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Forrester's Top Customer Relationship Management Suites

Recently, Forrester released its 33-criterion evaluation of The Forrester Wave: CRM Suites, Q4 2018 and highlighted the top 11 providers that matter most and how they stack up. Forrester researched, analyzed, and scored each platform and is a helpful guide for businesses and professionals to select the right customer relationship management (CRM) platform for their business needs.  

What is a CRM?  

 A CRM essentially compiles customer data across various channels as well as points of contact between the customer and your business. These touchpoints can include but aren’t limited to interactions on your website, a telephone call, support through live chat, an email sent, or even a letter sent, as well as reviewing your marketing materials, posts on social media or a review.

At the basic level, CRM platforms consolidate customer information and documents into a single database so your business can readily access and use it. Additional components for CRMs can include marketing and sales automation, automation for contact centers or customer support, geolocation and other location-based services, automation of workflows, manage leads, provide additional persona and analytic data, and even assist with HR needs. 

Benefits of a CRM

Your customers are very important to your overall business. No matter what your industry is, the product you sell or the service you provide, your customers are your single most valuable asset. Without customers – simply you are more than likely not going to stay in business for very long. Customers are more than just the revenue they bring to your business. They are a key contributor for your business planning, marketing direction, an educated source for feedback to improve services and/or add new products, as well as they are a great focus group for releasing new concepts and/or products.

At the end of the day, customer satisfaction and happiness should be the top of your business priorities and should go beyond just appreciating your customers to truly understanding them. This is where a great customer relationship management platform comes in handy. CRM suites are designed to help any business to better organize information about your customers and your sales, in addition to automating various processes to streamline productivity and provide insights and details about your customers. Some of the biggest benefits of a CRM include: 

  • Improved Informational Organization, allowing your business to store a vast list of customers and any important information regarding them 

  • Enhanced Communication, allowing your business to provide a personalized and higher quality level of service through access to all customer data 

  • Improved Customer Service, with the ability to have a customer's data at your fingertips 

  • Automation of Everyday Tasks, improving operational efficiencies and increasing time available on other areas of your business 

  • Greater efficiency for multiple teams, as well as remote teams, with all your valuable information about your customers in one central place that can continue with the optimal result such as closing a sale, provide knowledge of new products, or excellent customer service.

  • ​Improved Analytical Data and Reporting, to provide resourceful and effective decisions towards customer loyalty and long run profitability. 

The Top CRM Platforms

In the report, Forrester identified the 11 most significant CRM platforms based on their evaluation criteria: current offering, strategy and market presence. 

  • Aptean - A global leader in enterprise business software, provides targeted ERP, Supply Chain Management and Customer Experience Solutions that deliver.

  • bpm'online - Award-winning BPM + CRM system for marketing, sales and service to manage business processes across the entire customer journey. 

  • CRMNEXT - CRMNEXT's proprietary CRM software enables organizations to fast-track sales, enhance marketing activities and deliver supreme customer experience. 

  • Infor - Global software company that builds SMB and Enterprise ERP software cloud products for industries including Manufacturing, Healthcare, and Retail. 

  • Microsoft - To help people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential. 

  • NetSuite - Award-Winning Software Combines ERP, CRM, And Ecommerce. 

  • Oracle - B2B Marketing Automation Platforms. 

  • Pegasystems - Leader in software for customer engagement and operational excellence.  

  • Salesforce - Your business' command center in the form of a customer relationship platform (CRM). 

  • SAP - Drive Your Company’s Digital Transformation & Become A Best-Run Business Today. 

  • SugarCRM - Disrupt Your Industry w/ Exceptional Customer Experience. 

Upon the review, Forrester confirmed that CRM platforms fell into two distinct categories: Enterprise and Mid-Size. The enterprise suites – which include Oracle, Salesforce, and SAP – gain this status based on their “best-of-breed" traits that combine acquisitioned components with ease of scalability. Mid-size suites – which include bpm'online, Microsoft, NetSuite, and SugarCRM – gain this title from their more streamlined capabilities and unified platform that work better for mid-size businesses. 

The leaders of the pack included: Oracle and Salesforce. Oracle’s far-reaching vision was its key to success as it enables businesses to become a connected digital enterprise by integrating data, intelligence, and experiences across B2B and B2C customer journeys. Oracle also delivers as a leader in CRM features for sales, marketing and customer service. Salesforce – one of the original CRM leaders – became a leader based on its foundation for smarter engagement on a broader scale. With the customer at the center of its vision, Salesforce makes it easy to connect customers and companies for success. Salesforces strength truly lies in its ability to cater to both B2B and B2C companies. 

Rounding out the top of the list as strong performers include SAP, Microsoft, Pegasystems and bpm'online. SAP recently reengaged into the CRM market, and uses the company's acquisitions to its advantages to add more feature and integrations. Microsoft strengths is its common data model and platform for office productivity applications. Pegasystems brings together customer engagement and digital process automation which makes it unique in the overall CRM marketplace. bpm'online is best for mid-size companies and its core offers sales, marketing, and customer service applications that are easy to implement, use, and customize.  

In the middle of the pack: SugarCRM, Netsuite and CRMNEXT. SugarCRM’s strength is its ability to power long running customer relationships, however the overall CRM is lacking depth in features and customization. Netsuite delivers with its 360-degree customer view, but the overwhelming feature is its back-office (HR, etc.) support features. CRMNEXT is a strong contender with its intelligence model and features but narrows its position near the top as it heavily caters to the financial sector.  

At the bottom of the list: Infor CRM and Aptean. Infor CRM is near the bottom mainly as it’s the newest platform and needs time to mature and grow into what it can truly become. Aptean is also a diverse and strong CRM system, but like CMRNEXT, with its strong focus on helping businesses that focus on industry support, it takes its place near the bottom of the list.  

What to Consider When Choosing a CRM? 

CRMs have truly evolved since their inception with more features available and more easy integrations. When choosing a CRM – or any other platform – you need to clearly identify your needs and select one that meets your requirements and that can scale with your business growth. Some recommendations when looking for a new CRM platform include: 

  • Decide on your preferred CRM deployments: Cloud vs. On-premise.

  • ​The platform is scalable, and can support different business models and business sizes, as well as offers vertical editions.

  • Easily Integrates with other applications and integrates with your current business platforms and website technology. 

  • Look into industry-specific vendor with local partners.

  • ​The platform offers a demo, so you can test before you invest. 

  • The platform has training available (videos or a dedicated person) as well as a good customer support system or community.

  • ​Pay attention to the user experience. 

  • The platform has GDPR features. 

Ending Notes 

If your business wants to become a leader and compete, you will need CRM software. CRM platforms converge a wide array of capabilities into one system for all your business needs. You can use it to store information about customers and prospects, send emails, make calls, schedule appointments, create reports, manage your pipeline, and much more, without even having to look away from your screen.

This powerful platform has already transformed countless companies and has affected various industries. As reported by Forrester, by the end of 2018, it is expected that the CRM sector itself will become a 40 billion USD industry. 

Lynette Sawyer

Lynette Sawyer

Lynette Sawyer is a Web Project Manager for Falcon-Software, a digital web agency founded in 1994. For the last 13-years Lynette has been in various digital capacities and her expertise goes beyond Project Management. Lynette brings experience and knowledge in graphic design, marketing communications, project management, product management and engagement.