What is CRM system software?

A beginner’s guide


CRM: An Overview

A CRM system helps you keep your customer’s contact details up to date, track every interaction they have with your business, and manage their accounts. It’s designed to help you, improve your customer relationships, and in turn, customer lifetime value.

Let's break that down a bit more.

Your company and its people create vast quantities of data every day. Each time someone picks up the phone and talks to a customer, goes out to meet a new sales prospect, or follows up a promising lead, they learn something new and potentially valuable.

But where does this data go? Into notepads or documents on laptops perhaps; or maybe it's just stored in their head. If that's the case then details can get lost or forgotten, meetings and phone conversations may not be followed up, and choosing what to focus on can be a matter of guesswork rather than a rigorous exercise based on fact.

Worst of all, if the staff member leaves then all their knowledge may walk out of the door with them.

Fortunately there is a solution to this problem. The solution is Customer Relationship Management or CRM for short. CRM takes your customer data and turns it into useful, actionable insight that can transform your business.

Learn everything you need to know about CRM with the CRM handbook:

What is a CRM system?

Fundamentally, a CRM system allows you to manage the business relationships you have with your customers to help you grow your business.

In fact CRM goes far beyond customers, allowing you to focus on your organisation's relationships with all sorts of people – colleagues, suppliers and service users as well as customers.

How does it do this? At the most basic level, a CRM system provides a central place where you can store customer and prospect contact information, and share it with colleagues.

Once this is in place you can track the history of all your interactions you have with those customers: phone calls made, emails sent, meetings held, presentations delivered, enquiries received. Because tracking is everything.

With a CRM system in place, every question, every service request, every preference and every past contact detail about every customer is at your fingertips. And that means that every contact you have with your customers is always personal, relevant and up to date.

By understanding your customers better, cross-selling and up-selling opportunities become clear – giving you the chance to win new business from existing customers.

And as well as tracking contact histories, you can also add notes, schedule follow-ups and organise the next steps that you or your colleagues need to take. That means you need never miss an opportunity to close particular deals or grow customer accounts.

These traditional functions of a CRM system, then, might include:

  • File and content sharing
  • Sales forecasting
  • Instant messaging between employees
  • Email integration with Outlook and Gmail
  • Dashboard-based analytics

But modern CRM platforms such as Salesforce go much further, integrating with marketing automationand customer service systems to provide a complete, cloud-based ecosystem for customer data.

See Salesforce‘s Customer Success Platform in action

Evaluating and comparing CRM systems

If you're sold on the idea of a CRM system, you've still got a decision to make. Do you choose a desktop system that runs on a single computer, a client/server system with a central database stored on a server and software installed on each user's PC or laptop to access it – or is an online CRM system based in the cloud a more sensible choice?

Desktop, server or cloud?

A simple desktop system is only of use if it's just you using the system and you're not interested in anything more than an electronic version of a Rolodex for simple customer contact management – so let's compare client/server CRM systems and online CRM systems based in the cloud.
Capital startup costs including server purchase and installation time.
Minimal capital investment, no startup delay and a simple monthly fee.
Security and maintenance
You are responsible for your own IT security (or finding a data centre supplier to do it for you).
The CRM supplier maintains the servers and keeps security up to date as part of your monthly fee.
Adding new features or functions to keep up with technological advances can be expensive and complex, needing considerable in-house expertise.
New features and functions can be switched on and off remotely and are immediately available to all users.


Depends on an installed base of client PCs; mobile use can be limited to laptops with necessary level of security and dependent on availability of a secure VPN.
Secure access from any internet-connected device: at home, in the office, or while traveling. Learn more about Mobile CRM.
Disaster recovery
Customer data needs to be included in your own backup and disaster recovery plans.
Disaster recovery handled by vendor as part of monthly service fee.

CRM Systems for a Modern World

With the introduction of new technologies, the way in which we work, manage contacts and connect with customers continues to become more advanced. This means that we have to look beyond the traditional functionality of CRM. Cloud based CRM systems excel in this new reality as they are much more agile than their desktop and server counterparts and can be updated as new technology becomes the standard. The rise of the smartphone and social media are just two such examples.


Your customer information needs to be as up to date and as convenient to access as possible. That's why some CRM systems now offer mobile CRM capabilities. This lets salespeople access key information wherever they are, and update that information straight after a meeting while they are still in the field, so colleagues can follow up with the very latest information before the competition.

With mobile CRM you can run your whole business from your phone – closing deals, servicing customers and even delivering 1:1 marketing campaigns without being tied to a desk.

Social media aware

Social media is having a huge impact on many businesses and the way they interact with their customers: they have to respond as never before to Tweets, Facebook postings, LinkedIn discussions and more.

Sound familiar? If so then you'll need a platform that helps you to make the most of social media as a source of new leads, intelligence on prospects and information for customer service agents.

Why choose Salesforce?

It's pretty clear that cloud-based CRM is the right choice for organisations of any size. And when it comes to choosing a specific solution, Salesforce is the obvious choice. Here are just some of the reasons why:

Easy to use

Salesforce is as easy to use as the websites you use every day. You can log in from anywhere, view and update customer data, and work with your colleagues—anytime you want. Get started right away and see a big impact on your business in no time.

Click to customise

Really, it’s that easy. If you can click a mouse, you can change workflows, add fields, and create sales processes. The result? Higher productivity and automation like you’ve never had before.

With Salesforce, you can take care of business, anywhere, anytime, on any device. You can track and crush your growth targets with real-time dashboards. You can keep a single shared customer profile, company-wide, and know you’re looking at the same up-to-date contact as service and marketing.

And when it comes to mobility, Salesforce is second to none. The Salesforce app is available for smartphones and tablets, and you can access over 2,000 apps from the Salesforce AppXchange – or write your own – to add the exact functionality you need for your business.



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