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CRM Comparison: How to Evaluate Competing Customer Relationship Management Software
by Joe Taylor Jr.

Though making CRM comparisons can seem like a tough assignment, industry experts suggest that project managers can make the task much easier than it looks. By evaluating the ten most important CRM differences, purchasers can quickly narrow down a large list of vendors to three or four of the most viable candidates.

Most companies can find reliable CRM software within their budgets. When making CRM comparisons, purchasers should factor in differences in pricing models, such as:

  • One time, per-computer licensing
  • Monthly, per-user subscription
  • Annual site licenses

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Some contact management tools rely solely on local databases, while others leverage the power of the Web. Customer relationship management comparisons should include these four types of systems:

  • Always online, available from any device
  • Available from any connected laptop or desktop computer
  • Switchable to "offline mode"
  • Not directly connected, but synchronizable

Some project managers fail to include the price of new hardware when estimating the total cost of ownership for new CRM software. When making a decision, successful purchasers understand the impact of choosing:

  • Browser-based, universal application
  • Universal desktop application
  • Windows only
  • Mac only

Out-of-the-Box Readiness
Companies that want CRM software to help make quick changes can usually get by with stock templates until their systems can be totally customized. Some professionals, such as those in real estate, can rely on industry-specific solutions.

CRM software developers understand that every company manages its operations differently. Therefore, most contact management and sales tracking systems offer modular designs and easy customization. Purchasers should ask vendors about the process to add new features over time.

Ease of Use
When sales professionals find CRM software difficult to use, it fails to gain a foothold in an organization. During a customer relationship management comparison, experts recommend including some of the less tech-savvy members of a team to discover a platform's true learning curve.

CRM comparisons should include an honest evaluation of the kind of support a sales team will need during and after implementation. Purchasers should ask CRM software vendors about pricing and service plans for:

  • In-person support
  • Phone or chat support
  • Forum based support
  • E-mail support

When making a customer relationship management comparison, purchasers should ask whether hosted CRM software meets industry standards for privacy and for data security. On-site CRM software solutions should include specific plans and budgets to safeguard dedicated hardware.

Major CRM differences exist between hosted platforms, on-premises systems, and client-based software tools. When hosting CRM software offsite, experts recommend reviewing the track records and the emergency plans of data centers. Likewise, companies planning to host CRM software in house should examine their own infrastructure and support systems.

Finally, any CRM comparison should include a look into the future. Ask whether inexpensive tools can easily grow to serve larger teams through a period of expansion. Discover how CRM software stores data, and how data server speed can be affected by a growing database.

Inside CRM

About the Author
Joe Taylor Jr. is an internal business consultant for a Fortune 500 company, who writes about finance, culture, and design. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Communications from Ithaca College.