Wikipedia lists over 70 CRM platforms for tracking customers through their customer journey. These are vital tools in developing a customer experience model. Because there are dozens of them and they are changing all the time it is best they are reviewed here in a blog. With your help, we can keep this fresh.
Let's start with a very simple but fundamental principle – it is vital to keep track of our customers. The more we understand about each of our customers, the better will be our relationship with them. Before digital technology arrived, B2B sales people used to fill out customer visit reports and manually record their visits to customers. Computers have disrupted the world of Rolodex, first with simple Excel files and then with Microsoft Access.
Almost 20 years ago Marc Benioff, a former employee of Oracle, set up Salesforce in California. It was one of the first to offer customer relationship management (CRM) as a software service and its early introduction into the market has enabled it to maintain a leading position. Industry analysts reckon that in the world of CRM systems, Salesforce is twice the size of its nearest rival, SAP. The four largest suppliers of CRM systems are Salesforce, SAP, Oracle and Microsoft. Together these four companies take 40% of the market though there are many more CRM suppliers providing cheaper and more flexible products for small and midmarket businesses. Which should you choose?
The choice of CRM system depends on the size of your company, the number of customers, the way you acquire and manage customer data and what you want the CRM system to do. The people in your company who use the CRM system may not be tech wizards. Without being disrespectful to marketing teams, systems need to be easy to install and use. They must be readily linkable with other platforms such as Microsoft Office, gmail, and ERP systems. Some CRM systems capture data automatically the moment an enquiry is received. Some are massive, elegant databases for holding and analysing customer data. Some are good at tracking the customer through the customer journey. They all help manage customer relations and they have their different strengths.
One of the criticisms of some CRM systems is their complexity. And, of course, there is the cost - the cost of acquiring the system, installing it and using and maintaining may well determine what is right for you.
People in B2B companies who are responsible for sales and marketing now need to liaise closely with IT departments and software integration specialists who can help choose the right product. CRM is going to become more and more important so getting the right system is critical. Company culture and a company’s way of dealing with its customers is always going to be the key driving force in delivering excellent customer experience. We should always remember that the CRM tool is just that – it is there to help capture customer needs and manage them through the customer journey. It facilitates CX, it doesn't make it.
Bearing all this in mind, here are a selection of CRM tools widely used in B2B companies:
Hubspot - this well-regarded CRM system is free and gets great reviews. It collects and organises all the details from communications with customers whether these are by the website, phone calls, emails or social media. It integrates easily with other solutions such as Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics.
Freshsales - the clue to the strength of this CRM system is in its name. It assigns sales leads to people who are seeking to build more sales or new sales with accounts.
Pipedrive - this CRM system organises sales leads to concentrate on important potential customers. The originators are experienced app designers and so, not surprisingly, it is well designed for use on mobile phones.
Salesforce – as might be expected this well established CRM supplier has a product that can sing and dance in almost any way you want. It is just the job for tracking customer engagement, getting insights into customers and producing every type of sales forecast and report you can think of. Some say it is tricky to use and others complain about the cost - but it could be worth it.
Insightly - this CRM system is likely to suit small and medium-sized companies. It includes task management, and everything you need to track customer activity and communications.
Zoho - this CRM package enables you to link easily to customers Twitter and Facebook pages. It enables customers to be classified at different levels according to whether they are potential or current customers.
Nimble – in this software tool customer information can be imported from Outlook, Skype, phone and email. It is useful for building social media with customers and improving marketing campaigns.
PipelineDeals - this CRM system has the attraction of being simple and easy-to-use. It allows customer information to be collected for tracking marketing campaigns and it integrates easily with Microsoft Outlook, and Excel.
Nutshell – this tool is renowned for its analytics and reports. It is a cost-effective solution for attracting and retaining customers.