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New to CRM? Start Here.

  • What is CRM?
  • What to Look for in CRM Providers
  • Benefits of CRM Software
  • Different Types of CRM
What is CRM?

Customer relationship management refers to the practice of organizing business data, particularly relating to existing and potential customers, so that a company can provide customer experiences likely to result in a beneficial outcome to the organization, such as upselling, cross-selling, repeat business, word-of-mouth advertising and positive brand impressions.

Customer relationship management software has existed for decades. In the 80s and 90s, CRM software was typically installed for companies in on-premise servers. It required a significant investment in IT hardware, maintenance and the staff to support it. Therefore, CRM software was previously the province of enterprises.

Such options still exist. However, since the late 90s, the industry began moving over to cloud-based solutions, which are available via monthly subscription. This removed the significant upfront cost of on-premise installations and has made CRM software accessible to companies of any size and industry.

Today, numerous of the top CRM solutions exist to provide certain core functions – contact management, sales force automation, marketing automation and helpdesk ticketing. Some solutions offer a wide range of functions in all of these categories, while others offer a narrower scope with greater specificity to particular business use cases, such as number of users, industry or compatibility with other essential business applications.

Which CRM Software is Best?
The best CRM software for your company depends largely on your use case. You’ll need to evaluate your business needs relating to your sales process, marketing strategy, customer support capabilities, team size, budget, technical background and goals. The best CRM for enterprises won’t be the best CRM for small businesses. Similarly, the top CRM for real estate agents won’t be the best CRM for retail. There are advantages to larger providers – such as a wide range of potential integrations with third-party software – but a smaller provider might provide essential functions and support at a far more forgiving price point.

What to Look for in CRM Providers

1. Features – Determine which your team is struggling. Does your sales team have difficulty closing deals? Does your marketing team struggle to qualify leads? Are customers turned off by long wait times for support tickets? Self-analysis will tell you which CRM software is best for you.

2. Support – The top CRM providers offer different levels support per subscription. Is support available through email, live chat, and calls? Does the provider make onboarding sessions available? How active is their online community? CRM software is available even for the less technically-inclined; some providers will even perform a custom implementation, if you’re willing to pay for it.

3. Integrations – The CRM must be able to integrate with your other business applications – otherwise you’ll be constantly switching windows and re-entering data, which defeats the purpose of automations. An official integration means the CRM provider has done the work of ensuring their platform works with the third-party software; otherwise, you’ll need to find a workaround or hire a developer to create a custom integration using the CRM’s API.

4. Ease of Use – A CRM is only as good as its adoption rate. The platform provides more value the closer you get to universal adoption. The easier it is for all members of your team to use, the more accurate your data; CRMs that rank highly for positive user experiences often enjoy higher adoption rates than their rivals. Compare this factor in user reviews!

Once you’ve determined what you’ll need the software to do, you’ll be in a better position to gauge how significant an investment you’re ready to make. There are additional costs to a Customer Relationship Management vendor that aren’t included in the price – for example, the potential need to hire an administrator and the time required to train your team to use the new system – but most vendors provide a pricing page with clearly defined features per subscription tier. They also offer free trials; as with any major purchase, make sure you try before you buy.

Benefits of CRM Software

There are many benefits to customer relationship management software. While many key benefits depend on the focus of the software – whether sales force automation, marketing automation, or help desk ticketing – in general, CRM software leverages configurable rules and multichannel integration with big data and analytics to provide a level of automation, adaptability and insight in a short amount of time.

1. Reduce Busy Work – CRMs can be configured to automatically take certain actions – like update a record, create a task, send a notification, send an email or produce a report – after certain triggers. In short, a CRM can be configured to take care of necessary but unproductive busy work on behalf of your team, allowing them to handle more clients, generate more content, nurture more leads, address more customer service issues and so on – in other words, doing more in less time.

2. Unify Essential Functions – Many CRM platforms integrate email, SMS, calls, web chat and social media. Your agents won’t need to switch between windows, applications or device to handle their daily tasks – they’ll be able to perform necessary functions all within the same interface.

3. Visualize Data in Reports – Far more than a data repository, your CRM should either provide built-in reporting functionality or integrate with third-party business intelligence applications that visualize your data according to user defined criteria. All the data your business generates can be put to use identifying operational bottlenecks, underlying trends and forecasts by metric.

It is important to read the CRM software reviews we provided and ensure that they align with your company’s expectations and goals.

Different Types of CRM

There are 7 main categories/types of in-depth information provided by GetCRM about CRM technologies, to help you make more informed decisions on CRM solutions for your business:

  1. Full Service CRM Software

All-inclusive CRM systems integrate data and process information organization-wide, enabling companies to manage the complete spectrum of customer-related activities throughout the entire customer lifecycle, from the first stage of prospect marketing, through the current customer relationship reinforcement phase, and on through a sustainable period of ongoing repeat purchasing.

Updated information on all customer interactions with marketing, sales, and customer services, throughout the customer lifecycle, across all departments is accessible to any company representatives assisting the customer with any particular need. Even process status information from fulfillment and shipping departments, and customer billing and payment records are all readily available to help employees communicate with and serve customers more efficiently.

Included in the full-service CRM system, are all of the primary automation software solutions described in the sections below, as well as any one or more of the innumerable niche programs that can be incorporated for specialized uses. Various analytics around customer engagement and experience are also provided in full-array CRMs.

Today’s advanced CRM technologies also allow seamless integration with external networks to provide functionality for mobile and social CRM programs. These additional CRM channels capacitate a wide array of extended marketing, sales, and customer services opportunities for companies and customers.

  1. Marketing Automation

Marketing software tools facilitate lead generation, especially for inbound marketing campaigns and programs. Custom landing pages, sales and service assistance bots, calls-to-action, content marketing, and website tracking are all features of marketing automation software.

Lead qualification and lead scoring functionality are also automated, and marketers can manage lead nurturing through email marketing campaigns. Marketing solutions are integrated with the whole range of communications channels, including phone calling, emailing, messaging and social media marketing programs.

Key features of SaaS marketing automation solutions offered at higher subscription levels include various custom web design options using well-tested design layout concepts proven to consistently perform well in generating conversions and help optimize a business’s online presence.

  1. Sales Automation

One of the three essential areas of automated operations solutions provided by CRM technology is automated sales and sales management functionality. This set of features is commonly referred to as Sales Force Automation (SFA), or Sales Force Management.

SFA helps businesses consolidate and organize information bases including contacts, orders, marketing and sales opportunities, forecasting data, lead and pipeline activity, and more. Systems provide intuitively integrated dashboards and portals for user-friendly EDIs.

Automated sales software tracks interactions from top of pipeline onward throughout the sales process, facilitates classifications of interaction types. It further provides prompts for sales reps, functionality for sales tasks, schedule management, and cross-departmental information needed for efficient selling.

Automated sales software also integrates with marketing automation technologies. Or, it can include some marketing tools of its own, such as lead qualification, lead nurturing, and other prospect management functions. A complete sales CRM system also provides lead scoring and customer behavior analytics.

  1. Help Desk Ticketing

Customer service software (help desk software) is used for increasing agents’ efficiency to improve outcomes and overall quality of customer services, and even to develop self-service resources. Help desk ticketing, a key feature of customer service software, serves to automate much of a customer service agent’s work, enabling generation of, and rapid access to records of call center, web chat, email, SMS, and social platform communications activity.

Customer services representatives using prepared responses, ticket routing, macros and standardized escalation protocols can enrich customer services. Help desk ticketing software technology also enables development of information bases, customer community forums and other helpful product user resources.

Help desk ticketing automation also collates service tickets from various communications channels, and integrates and organizes all in a central streamlined information system. Today’s automated help desks are customizable, rapidly deployable, and seamlessly scalable for companies in virtually any size range, industry, and specificity of customer support requirements.

In addition to managing tickets, help desk ticketing automates routing of tickets to relevant departments and parties, organizes workloads for individuals, and enables step-saving macros. It also provides an array of analytics for evaluation of individuals and department performance.

  1. Email Marketing

Email marketing is a primary lead generator, a preferred method of customer engagement, and a time-tested producer of strong ROI. Marketing automation software usually features automated mail marketing tools, including email triggers, facilitating very personalized drip campaigns for lead nurturing, click through opportunities, and so on.

Email marketing automation executes instant auto-follow-up, so that leads are not left waiting for a manually executed follow-up confirmation that a company representative will contact them soon. Such emails can include a helpful link to the company representative’s calendar, and can even facilitate easy scheduling for consultations and other appointments.

Even with minimal manpower, a sales team can rely on email marketing automation to help smooth communications processes and promote a more satisfying customer experience for prospects and current customers. It also frees employees to multiply their efforts in other areas of customers’ interests.

  1. Survey Software

Businesses use survey software to identify trends and draw useful feedback from customers about products, services, and events. Survey software can be used to gather responses from customers, or employees, or for market surveying across demographics such as region, age group, gender, occupation, and so on. Users can easily create web forms for online surveys, polls and quizzes. Surveys can be implemented as pop ups, featured on landing pages, or distributed in email blasts.

Survey software offers businesses an affordable and directly personal approach to obtaining helpful input. Many customers readily participate in short, simple surveys. The personalized information acquired can be categorized into specific sub-market segments for use by sales and marketing teams, to help enhance customer experience.

  1. Customer Service

Customer service software applications help a business to track, organize, and seamlessly respond to customer inquiries and complaints. Customer support software allows businesses to organize their records of all company communications with customers. This feature provides comprehensive information that empowers customer services professionals with full knowledge of the history of the customer relationship. Bringing this expanse of knowledge to bear on the customer interaction permits the most highly value-added personalized service possible.

As mentioned above (Sec 4), the help desk ticketing feature of customer service software permits maintenance of all communications records, company-wide, in a single user interface. It even allows the business to manage different customer communications channels, such as web chat, email, and in-person interactions.

Beyond its help desk ticketing feature, quality customer service software further streamlines processes of resolving customers’ problems with quick self-service options, including such resources as searchable FQAs, online tutorials, user forums and others.

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