We’re here to explain everything you need to know about CRM software – and why you should be using it for your business.

In a nutshell, CRM software is a computer application used in streamlining and automating the processes of Customer Relationship Management, or CRM – which, as its name suggests, is the art and science of managing your organisation’s relationships with customers.

There’s more to it than that, of course. And in this article, we’ll be looking not only to answer the question “What is CRM Software?”, but to also explore the concept of Customer Relationship Management. We’ll consider why CRM software is an important tool for marketers to have in their arsenal, and we’ll be offering some recommendations on which CRM software programs you should choose – including products you can get access to for free, right here at FileHippo.

Let’s begin.

What is Customer Relationship Management (CRM)?

CRM

Image Source: Alpha Stock Images

As every business owner knows, customers are essential to your survival. However, customers don’t become patrons of a particular commercial organisation all at once.

There’s a process that proceeds from their initial discovery of what a company like yours has to offer (by word-of-mouth, advertising, etc.), to their first contact with your website or social media profile, then human sales representatives of the firm, then their first purchase, and onto post-purchase interactions by way of service calls, enquiries, and/or subsequent purchases.

This process is usually described as the “customer journey” or “buyer’s journey”. In essence, however, it’s a relationship that needs to be nurtured and sustained if the patronage of the existing consumer is to be maintained, and the interest of new consumers is to be generated.

Customer Relationship Management or CRM is all about these nurturing and sustaining processes.

What is CRM software?

CRM software is an application which brings a number of different functions together as a single cohesive unit or platform to facilitate, streamline, and, wherever possible, automate the processes of promoting and managing sales, keeping track of contacts, customers and suppliers, and nurturing an organisation’s relationships with the consumers of its products or services.

Typically, this involves functions such as creating and managing a database of sales prospects and customers, making phone calls, sending emails, scheduling appointments, adding notes, creating reports, tracking new events, and managing the sales pipeline. CRM software will also usually create a visual representation of sales prospects, and where they are in the purchasing process or buyer’s journey.

Why do I need CRM software?

Making sales is a time-sensitive process – once opportunities have been identified, they can easily be lost through delays in taking the next required actions to close a deal. This type of delay often happens when the information and resources available to a sales person or team are widely separated, recorded on a variety of incompatible media (post-it notes, calendars, spreadsheets, etc.), and generally disorganised.

CRM software eliminates this possibility by bringing all the tools, information, and resources needed by a sales team within the one system. And since all the components of a CRM software system have been designed to work together, it’s easy to switch from one function to another, and to pull in data from various sources.

How does CRM software benefit my business?

CRM software unites all the information and tools necessary for overseeing and guiding your consumers through their customer journeys. This may include getting real-time notifications when customers perform activities such as visiting your ecommerce portal, checking out your price list, or clicking on a link in one of your emails.

Information gathered from the CRM software can help inform ongoing and future sales and business decisions, and suggest the most appropriate ways for your staff to intervene or interact with the customer to help keep existing consumers loyal to your brand, and to turn prospects into actual sales.

The integrated nature and automation capabilities of CRM software can help boost your productivity, improve co-ordination between your sales staff, and create healthier sales pipelines. And of course, it’s an instrumental factor in helping to build lasting and profitable relationships with your consumers.

How to choose the right CRM software

On-site installations of Customer Relationship Management software have traditionally been expensive, complex, resource-intensive, and difficult to manage and maintain. For these reasons, CRM software was once confined to larger scale enterprises.

But modern CRM software is largely cloud-based, requiring little or no installation on the part of the user, who is also relieved of the burden of providing the infrastructure and management of the system. So small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) now have ready access to the same kind of CRM capabilities that the largest corporations once enjoyed exclusively.

In choosing a CRM software platform, the following capabilities should be factored into your decision:

  • Ease of use: A friendly interface and a shallow learning curve, so users can get started with the software in the minimum amount of time.
  • Price considerations: In addition to the basic (usually subscription) charges for standard features, watch out for hidden costs due to maintenance, service, or implementation.
  • Relevance to your business: Look for a set of features and services that work the way that you do and enhance your operations.
  • A standard set of tools: These should typically include lead management, pipeline management, built-in phone and email handling, report creation, and some degree of automation and customisation.
  • Mobile support: Since CRM software packages are now largely web-based, there should be optimisation for mobile devices, as well as dedicated mobile apps for the major platforms such as iOS and Android.

We’ve assembled three of the best CRM software solutions for you to consider – all of which are available to download for free here at FileHippo.

Zoho CRM

Zoho CRM

Zoho CRM (Image source)

Describing itself as CRM software “that helps you sell smarter, better, faster”, Zoho CRM comes from the same stable of applications as Zoho Projects and Zoho Books. Companies that already use these products will have a head-start in managing their sales, marketing, customer support, customer service, and inventory from a single platform.

But Zoho CRM goes further, offering built-in integration with your existing email environment (allowing universal communications throughout your enterprise), as well as integration with Google Apps, extending its functionality into other areas. Connections are also possible with a range of third-party apps including Microsoft Office, PhoneBridge, QuickBooks, MailChimp, and Constant Contact.

Zoho CRM’s automation tools allow for customisable work-flow management and the automation of regular tasks. Automatic configuration of new tasks as they occur is also possible, as well as the automatic assignment of these tasks to specific users, together with an alert, notifying that user of their new duties. Administrators can set up actions to be performed when certain criteria on particular work-flows are met. 

Zoho CRM is cloud-based and accessible from desktop or mobile devices with an internet connection. There’s a Zoho CRM mobile app for both iOS and Android, which allows users to access contact details, edit accounts and leads, or view and work with reports. Offline access to the platform is also catered for.

Zoho CRM offers a free plan for up to three users. It comes with all the basic features of the CRM software platform, and up to 5,000 records. Subscription-based pricing for Zoho CRM starts with a standard plan at $12 per user per month. A plan including email integration costs $20 per user per month, while enterprise users can get a multi-level version of the program for $35 per user per month.

You can access Zoho CRM from FileHippo, here.

Kickserv

Kickserv CRM

Kickserv (Image source)

Rather than CRM software, Kickserv describes itself as “business field service software [which] gives you the tools to manage leads, estimates, your team’s schedule, jobs, invoices and payments.” It’s a cloud-based Customer Relationship Management app designed for SMEs in the service and related industries looking for a system to keep their back office updated while their employees are out in the field.

With Kickserv, opportunities may be scheduled from the office or in the field, with estimates and invoices issued and payable from any supported mobile device. There’s real-time syncing with QuickBooks to ensure that financial data (items, contracts, invoices, payments, etc.) are updated as transactions occur. 

Kickserv’s syncing and integration with QuickBooks is a two-way process applying to QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop sync, and allows users on multiple platforms to maintain their accounts without the need for double-entry book keeping. The Kickserv CRM software also provides support for iCal, which enables users to access a subscription feed of all their scheduled events from calendars like Outlook and Google.

The calendar feature of Kickserv is one of its high points, with daily, weekly, or monthly views in which appointments may be dragged and dropped, filters applied dynamically, and colour-coding used to give field workers an instant view of their appointment schedules. Managers, too, enjoy an overview of which types of service calls are most in demand, and which field operatives have the busiest timetables.

Kickserv is available on a subscription basis, with an entry level plan at $29 for two users per month, up to a plan of $134 per month for 20 users. Businesses with more than 20 employees have the option of adding services in five-user packs at $15 each. There’s a free trial with no credit card requirement, and you can access Kickserv CRM direct from FileHippo, here.

ProsperWorks CRM

Prosperworks CRM

Prosperworks CRM (Image source)

“Loved by 10,000+ Customers in over 100 Countries”, ProsperWorks CRM software places its emphasis on making a Customer Relationship Management platform easy to use. The software is customisable to any sales or marketing work-flow, and straightforward enough for users to get to grips with without any training. It’s also fully integrated with Google’s ecosystem of office productivity applications, describing itself as “The #1 CRM for G Suite”.

ProsperWorks is embedded into Gmail (and recommended by Google), which makes it easy to update business opportunities, add contacts, retrieve account histories, and manage sales pipelines directly from your inbox. The flow of information between ProsperWorks and the Google suite of applications is seamless, enabling the smooth and simple interchange of each customer interaction history, together with its associated files and notes. The program has even been designed using Google’s material design principles, so that ProsperWorks looks like all the other G Suite apps.

The ProsperWorks CRM software is cloud-based and customisable for users in any industry who wish to have a transparent view of their customers. Each interaction is profiled by the system, which gives users relevant and up-to-the-minute information on how recently each customer has been contacted. And under the ProsperWorks automatic customer data saving feature, each file that’s sent via email is instantly linked and stored in the relevant contact’s portfolio.

Past and future calendar events, such as meetings and calls, are automatically logged with ProsperWorks. And the app can ‘intelligently’ suggest possible contacts, based on your previous correspondence.

All available opportunities may be viewed in a visual representation that supports drag-and-drop editing. Custom filters can be applied for drilling down to more detailed or specific information, and there’s an internal alarm system which will alert you when deals appear to be disappearing. Rounding out this “Opportunity Management” feature of ProsperWorks is a reporting tool that supplies weekly pipeline progression reports, so you can gauge your progress.

ProsperWorks operates on a subscription-based pricing model, with a Basic Plan starting from $19.00 per user per month, then a Professional Plan at $49 per user per month, and a Business Plan at $119 per user per month. There’s a 14-day free trial available with no credit card requirement, and you can access ProsperWorks CRM here, direct from FileHippo.

 Over to you

Armed with this knowledge, we hope you’re now in a position to answer the question “What is CRM software and why do I need it?”, and that you’ll take the opportunity to get access to some of the great CRM software that’s available here at FileHippo.