Customer relationship management (CRM) is one of the most essential aspects of running any consumer-facing business. Although technically, the term refers to any strategy for working with customers, it’s most frequently used to describe a type of software product designed to facilitate maintaining positive customer relationships. This article will offer an introduction to CRM software choices for business owners and leaders who are new to the game and want to make sure they find the right fit.
Why Invest in CRM Software?
Before evaluating options on a site like technologyevaluation.com, business owners need to ask themselves whether they truly need CRM software. In almost all cases, the answer is yes. While this category of software was initially designed for corporations and large, enterprise-level organizations, small and mid-sized businesses can now find options more tailored to their needs.
In the past, local shops had to manage only a small number of customers. Shop owners knew most of the people they relied on to keep the doors open on either a personal or professional level, and maintaining a positive reputation was a matter of encouraging word-of-mouth advertising. Today’s world is very different.
These days, customers interact with brands on multiple channels and expect a cohesive customer experience across them. They rarely form personal relationships with individual business owners or employees, instead making more nebulous brand associations. To accommodate these changes, businesses need software solutions that can help them manage a large number of customer interactions across multiple channels, systems, and departments.
Key Types of CRM Systems
Before investigating specific CRM systems, business owners need an idea of what type of system will best meet their needs. There are three primary categories of CRM software, each of which has a different focus and set of features. Understanding that fact will allow business owners to compare apples to apples when it comes time to look into individual systems.
Collaborative CRM Systems
The primary focus of collaborative CRM systems is to break down information silos. In large organizations, marketing, sales, and customer support teams often use different software systems, maintain their customer data, and operate in a way that’s disconnected from other departments. There may even be further divisions based on geographic locations, products, advertising channels, or specialties.
Collaborative CRM systems reconnect these discreet teams by giving them all access to the same real-time customer data. This type of software system treats each customer interaction as a small part of a larger whole and improves customer experience by keeping a shared record of past interactions so that each agent can learn the relevant details. Instead of repeating themselves each time they talk to new people, customers can get the help they need quickly and efficiently.
Operational CRM Systems
Operational CRM systems focus on streamlining company processes related to customer interactions. This type of software solution provides tools that make it easier to visualize and thus manage the full customer journey, starting with each person’s initial interaction with the website and moving through the entire lead management process and sales pipeline. Operational CRM systems then continue to track customer behaviors once they begin to make purchases.
The primary advantage of operational CRM software is that it usually provides advanced automation features. Companies that opt for operational CRM systems can take advantage of marketing, sales, and service automation to reduce workloads for employees and open up their schedules so that they can provide more personalized services.
Analytical CRM Systems
These days, just about every successful business leader understands the importance of leveraging big data in daily operations. Analytical CRM software solutions help them do that by providing digital tools for data collection and analysis.
Analytical CRM systems integrate all of a company’s customer-related data and identify trends that would otherwise go unnoticed. They allow users to visualize those trends in customer behavior so that the information can be put to good use identifying problems and increasing customer retention rates.
How to Choose the Right Type of CRM
For some businesses, it’s obvious which type of CRM system will be the best fit. However, most companies adopting CRM software solutions for the first time struggle with determining which direction to take their searches. Thankfully, they can learn from others’ experiences. Here’s what they need to know:
- Collaborative CRM systems are best for businesses that have many departments across multiple locations and need to provide omnichannel customer support.
Operational CRM systems are best for businesses that want to improve employee efficiency and get a high-level view of the customer lifecycle.
Analytical CRM systems are best for businesses that already excel at managing customer relationships across the lifecycle but want to use the data collected in the process more effectively.
Businesses that are still relatively young and have little customer data won’t get much out of an analytical CRM system and might instead benefit more from an operational CRM software solution that improves workflows and makes it easier to scale up efficiently. Well-established companies that have collected a lot of data on their customers but don’t know what to do with it almost always benefit the most from analytical CRM software.
How to Choose a Specific Software Solution
There are dozens of discreet software solutions within each category of CRM system, but not all of them are created equal. The best solution is often to find software that incorporates features from each category of CRM. In addition to looking at what features each system offers, business owners should also prioritize ease of use, scalability, security, reporting, and product integration.
The Easiest Way to Get Started
Business owners that want to find the perfect software solution can use comparison tools that highlight the advantages and drawbacks of each CRM. Read through some buyer’s guides, use comparison tools, and check out what other businesses in similar industries have to say about each company. There are plenty of tools available to help make the right choice. When in doubt about how to evaluate options, business owners can also work with software consultants.