A customer relationship management (CRM) software is a tool that businesses use to manage and improve their relationships and interactions with prospects and customers. CRM solutions generally fall into three fundamental types: operational, analytical, and collaborative. In this article, we outline the features and benefits of each CRM type, including their best use cases, to help you choose which one best fits your business needs.
An operational CRM manages and tracks your company’s interactions with your prospects and customers to help you acquire new customers and retain existing ones. It automates business processes to save you time. Business owners also employ this type of CRM to generate leads, convert leads into customers, record contact details, and serve customers. It also allows you to facilitate accounting, inventory, project, and human resource functions from a single system.
Who operational CRM systems are best for:
- Companies wanting to oversee and track business functions across departments within their CRM
- Sales professionals needing to manage pipeline stages and perform sales activities like appointments and quotes
- Teams that execute and track marketing campaigns and link them to leads and contacts
- Sales professionals and business managers who need to manage post-sale projects for the products they are selling
- Businesses that coordinate and execute inbound or outbound calling within their CRM
The core features of an operational CRM include sales automation, marketing automation, and service automation.
Sales automation is the process of streamlining manual and repetitive steps in the sales process, such as appointment scheduling, pipeline management, lead conversion, and taking notes. This frees up your sales team from administrative tasks and allows them to focus more on selling products and interacting with customers.
Another aspect of sales automation is lead scoring, which involves ranking the prospects to let sales representatives know which leads are worth pursuing or are ready to engage with your business. For instance, Salesforce Essentials, which is an example of this type of CRM, can be set up to monitor your leads and automatically update their contact details every time they interact with your company, so that your team spends less time on data entry.
An operational CRM’s marketing automation feature streamlines repetitive marketing tasks, such as email marketing campaigns, workflows, and social media posts. This process nurtures leads by identifying your audience, choosing the right content, and automatically triggering actions based on a set schedule or the customer’s behavior. Effective marketing automation tools let you focus on growing your business without worrying about every message or post that you have to send.
Customer service automation is the process of significantly reducing human labor when servicing clients in order to improve customer satisfaction and lower labor costs. Modern CRM systems incorporate help desk tools, such as knowledge base, artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots, canned responses, self-service customer portal, and an interactive voice response (IVR) system.
An analytical CRM collects, organizes, and analyzes sales, marketing, and customer service data to provide you with insights and detailed reports that you can use to make strategic business decisions. In addition, it integrates with invoice software to let you generate reports on your company’s cash flow.
Who analytical CRM systems are best for:
- Managers who need information like performance metrics and dashboards for making data-driven decisions
- Data analysts who monitor customer service efforts and make recommendations based on customer data
- Accountants who need a centralized data storage for their referrals, leads, partners, and clients
- Business intelligence professionals who analyze sales metrics and trends, and use this data to formulate sales forecasts
The primary features of an analytical CRM include data warehousing, data mining, and online analytical processing (OLAP).
An analytical CRM, like Zoho CRM, acts like a data storehouse which saves data from various sources in a centralized location. It also organizes the stored data so that it can be easily accessed, analyzed, and used in generating reports. This could include details about your customers, business interactions, and even employee performance.
Data mining is the process of analyzing warehoused data to uncover meaningful patterns, trends, and relationships in your data. It automatically interprets the pieces of information so that you can use it to improve your sales, marketing, and customer service strategies.
Online Analytical Processing (OLAP)
OLAP is a technology that enables users to analyze information and extract business data from multiple database systems at the same time. It also provides the CRM with its forecasting capabilities, allowing you to make data-driven decisions concerning business trends, demands, and budget.
A collaborative CRM, which is also known as strategic CRM, makes cross-team communication and collaboration systems more efficient, improving customer satisfaction, brand loyalty, and company profitability. It covers sales, marketing, customer service, and technical support teams, as well as customers, creditors, vendors, suppliers, and distributors. This type of CRM also uses automation to accomplish its goals.
Who collaborative CRM systems are best for:
- Businesses with multiple locations or departments that heavily depend on cross-team communication
- Teams that need to track customers across multiple channels, especially on the digital side
- Companies that want to gain a better understanding of their customers and increase customer retention and loyalty
The three main features of a collaborative CRM are interaction management, channel management, and document management.
To provide you with a better understanding of your prospects and customers, a collaborative CRM lets you log all their touchpoints with your company in a centralized access point. This way, even if not all of your teams interact with the customers directly, everybody can see their customer journey and improve customer service based on the recorded facts.
A collaborative CRM, like Freshsales, makes it easy for your company to track and communicate with your customers via their preferred channels—be on the phone, email, or social media. It records how your customers get in touch with you and lets you respond to them using the same channel.
Document management is a process or system used to capture, track, store, and share electronic documents, such as proposals, contracts, and digital images of your business files. A collaborative CRM allows your teams to access these documents from a centralized location without having to go through a department’s desk or opening a separate software to retrieve the data that you need.
Pricing for CRM solutions vary from free to $99 or more per user, per month. Some vendors offer free plans for a limited number of users or features. Others offer basic packages that include only the essential CRM functions, like contact management, lead management, and standard reporting. Full-feature packages include advanced capabilities like pipeline management, sales automation, and wide customization options.
Download our free CRM e-book today to get a deeper understanding of CRM software features, integrations, strategies, and implementation.
Examples of CRM Types
Salesforce Essentials allows you to track and manage your contacts, accounts, and sales. It also offers a case management system that lets you respond to customer feedback in an organized manner. Pricing starts at $25 per user, per month.
Zoho CRM offers advanced analytics and business intelligence that help you monitor the stages of your sales cycle and make data-driven decisions. Its features include lead analytics, deal insights, activity statistics, and email analytics. Pricing starts at $7 per user, per month, or you can also subscribe to its free option.
Freshsales offers a Customer-for-Life Cloud plan that allows your sales, marketing, and support departments to capture and view all customer interactions in one place. It also allows you to communicate with them via phone, chat, email, and WhatsApp. Pricing starts at $15 per user, per month.
An operational CRM is best for companies wanting to use automation to make their business processes more efficient. An analytical CRM is recommended for those who don’t yet know how to use customer data. A collaborative CRM is for businesses that have multiple departments and provide omnichannel support. When deciding on what type of CRM software to choose, it is important to know which one best addresses the needs of your business.