that will work best for you. Having looked into the pros and cons, try one out if possible before committing to it.

Once you have selected a program and it works for you, chances are you will be opened to a whole new world of managing customer relationships. You will be left wondering why you had not jumped on board much earlier. But then, of course, a lot of this technology is new and was not available until a few years ago.

If commercial CRM software isn't what you're looking for, be sure to check out the free open source CRM software section.

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