Siebel (now Oracle Siebel CRM), market leader in customer relationship management (CRM) field, once defined CRM as a way to identify, acquire, and retain customers - a business' greatest asset.
Over the last two decades, the above-mentioned definition of CRM has changed. CRM has evolved with the dotcom bubble, dotcom crash, dotcom re-emergence, and then with the emergence and dip of Silicon Valley. Rob Conway, technology sector legend once said, "There's a billion company created every 3 months. Now, it is every 2 months." No need to clarify that each one of them have used some sort of business management tool to stay organized through the 'start-up chaos'.
As the popularity, canvas, and reach of CRM software increased, big names too jumped in. Vendors started developing CRM software with the goal of helping organizations, not just with their customer contacts, but also business contacts. As the psychological cincture of CRM over organizations grew, it started being much more than just 'contact-sorters'. CRM vendors started incorporating sales and marketing features, planning tools, forecasting tools, business-to-business management tools, cloud support, and much more, so much so that CRM software have rapidly moved out of an organization's premises, and have now become cloud-based or web-based on-demand services. Thus, eventually, CRM software evolved and matured into what CompleteCRM refers to as the processes, software, and systems that help an enterprise manage its relationships with prospects, customers, distribution channels, call centers, and suppliers. These days, CRM isn't just limited to software or tech companies, it's widely popular and used across many sectors throughout the world. Featured below are some of the best CRM software solutions around currently.
One of the first to offer hosted CRM services, SalesForce is extremely popular with industry leaders as well as small- and medium-scale organizations. SalesForce recently started a social media integration initiative, where staying in touch with business prospects and customers on social websites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, etc., has been included as a special feature. To the delight of freelance app. developers, SalesForce's Force.com platforms allow them to create applications that integrate into SalesForce application. SalesForce's clients include Siemens and Starbucks, among others. If, the fact that it does not have any on-site presence and is a mandatory hosted service is a pro or a con can be a topic of debate. A certain major drawback with SalesForce is that it is slightly expensive as compared to the competition around it.
Not as fancy as its contemporaries, but a darling of the masses, SugarCRM is an open-source software, very affordable, and hence extremely popular with medium/small-scale business, as well as individuals who need a CRM for their own business relations and processes. SugarCRM includes most of the 'hotshot' features on offer in the CRM market these days, and it has lately started a hosted service too. It is can be used across a whopping 25 different languages around the world. The advanced report builder and its extensive cloud support are easily Sugar's biggest USP. It is as, if not more, powerful than SalesForce, but is more flexible, user-friendly, and of course inexpensive.
The software industry's big daddy too is in the fore. Microsoft's Dynamics CRM has an easy and accessible knowledge base, courtesy, a central database. Another important feature is the marketing campaign tool - an organization can manage its marketing campaigns for a solid customer base. Microsoft Dynamics CRM is available through cloud hosting, but is available on premises as well. While both have been known to yield good results, Microsoft Dynamics' inbuilt applications are supported internally by an SQL server database, which makes its easily accessible, yet secure. Since most computers in the world run Windows OS and other Microsoft applications, integrating Dynamics with these products/services is an added provision. Microsoft has recently also started offering 'CRM mobile' with Dynamics, a mobile CRM client for smartphones. Moderately priced for big and medium businesses, but a little expensive for small ones, Dynamics has been a feather in Microsoft's cap, and it keeps showing more prominently with every new version or update.
Oracle Siebel CRM
According to analyst firm IDC, Oracle is the market leader in the CRM sector with a 15.6% market share. It offers on-premise as well as hosted services. Oracle was one of the early introducers of social media integration for better customer connect in its CRM suite. Features such as customer order management, customer data integration, sales library, contact management, e-Billing, etc., are unique and excellent. Oracle Siebel CRM too includes a mobile client for its CRM service, to keep an organization's traveling employees (especially salespersons) connected to the organization's internal CRM system. The Application Deployment Manager only adds value to the entire package due to its unified framework and backup facility. It is not hard to figure out why Siebel gets the chunk of the CRM market share. Going by how they describe themselves, 'Siebel delivers a combination of transactional, analytical, and engagement features to manage all customer-facing operations... with solutions tailored to more than 20 industries', sounds accurate enough!
Among all those who offer customized business solutions, Sage is the best. It has been around for a while, starting off as a no-nonsense customer management service, and has comprehensively evolved into a fine and innovative business management suite. Ideal for medium-scale organizations, Sage offers flexible solutions for any organization. While many others offer similarly customized services, Sage is two steps ahead of its competitors. Sage offers the facility to re-use data from other software or web services. Other common CRM features such as e-Billing, marketing campaign, sales management, etc., too are decent enough, considering that Sage mainly caters to small or medium business setups. While Sage is mostly offered as a hosted service, an advanced version carries the option of on-premise installation too, and though Sage is a bit on the higher side when it comes to the monies, some medium-size businesses still prefer to shell the bucks and use it for their flexible solutions.
The first thing about Maximizer that strikes you is how user-friendly the interface is. Maximizer is clutter-free and requires minimal maintenance. It is available at an affordable price, hence, is preferred by many small and medium-scale companies. It features contact and opportunity management, sales force automation, and integration with Microsoft Office and QuickBooks. Among the drawbacks of the software is a very basic forecasting tool, and the absence of call center support, which is the heart and soul of customer relationship management. Maximizer is another CRM software that offers an excellent mobile client. Maximizer supports e-mail marketing - an e-mail address can be connected to its marketing campaign feature, and then e-mails can be sent out according to user requirements. Though Maximizer offers a hosted services option, it works best on-premises. Maximizer is an excellent choice for CRM software, though it cuts down on a lot of gibberish fancy that its contemporaries carry along.
SAP CRM is a fully-integrated CRM software by German software giant SAP AG. SAP's target has always been large organizations, and its CRM application is designed and priced to cater to that audience. The suite includes the usual suspects like sales and marketing tools, Analysis tools, a customer interaction center, and an excitingly unique 'Web Channel'. The web channel includes e-marketing, e-campaigning, and e-commerce services, apart from social media integration to stay connected with customers on popular social websites like Facebook and LinkedIn. SAP CRM is an on-premise as well as hosted on-demand service. SAP's Business ByDesign is a cloud-based business solution which includes both, its ace card ERP and its CRM application as a combined suite.
Somewhere around the mid-90s, IBM and Commence joined hands to develop IBM's SuperSELL sales force automation application. It was launched in 1998, and is often considered as one of the pioneer web-based sales force automation of the dotcom boom era. Commence, as an organization, itself has been around since 1988, and is an industry veteran when it comes to business process automation. So, it is no surprise that Commence CRM is a superb CRM option, especially for medium- and small-scale organizations. Commence CRM is easy to use, inexpensive, and highly customizable. It supports mobility and integrates well with QuickBooks accounting software. Commence has a cloud-based presence, and can be used as a CRM business solution for any business with up to 100 users. It is fully integrated with all major e-mail services, and allows mobile access too, but the mobile client stays offline. While Commence does not offer much in addition to the routine CRM features, what it offers is highly robust and efficient in terms of performance. A special facility that many users enjoy and are thankful for is 'rating and color coding for sales leads'. Arguably the second best customer care service, behind Goldmine, Commence is highly recommended if you are looking for a non-fancy but tidy and enriching CRM service that won't cost you a bomb.
One of the early birds of Sales Force Automation and Customer Relation Management, and the winner of several awards, Goldmine is extremely popular with small- and medium-sized businesses. The suite's biggest drawback remains its limitation to run only on a Microsoft Windows platform, thus alienating a small but significant section of users. Random complaints of slow directory processing and instability stroll along once in a while, but its long list of features, affordable price, and a one-of-its-kind anti-redundancy feature allows Goldmine to stay afloat on the popularity chart. Another reason for its popularity is its widely-appreciated customer care experience.
Infor CRM Epiphany
Infor is less of an CRM service and more of an integration of marketing, sales and service. Infor is rather expensive, but is very efficient in its customer experience management services. It is feature-rich, and hence is used by a majority of large-scale enterprises. Infor does not have a forecasting solution yet, and has only recently launched a mobile application (and that too appears to be in its nascent stages), which puts it a step behind its contemporaries.
The secret to a rapid and positive growth in business, by keeping the quality and quantity intact, is a having the right CRM software. The following table presents a comparison chart of the CRM software mentioned above, to help you better decide which CRM software is ideal for you/your organization:
|CRM Software||Management Tools||Sales and Marketing Tools||Business and Contact Tools||Technology Tools||Overall|
|Infor CRM Epiphany||6||6||5||8||6|
(All parameters in the following table rated on a scale of 10)
Other notable mentions include:
Which CRM software suits your organization's requirements and budget is the one you should opt for. Only not having an effective and powerful CRM is keeping your organization away from scaling the ladder of growth and prosperity. Go figure!