Everything you need to know about CRM software for your business

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(Image credit: Getty)

What is CRM?

A customer relationship management system or platform (also known as CRM software (opens in new tab)) is a tool that helps businesses manage, record, and analyze interactions between the company and clients.

Contents

• What does CRM software do?• How departments benefit from CRM software• Features and benefits of a CRM• How much does a CRM cost?• CRM frequently asked questions
• Key takeaways

At its simplest, CRM software gives companies a place to record customer contact information, such as their email addresses, telephone number, website details, social media profiles, and anything else that a company needs to know about a customer. 

It will also tracks the customer’s preferences, such as how they prefer to be contacted. 

CRM software also automatically pulls in other information, such as any relevant news about a client’s company. Effectively, CRM software ensures that by looking up a client (whether a current customer or potential future one), a business user can easily discover everything they need to know about a client.

It will integrate with other company systems and play a vital role in the sales funnel and help manage customer service and relations.

Article continues below…

What does CRM software do?

  • Provides a comprehensive view of a customer or client
    • Let you easily filter and update customer records, such as workplace and email address entries.
  • Makes it simpler to monitor and manage tasks and deals
    • Track sales pipeline stages—for example, lead qualification, proposal, and closed deal.
  • Automates customer-related processes
    • Create and assign tasks to sales leads, such as follow-up calls to specific clients.
  • Enables cross-departmental collaboration
    • Visualize and export data reports to identify opportunities to close deals.
  • Monitors and manages relevant email campaigns
  • Improves sales and customer service 
    • Integrate with common business software such as Microsoft Office and Xero, to complete tasks more efficiently.

How different departments benefit from CRM software

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With less need to focus on multiple platforms, IT departments can streamline software maintenance and support (Image credit: Pexels)

💡 Editor insight

Different departments within a company benefit in different ways from using CRM software. Here we’ll give you an overview of how they can benefit from CRM software and how it improves inter-departmental co-operation.

Customer service

Having extensive knowledge about a client easily at one’s fingertips means that customer support is far improved. It enables the department to personalize the customer experience, easily looking up previous conversation history and accessing detailed notes. 

By being able to consolidate communications in one place, it’s easier to log. It’s also possible to integrate CRM software with online chat tools, so that saved chat summaries can be sent to customers after an issue is resolved.

Through such methods, customer issues can be solved faster, meaning fewer support ticket queues for employees and superior service for customers. That leads to increased customer loyalty, and a better experience for the company’s staff too.

Teams offering customer support can use a CRM to quickly access up-to-date information such as personal details, account activity, and previous communications. 

This helps resolve queries quickly, and increases levels of customer satisfaction. Some CRMs include specialized help desk features such as ticketing and live chat. IT help desks can benefit from knowing when and where tickets have been raised, for customers as well as company colleagues.

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Having relevant customer information ready when speaking to a client can help improve customer relations (Image credit: Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash)

Marketing and sales

A marketing department can use CRM to track how prospective customers are finding the business, thereby determining where marketing is working most effectively. 

Leading from that, marketing can then use the information stored within a CRM to keep customers engaged in a way that’s relevant to them, thereby providing a more personalized experience. 

In a similar way, sales departments can sell in a more personal way to customers, being able to manage deals to suit them. 

With CRM software offering many integrations, sales departments don’t have to worry about switching between programs and missing key information. It’s also possible to view every deal in progress, and track and analyze individual sales performances for each employee. 

Finance 

For a finance department, CRM means that staff will always have an accurate and up-to-date view of the organization, without having to use multiple programs and spreadsheets. It can combine sales information from a CRM with data from another system to gain near instant insight. 

With a more precise business forecast, revenue and budget variances can be more effectively managed, as well as customer collections and any outstanding invoices too. Ultimately, all these services reduce the workload of a finance department, while also making them more efficient and accurate.

IT department

By using such a comprehensive service such as a CRM, a company’s IT department can focus its efforts on that one piece of software rather than needing to juggle multiple other tools that complete the same job. While IT will still need to manage other tools separately that are unrelated to the CRM process, it cuts down on the different types of software it supports, streamlining the process. 

Much like finance, IT can also use that information to audit where it can best serve customers and clients, as well as the company’s employees, thanks to CRM software providing such extensive reports and analysis. Finally, many CRM services are cloud-based, which means automatic software updates that IT won’t have to deal with.

HR department

For an HR department, CRM can help on multiple levels. It can help streamline recruitment by allowing them to enter details of applicants, and easily keep track of their responses and performance. 

It can also improve payroll management, as CRM software generally works well alongside accounting programs, meaning that HR managers can easily keep track of bonuses (tied into sales performances), commissions, absences, sick days, annual leave, and anything else that is required before arranging payments. 

Alongside this, HR can track employee performance via CRM and customer relations, as well as automate much of its daily processes. 

Features and benefits of a CRM

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CRMs can help improve a wide range of elements within a business (Image credit: Unsplash)

CRM software offers numerous benefits. Here’s a look at the key reasons why all businesses need to use such tools.

How much does a CRM cost?

💡 Editor insight

A study by Nucleus Research (opens in new tab) found that the average return on investment for CRM software is $8.71 for every dollar spent, so the evidence strongly points to CRM software being a worthwhile investment.

CRMs are typically priced per user per month. That means the cost escalates based on how large your company is and how many members of your team need access to the CRM (ideally, the whole company). 

Costs vary depending on your choice of CRM, with some starting from $12 per user a month, and others costing upwards of $200 per user a month, depending on the features you need. 

Many CRM platforms offer basic packages which include only the most essential functions, such as contact details and basic reporting. Often, the more a company spends, the more advanced features such as sales automation and integrations become available. 

That means a CRM package can often scale to the business’s needs, meaning that a small business can benefit greatly from a basic package before opting to upgrade as the business grows.

CRM pricing compared

Below we compare prices and features of some of the most popular CRM solutions.

CRM software Lowest monthly fee Free version Key features
Freshworks CRM $15 per user Free plan; 21-day free trial Deal management AI; In-built calling tool
Zoho CRM $14 per user Free plan; 15-day free trial Lead generation through website scraping; Deal management AI
HubSpot CRM $45 per two users Free plan; 14-day free trial Combined sales and marketing workflow; Website usage analytics
Apptivo $8 per user Free plan; 30-day free trial Native apps including invoice generator; Up to 10GB cloud storage
Insightly $29 per user Free plan; Two-week trial Database and workflow customization; Powerful reporting integrations
Salesforce (US link) (opens in new tab) $25 per user 30-day free trial Sophisticated workflow automation; Enterprise app development

CRM frequently asked questions

What are the three types of CRM?

There are three different types of CRM: collaborative, analytical and operational.

A collaborative CRM enables teams to have access to the same up-to-date customer data, no matter which department they work in. That means that everyone has the same notes on customer interactions, saving the need for customers to repeat themselves. 

An operational CRM provides tools to better handle a customer’s experience with automation features, making it easy to arrange interactions throughout the sales process. 

Analytical CRMs enable staff to look at how a sale or call was dealt with, and view trends on how customers behave and respond.

What are the disadvantages of CRMs?

The main disadvantage of a CRM is that it’s not usually free. Some providers do offer free plans, but you’ll need to upgrade to a paid plan if you want full functionality.

While companies can use spreadsheets or bespoke solutions, a CRM costs a regular subscription fee, which can be expensive for a small business. However, it’s often worth the investment to appear more professional. 

Alongside that, certain companies may require a more specific service that CRMs don’t offer, which is where a bespoke CRM may need to be created if possible. Staff will also need to be trained on using a CRM, which can put extra strain on certain departments.

What types of businesses would benefit from using CRM?

The majority of businesses would benefit substantially from using CRM. By being able to easily manage customer data and sort through it to prioritize leads and similar data, it’s a huge benefit for a company keen to grow their sales. 

While the smallest of firms could cope without a CRM, as the business grows, the need for a centralized form of management grows alongside it.

What does CRM mean?

CRM stands for customer relationship management, which is a business activity that uses insights from client records to improve and monetize relationships. CRM can include customer-facing activities such as email marketing and sales pitches, and internal processes such as conversion rate optimization and task assignment.

Is CRM software?

While CRM comprises both digital and non-digital activities, the term often refers to software products that enable better relationships with your customers. There are many vendors that offer CRM software at varying price levels.

What is an example of CRM?

A typical CRM program enables you to import an existing database of contacts (e.g., Google Contacts), edit individual records, create new sales opportunities and advance them through pipeline stages. You can also use it to track team members’ tasks, and export reports with your contact and sales data.

What are ‘CRM tactics’?

CRM tactics or strategies are a company-wide plan to help a business grow its revenues and profits, all while reducing costs and enhancing customer relationships. By analyzing how sales have been created and how they have performed, companies can develop strategies that work best for their sales range, based around what the CRM information has provided.

What makes a CRM good?

Automation is one of the key parts of a CRM, meaning that information doesn’t have to be manually added by staff or clients. 

More complex CRMs team up automation with integrations with other apps and services, so that everything comes together without much interaction required by any department. 

Alongside that, it’s helpful for the CRM to be intuitive to use and viewable via the cloud, so that team members aren’t constrained to using certain systems.

Key takeaways

There’s a lot to learn about CRM software, so if you only take away five pieces of information from this article, take these:

  • A CRM stores valuable information about customers. A form of advanced address book at its simplest, a CRM stores all contact information about a client as well as any interactions with them
  • A CRM saves businesses money. An efficiently-working CRM ensures that a company can work better and more cost-effectively, saving time and money
  • Improved customer relations. Saving customers the effort of repeating themselves improves their view of a business and increases retention rates
  • Different CRMs exist. It’s important to find the right CRM for your business, so that it matches with budget requirements as well as your needs
  • It streamlines work between teams. Departments in a company are able to work more effectively by viewing everything in one place, before breaking down sales analysis and team performance

Further reading

If you’re considering a CRM for your business, make sure to look at the best CRM software (opens in new tab) to find the best provider for you. Our Salesforce review (opens in new tab) and our Freshworks review (opens in new tab) cover two leading contenders in comprehensive detail.

It’s also important to consider other ways in which software can enhance your business aims. For instance, now is the time to pick the best cloud storage (opens in new tab), so that your team can work from any location, while the best VPN (opens in new tab) can protect your business’s data.

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