Powerful CRM Software
A wide variety of CRM (customer relationship management) software features are available from software producers. In this article, we will sort through the options so you can focus on what you need and know what to look for in your next solution. Interestingly, with the continuing shift towards integration and consolidation of tools, the lines between the traditional feature set in today's solutions and that of yesteryear continue to blur and evolve. This is good news for users as it means they may be able to decrease costs as they will increasingly need fewer tools to get their jobs done.
As large and small companies continue to expect more functionality from the tools they use, CRM system producers are answering the call by adding features. In this article, we will cover those CRM software features in detail and review some unique insights and strategies for you as we aim to compare your options and cover the trends we are seeing. If text capabilities are important to you, be sure to check out our companion Guide To The 7 Best CRM Software with texting options to learn about CRM and SMS integrations in greater detail.
With all that in mind, even the best CRM software features are only as good as the data you and your team collect, measure, and analyze for effective customer relationship management. Effectively managing your CRM will allow you to centralize your contact data to achieve streamlined collaboration within your organization.
Seeing the results of improved customer service and having the ability to launch sales and marketing campaigns that are measurable and personalized can be exciting. It is no secret that organizations that employ well-integrated CRM systems see the benefits of increased operational efficiencies and are better equipped to grow, measure, and report on their marketing activities.
Related Article: CRM Software: The Ultimate Guide For Businesses Of All Sizes
Overview of 10 Top CRM Software Features
There is nothing more important for any organization than efficiency, and a CRM is ideal for streamlining business processes. Workflow automation is one of the most essential features and functionalities to prioritize. Many tools provide a variety of preset automation and the ability to set up customer automation and workflows.
By defining your existing workflows, you can easily port those to a new CRM system or redefine them as you transition and go live. No matter your approach, Automation is one of the most essential CRM software features to get right at go-live. When done well, it will help all of the functional areas of your company coordinate in unison to achieve your goals as a team.
The user interface or UX design of your CRM is an important feature. Most systems today have well-thought-out designs, but how easy are they to customize? This should be a consideration as you select a solution. One of the most essential CRM software features you need is the ability to customize the solution to your needs. Can you quickly change the order of fields and update the data inputs for various fields? For example, if identity verification is crucial to you, having a first name, last name, middle name, or initial, and a prefix or suffix might be necessary.
Some users will require advanced capabilities, while others will be good to go with standard options. Be sure that the order in which forms are presented to your users makes sense for your workflow. Can you select different views by functionality? Many of the forms are best presented by functional area and user needs. The needs of your customer-facing team members will be different from those of other departments that are not interfacing directly with your customers.
Integration Capabilities and Features
Accessing your existing customer and sales report data in the new system is extremely important. Using existing CRM integration features available as a preconfigured app as part of your chosen solution in many scenarios may be possible. However, using the features of a CRM may not be possible in all cases, as software from some vendors may require integration with other systems using tools like Zapier, Workato, Microsoft Power Automate, or Automate.io.
No matter how you get there, whether it is through an out-of-the-box integration tool or a third-party tool, make sure that you can tie all of your systems and data together. By integrating your systems and data well, you will have live, real-time information that can be shared using best practices for your entire organization.
Armed with accurate and detailed customer data, your customer-facing teams can quickly respond to customer service inquiries. Exceptional service is an expected cost of admission in today's fast-paced business world. No matter the channel of inquiry, you need to be where your customers are and communicate with them quickly.
A quick story to illustrate the point. In my last company, we provided hobby products to consumers worldwide. It was not unusual for customers to contact us for order status updates, tracking details, and more. Your CRM system can provide all of this information via live chatbots tied to your systems. Let's face it, you may have already emailed the customer and sent tracking by text, but they may still come to you for this information. Being able to respond quickly and accurately is the key. You will see the happiness via your online feedback and offline via your CSAT score metrics.
Analytics and Reporting
Let's be honest; the volume of data is growing exponentially, especially with the advent of AI. This growth can seem overwhelming at first glance. The key is to have a system that can draw actionable insights from large data sets on the fly. Thanks to AI and advanced reporting capabilities, many of the best CRM systems can easily do this for you.
Gone are the days when teams of people would need to manually sift through mountains of data to prepare reports for management to review. This is both exciting and a bit scary. At the end of the day, though, while some types of work will be replaced by AI, others will still require human thought interpretation and analysis. Data-driven decision-making is the key to propelling your sales and efficiency forward.
Advanced Lead Management
As inquiries flow into your CRM, they can quickly be routed to the best team to handle the inquiry. Leads can be scored and routed to the most appropriate salesperson to handle the inquiry. This level of lead management makes the most of everyone's time and skills. Ultimately this feature will lead to more closed-won sales leads in your system. A good example would be an organization that offers multiple services and has both an inside and an outside sales team.
Please think of how great it would be to automatically route the lead to your closest outside sales rep covering a specific region for a specific product line. This is the case and the opportunity with advanced lead management routing rules and capabilities. With advanced analytics built into most CRM feature sets, you can track the leads from inquiry to close. This capability is a great budget saver as you can now invest specifically in the leads that generate the best outcomes for your organization.
Being able to set campaigns and sales sequences that make sense for each use case is where a CRM system can shine. An automated series of opt-in emails and texts can be set up and triggered by specific events in the sales process. If you know that 7 contacts are required to close a deal, why not automate them? It is also possible to schedule these campaigns well ahead of time.
Marketing automation can easily empower your team to do more with less. For example, you can create an automation to auto-publish content to various social media sources on creation. This frees up your team to communicate with your social media followers to nurture those relationships. Gone are the days when marketing teams spent their days distributing content manually.
With the increasing shift to mobile, the number of internal and external users connecting by mobile is at an all-time high. Nearly 60% of web visits are made on mobile devices, and that trend continues to accelerate. Providing your outside sales team with mobile connectivity is not only expected but a requirement for most modern sales organizations.
Speed is the name of the game, and a team that is equipped to respond to proposals and opportunities quickly can gain a competitive advantage. As you explore and compare options, you will notice that most CRM mobile solutions may only offer a limited set of features optimized for small screens. Other solutions you will find have a complete feature set available on mobile. Look at your needs and be sure to understand what you are getting and what your needs are.
Security, Privacy, and Data Protection
We include a side-by-side comparison of the critical data and security CRM software features in our article entitled 6 Big Benefits Of Using CRM Software. In that article, we compare several of the most popular CRM solutions available as SaaS solutions in a detailed chart. A detailed analysis of each platform's security and data protection, along with the benefits of using CRM software from each alternative provider, is shown in that chart.
As a business owner or IT services professional, you understand the importance of a solution that offers the latest capabilities. From HIPAA and GDPR compliance to dedicated IP address, SSO, and SAML permissions, you will find a long list of important CRM software features to look at. You only need to turn on the news to understand the importance of maintaining adequate security and data privacy policies for your systems.
Collaboration and Group Management
As mentioned earlier in this article, every functional member of your organization has different needs for your CRM. It is important that your solution is able to provide an environment that fosters collaboration across departments. What good is it for your sales team to land a big deal if your finance department cannot quickly see and interact with the new order?
Many steps are involved, from working through the new account financing and terms to shipping an order. Having information available and a well-defined process in place is key. Many systems will allow you to set up individual users and organize them in teams by functional area. You can also organize groups in a hierarchy that makes the most sense for your organization. From there, you can provide levels of access and security as required by specific users and or departments.
Unique Insights and Strategies
Let's quickly look at a few real-world examples and case studies of unique marketing strategies and see what insights we draw from them. Our first story comes from the land down under, as they say here in the States. Declan Flaherty, Product Manager at Driva in Australia, increased conversions by 50% YoY with ActiveCampaign's CRM and email marketing solution. The enterprise solution effectively scales with Driva's growth and automates lead management.
A second case study comes from a research foundation using AWeber, a GDPR and HIPAA-compliant email marketing solution, to reach its fundraising goals. The integration capabilities of this solution tie into a wide variety of CRM solutions. According to the Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation, having an email address is crucial for direct communication with donors and subscribers. A healthy email list is essential for sharing medical breakthroughs and fundraising for Alzheimer's research. Using AWeber's solution, the foundation saw a 500% increase in email subscribers.
5 Tips for Using CRM Software Features to Improve Customer Relationships
- Always be thinking ahead when it comes to your customer information needs. Be sure you are using the data to help you fulfill and even anticipate your customer needs. Use available information to proactively update and educate customers on their needs.
- Streamline your sales and marketing process by setting up the automation and templates you will need to foster and grow your customer partnerships. Where it makes sense, be sure to use third-party software integrations that are compatible with the software to enhance your customer experiences.
- Personalize your communications with your customers by using all of the data in your CRM. A well-crafted and personalized email, text, or social media communication with your customer will go a long way toward building rapport. Go beyond simple fields like name and email and dig into the data to personalize your communications with other data elements, such as previous purchases.
- You can suggest related products and services that might interest a well-segmented portion of your database. As new products and promotions come out, your customers will appreciate your personalized communications to let them know.
- Use your data to build and improve customer service offerings. Allow your team to brainstorm and develop unique and creative ways to improve daily interactions. Customer support can quickly be elevated to a new level, and responses can be fulfilled with greater ease and speed than ever before.
- Keep your employees updated with frequent training on your solution's latest updates and changes. As you launch your solution, constantly tweak and refine the automation and templates as you get feedback from your internal and external stakeholders. Ask for feedback periodically and keep a running to-do list of improvements that can be rolled out.
Here are a few final thoughts to help you implement these best practices to maximize the benefits of your CRM platform. As a small to mid-sized business owner or team member, you have a lot on your plate. Look for small wins each day, and do not feel you need to accomplish everything from the start. Take the time to strategize and identify ways to integrate the CRM software features into your existing business processes and framework. Remember, there is no best way to use CRM technology for all companies. It is not a one-size-fits-all all solution but a solution that needs to be customized to your environment.
Comparison of CRM Software Options
The chart below provides an overview of popular CRM software providers, comparing the key CRM software features, pricing, and where available free options.
|Pricing starts at $50/user/month
|Free trial available
|Pricing starts at $14.90/user/month
|Free trial available
|Pricing starts at $19/month
|Pricing starts at $25/month
|Pricing starts at $12.74/user/month
|Pricing starts at $18/user/month
|Free trial available
|Pricing starts at $159/month/billed annually
|Free CRM option available
|Pricing starts at $49/user/month/billed annually
|Free trial available
3 Key Future Feature-Based Trends in CRM Software
The CRM market continues to grow and evolve at a rapid pace. How will the future trends in CRM impact your business? This is a great question, and here is a list of the top trends we see coming and how we believe they will impact businesses.
We expect to see a series of more vertically focused industry-specific CRM platforms introduced. These solutions will be customized out of the box to industry-specific needs, thus allowing users to get up and running with minimal customization required. Some of the industries where we expect will see the greatest advances in CRM solutions are those with advanced compliance and regulatory requirements, including: - Insurance - Automotive - Healthcare - Financial services
We expect to see advances in IoT connectivity and end-to-end automation in CRM solutions rolled out in the coming years. With the advances in AI and the continued push towards integration and automation, this will benefit many companies as they will be able to reduce labor costs and continue to see gains in efficiency.
The final area that we believe is a big trend to watch is the continued improvements in the reporting and analytics capabilities. This is driven by the ability of AI to synthesize and provide insights into massive sets of data quickly and efficiently. All of this means that businesses with systems in place will see substantial gains in their ability to spot and understand consumer trends and behavior before their competitors.