By: John Chan, Director, ISM Software Lab Director
In 2015, the ISM Lab staff and I conducted reviews of numerous CRM applications to examine the depth and comprehensiveness of their functionality. Out of the dozens of CRM software applications were reviewed ISM selected a group of Top 15 CRM software applications in the Enterprise and Small-to Mid-Sized Market (SMB) (based on a rating of 179 selection criteria, including 96 business functions, 42 technical features, 18 implementation capabilities, 6 real time criteria and 17 user-support features) as the winners of the 2015-16 ISM Top 15 CRM Software Awards. With no ownership in or by a vendor, ISM’s software analysis is 100 percent unbiased.
During the CRM software testing process, ISM discovered several key business application and technology trends in CRM software marketplace, which are discussed below:
Increased Availability of Geolocation Functionality: CRM vendors are now beginning to offer visualization and mapping insights with Google Maps integration and on mobile devices. These new geolocation functions enable users to dynamically map current and future customers, access customizable map filters to categorize markets and territories, optimize sales travel with one-touch driving directions and create geographic marketing campaigns. ISM sees geolocation functionality becoming integrated in CRM applications for a more complete geographical view of the needs of customers and prospects.
Increased Availability of Wearables Integration: CRM vendors are now beginning the initial step of integrating with Wearable devices. Several CRM vendors are offering business apps and access to critical CRM functions (e.g., opportunity management, support ticket, dashboards, etc.) on an Apple Watch device.
Increased Availability of Business Process Management Integration: CRM vendors are now providing their users with the ability to integrate with external business process management applications. Some CRM applications enable the System Administrator the ability to create a workflow process with specific business process steps. There is additionally the ability for users to access a mapping of all account business processes within certain CRM applications.
Increased Availability of Mobile CRM App Functionality: CRM vendors are increasing offering Mobile CRM apps to download and use as the popularity of smartphones and tablets grows. Mobile CRM apps allow a customer to conduct business at the touch of a screen. Many Mobile CRM apps can be used on iPhone, Android and iPad devices. In many cases, the Mobile CRM app now serves as smaller version of a CRM application. CRM users can access key functionality such as contact, account, case, opportunity and knowledgebase records. Some Mobile CRM apps enable the ability to create and schedule events on the organization’s and one’s own personal calendar, along with communicating with other users using an organization’s internal Social Community application.
Increased Availability of Mobile CRM Dashboard Functionality: CRM vendor are now offering Mobile CRM dashboard functionality available on smartphones and tablets. Mobile CRM dashboards can be customized for each CRM user to display one’s desired key indicators and graphical displays. Any dashboard can be enabled or disabled for viewing through the mobile client, thereby allowing for specific dashboards that are optimized based on the user’s mobile needs. Mobile CRM dashboards additionally provide for the ability to drill down and see short lists of records making up for a particular statistic.
Increased Availability of SMS Marketing Functionality: CRM vendors are now beginning to offer SMS marketing functionality available on smartphones and tablets. The advantage using SMS marketing tools and techniques is that nearly 100% of all mobile devices on the market are SMS enabled, making it the channel that offers the widest reach possible. Currently, over 90% of SMS messages are read within 3 minutes of receipt, leading to many organizations investing heavily in SMS marketing. In addition to its reach and immediacy, SMS is very affordable and offers an amazing ROI for marketers when used properly. Consequently, a number of key CRM vendors now offer the ability to create and send specific SMS text marketing messages to contacts as part of a marketing campaign interaction plan.
Increased Availability of Social Media Customer Service Functionality: CRM vendors are now providing functionality to harness Social Media Community comments for customer service. Consumers are using Social Media Communities to complain, provide feedback, seek dispute resolution and they expect organizations to be responsive. Thus, some CRM vendors enable their users to capture important messages within Social Media Communities that require follow up. Afterward, the organization’s staff can create a support case, and route it to the appropriate customer service agent. The agent will then respond to the message using knowledge management, the customer history, and any other necessary tools. The agent can respond in the social channel in which the message was received, or can escalate to a more private channel if needed.
In future ISM blog posts, I will discuss more of these CRM market trends in greater detail.
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John Chan, who joined ISM in 1999 as the Software Lab Director, is responsible for software testing and defining the evaluation criteria for The Guide to Mobile and Social CRM and the CRM software offered on ISM’s Reviews Online service. He oversees the implementation of ISM’s Top 15 CRM Software Awards selection program.