Our Top Picks
Choosing the Best CRM Software
It's important to keep in mind that choosing the right CRM software often comes down to the type of organization and the features that are needed the most. The lists below highlight the top products for certain groups or for those who only require a basic contact management solution that can eventually grow into more.
The 3 Best Contact Management Software Solutions
The 3 Best CRM Software Solutions for Nonprofits
The 3 Best Small Business CRM Software Solutions
What CRM Software Features Matter and Why?
Customer Support contains a set of features used to centralize and manage customer service requests. This can be achieved through case management tools, and the ability to create solutions and share them internally or with customers through a knowledge base. Most top CRM software will also have a self-service portal that can be set up for each organization and accessed by customers. Another powerful feature for Customer Support is the ability to capture customer cases through web and email, which streamlines the process and prevents the need for manual transfer of data to the CRM system.
- Case Management - You can create, track, and manage customer cases.
- Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) - Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) is enabled for this product. At a minimum, this allows you to manage incoming and outgoing calls.
- Email-to-Case - You can capture a customer case from email.
- Knowledge Base - You can publish a knowledge base to contain solutions to be shared with users in your organization and customers.
- Self-Service Portal - You can provide online support for your customers through a self-service portal.
- Service Contracts - You can create, track, and manage service contracts - which is an agreement between you and your customers.
- Solutions - You can create, view, and manage solutions used to solving customer cases.
- Web-to-Case - You can capture a customer case online through web forms on your website.
Marketing Automation contains a set of features used to automate the marketing process. A key functionality of Marketing Automation is the ability to create marketing campaigns. The best CRM software will often have advanced features such as campaign cloning, campaign activities, and a campaign wizard to create and manage campaigns with ease. Other essential features in Marketing Automation include pre-built email templates, mass emailing, and web-to-lead forms to capture leads from a site. These basic marketing activities will come stocked in most top CRM software products.
- Campaign Activities - You can create activities, waves, or hierarchies within a marketing campaign.
- Campaign Cloning - You can easily clone or copy an existing marketing campaign.
- Campaigns - You can plan, create, track, and manage marketing campaigns through the CRM application.
- Campaign Wizard - You can get step-by-step guidance in creating marketing campaigns.
- Email Templates - You can utilize pre-defined email templates or create your own.
- Mass Emailing - You can send a mass email message to multiple recipients.
- Web-to-Lead Forms - You can create and publish forms on your organization's website to gather information and capture new leads.
Reporting and Analytics contains the essential features required to monitor and report on key performance indicators. The best CRM software products will enable a real-time view into sales, marketing, and customer service performance and metrics. This is typically achieved through the use of dashboards, which often can be customized. Other features include charts that have drill-down capabilities and a selection of pre-built reports. Most top CRM software products will enable custom reporting as well as scheduled reports, which will automatically generate and send reports to individuals or teams.
- Analytic Snapshot - You can report on and view historical data.
- Campaign Metrics Reporting - You can get reporting on campaign metrics such as: ROI, bounce emails, unique emails open, total email click-throughs, unique email click-throughs, and click-to-open rate.
- Charts - You can create, edit, and view charts with data from the CRM application.
- Customizable Dashboards - You can customize dashboards.
- Custom Reporting - You can create, edit, and view reports with data from the CRM application.
- Dashboards - You can view data through dashboards.
- Drill-Down Capable - You can drill down on a report or chart to see the data set used.
- Export Reports - You can run and export reports from the CRM application. Typical report formats are CSV, PDF, and XLS.
- Multiple Report Types - You can view a report in different formats. These formats include tabular, summary, or matrix.
- Pre-Built Reports - The product comes stocked with pre-built reports.
- Report Builder - You can set up new reports or existing ones through a report builder.
- Sales Reports - You can report on opportunities and leads.
- Scheduled Reports - You can schedule a report to run daily, weekly, or monthly. Some products also have the functionality to email the report to you automatically.
- Support Reports - You can report on cases and solutions for your organization.
Sales Force Automation (SFA) contains a set of features used to streamline the sales process and is an integral part of any full-featured CRM software. This includes automation of such business tasks like contact management, opportunity tracking, sales forecasting, and the entire lead management cycle from routing and scoring to qualifying and converting. The top CRM software products will have robust functionality when it comes to Sales Force Automation, which will help drive sales performance due to data sharing across multiple teams and improved efficiencies from task automation.
- Account Management - You can create, track, and management accounts.
- Activity Tracking and History - You can track current and historical activities for a record, such as accounts, contacts, and leads.
- Assets - Assets are specific products your customers have. You can create, store, and manage this in the CRM system.
- Competitor Tracking - You can track competitors' strengths and weaknesses for your opportunities.
- Contact Management - You can create, track, and management contacts.
- Contract Management - You can create, track, and management business contracts.
- Customizable Sales Forecasting - You can customize sales forecasts.
- Customizable Sales Process - You can customize sales processes for your organization.
- Document Library - You can store files in the document library. These are files that are often shared with your contacts and accounts.
- Lead Management - Leads are potential customers. You can create, track, and manage leads in the CRM system.
- Lead Routing - You can route leads to the appropriate person or team.
- Lead Scoring - You can score leads.
- Multiple Currencies - Your administrator can set up your CRM system to use multiple currencies.
- Opportunity Alerts - You can set up alerts to monitor deals from opportunities.
- Opportunity Tracking - You can track and manage opportunities, which are sales or pending deals, for your organization.
- Product Catalog - You can create, track, and manage products and price lists.
- Qualify and Convert Lead - You can qualify and convert a lead to an account, contact, or opportunity.
- Quota Management - You can set and monitor sales quotas for your sales representatives.
- Quotes - You can create and share quotes for customers.
- Sales Forecasting - You can create and generate sales forecasts to see what your expected sales revenues are.
3rd Party Integration is how well the CRM software works with third-party applications. This can be as basic as creating mail merge Microsoft Word documents or exporting CRM data to Microsoft Excel for further analysis. In addition, the best CRM software often will integrate with social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Depending on the CRM software, this can include the ability to view customer profiles and get real-time activity feeds from within the CRM.
- Facebook - You can integrate the product with Facebook, which enables you to view a contact record's profile from within the CRM application.
- Google Apps - You can integrate the product with Google Apps.
- LinkedIn - You can integrate the product with LinkedIn, which enables you to view a contact record's profile from within the CRM application.
- Microsoft Excel - You can integrate the product with Microsoft Excel.
- Microsoft Word - You can integrate the product with Microsoft Word. This is useful for such tasks like creating mail merge templates with data from the CRM application.
- Twitter - You can integrate the product with Twitter, which enables you to view and join in on real-time customer conversations.
Customization allows an organization to customize and personalize the CRM software to its own preferences. Not all companies are the same, and as such, the ability to customize fields, personal display, and tabs/modules is quite important. The top CRM software will also have a marketplace for users to download (either free or for a fee) applications to augment and further customize the CRM software. This can be important for companies who are looking for more robust features that did not come stocked in the CRM software.
- Fields - You can customize fields in the CRM application. Depending on the product, this can mean renaming, creating, or ordering fields.
- Formula Fields - You can create formula driven fields in the CRM application.
- Manage List Views - You can customize list views in the CRM application to see a specific set of records.
- Marketplace - You can customize the CRM application by adding applications, either from the company or a 3rd party, through a marketplace or app store.
- Personal Display - You can change display options in the CRM application to personalize the user interface based on role.
- Tabs/Modules - You can customize tabs or modules in the CRM application. Depending on the product, this can mean renaming, creating, ordering, or grouping tabs or modules.
Data Management indicates how equipped a CRM software is when it comes to dealing with data. This is as simple as the ability to import data in batches and deleting mass data. Most top CRM software will come with tools to de-duplicate data and merge records as well. Data Management is a fairly important category for CRM software as the data typically can be large and any features to automate the processing of data as well as maintaining quality would be important for any organization.
- API - The product has an API feature that enables you to access your organization's information from the CRM application.
- Data De-duplication - You can identify, fix, and reduce duplicate data through data de-duplication.
- Data Import - You can import data into the CRM application. Most commonly in CSV or XLS formats.
- Deleting Mass Data - There is an option to export all of your data in the CRM application.
- Export Backup Data - There is some level of monitoring functionality that enables you to track certain tasks like: bulk data load jobs, inbound emails, usage, or workflow queues.
- Monitoring - You can merge duplicate data.
- Record Merge - You can merge duplicate data.
Email Integration indicates how well the CRM software works with email applications. The most basic level of integration would allow users to access email from such applications as Gmail and Microsoft Outlook from within the CRM. A measure of success in implementing a CRM system is the ability to keep users inside the CRM - Email Integration allows for that. It will enable users to communicate with contacts without having to leave the CRM.
- Gmail - You can view and send email from a Gmail account within the CRM application.
- IBM Lotus Notes - You can view and send email from an IBM Lotus Notes email within the CRM application.
- Microsoft Outlook - You can view and send email from a Microsoft Outlook email within the CRM application.
- Yahoo - You can view and send email from a Yahoo email account from within the CRM application.
Learning Curve contains a set of materials that can be used to get started and learn more about the CRM software. This includes FAQs, a knowledge base, training videos, and user guides. Learning Curve is important, as CRM software isn't necessarily software that you can just get up and running on in hours - it will take days. It requires a certain level of setup and practice to fully take advantage of all the features a CRM software has to offer.
- Best Practices - You can find best practices for the product. Typically in implementation of the product in your organization.
- Blog - There is a blog for the product.
- FAQ - There are frequently asked questions (FAQs) for the product.
- Knowledge Base - There is a knowledge base for the product.
- Training - Some level of online training is available for the product. Typically as courses or classes.
- User Guides - User guides are available for the product.
- Videos - Videos are available for the product.
- Webinars - There are webinars for the product.
Mobile is the ability to access data in the CRM system on a hand-held device. Most CRM software products allow access to accounts, cases, contacts, dashboards, leads, and tasks. The best CRM software products will enable edit abilities from a hand-held device. The more common devices are iPhone, Android, and Blackberry. Mobile is especially important for companies that have traveling employees who require access to customer data while on the go.
- Access to Accounts - You can access account records from the CRM application on a mobile device.
- Access to Cases - You can access case records from the CRM application on a mobile device.
- Access to Contacts - You can access contact records from the CRM application on a mobile device.
- Access to Dashboards - You can access dashboard(s) from the CRM application on a mobile device.
- Access to Leads - You can access lead records from the CRM application on a mobile device.
- Access to Opportunities - You can access opportunity records from the CRM application on a mobile device.
- Access to Tasks - You can access tasks from the CRM application on a mobile device.
- Android - You can access the CRM application with an Android phone.
- Blackberry - You can access the CRM application with a Blackberry.
- Can Edit - You can make edits to data in your CRM application on a mobile device.
- iPad - You can access the CRM application with an iPad.
- iPhone - You can access the CRM application with an iPhone.
- Windows - You can access the CRM application with a Windows phone.
Security and Administration contains the core features needed to effectively manage the CRM system from a security standpoint. Through user management, privileges can be set to control access to the CRM system and manage such things as who can see data and at what level, who can edit data, who can delete data, and who can create data. Other key features include field-level security, data sharing rules, and security groups. Security and Administration is fairly important as an organization would want to ensure the security of data that is typically stored in a CRM system, which is often of high value and sensitivity as it relates to customer and account information.
- Data Sharing Rules - Data sharing rules enables administrators and/or users to grant access to defined sets of users.
- Field-level Security - Field-level security enables administrators to restrict view and edit access for certain fields in the CRM system.
- Security Groups - Administrators can create and manage groups in the CRM application. This may include groups based on location, department, or job profiles.
- Territory Management - Territory management enables administrators to grant access to accounts based on characteristics of the accounts. Often is used to structure sales territories.
- User Management - User Management enables administrators to perform certain tasks for users like create user, reset password, and assign permissions.
Support encompasses the various ways to contact the CRM vendor with technical support issues. This can include the traditional channels of support like phone, email, and chat. A growing trend in Support is the availability of a forum for the CRM software product. The most helpful ones often are created and moderated by the CRM vendor themselves with an active community who contributes to the forum. In addition, the best CRM software products will often have a customer service portal that can be used to submit and track case tickets.
- Email - You can get assistance with customer or technical issues with a representative through email.
- Forums - A community for support with common product problems. Typically made up of users and product specialists from the company. Also known as "communities" or "answers".
- Live Chat - You can get assistance with customer or technical issues with a representative online through live chat.
- Phone - You can get assistance with customer or technical issues with a representative through phone support.
- Social Media - The company has a social media presence in Twitter, Facebook, and/or Google+. This could be a viable support channel for some products.
- Tickets/Case - You can get assistance with customer or technical issues by submitting a ticket/case/service request online, most commonly through a customer service portal.
Workflow Management contains tools to further automate sales, marketing, and customer support processes. This may include rules to assign leads and cases to an individual. In addition, Workflow Management can be used to create auto responses for incoming emails and escalation rules for when customer cases are not solved within a certain period of time. Workflow Management can also be used to drive improvement and efficiency to business processes by automating what would otherwise by manual, repetitive steps in a workflow.
- Auto Response Rules - You can create auto response rules to automatically send email responses based on a set of conditions.
- Case Assignment Rules - You can create case assignment rules to specify how cases are assigned to users or queues.
- Custom Workflows - You can create custom workflows to automate procedures and business processes.
- Escalation Rules - You can create escalation rules to escalate cases to users or queues if they are not resolved within a certain time period.
- Lead Assignment Rules - You can create lead assignment rules to specify how leads are assigned to users or queues.
- Visual Workflows - You can create workflows visually in diagram structure.
Inventory Management contains features used to keep track of inventory. This includes the ability to create and manage products, create price books for different accounts, manage vendors who supply materials for products, and create sales orders and invoices. The majority of top CRM software products do not come stocked with Inventory Management features. Often, companies will look for third party solutions if inventory management is needed.
- Invoices - You can create and manage invoices (customer bills).
- Price Books - You may sell products to customers at variable prices. Use price books to track and manage this.
- Purchase Orders - You can create, track, and manage purchase orders.
- Sales Orders - You can create and manage sales orders for customers.
- Vendor Management - You can track and manage vendor information.