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CRM for Nothing? Free and Low-Cost CRM Possibilities
In the business world, you’re not going to find too many proponents of bad customer service. In fact, every business — no matter what kinds of products or services it may offer, no matter who its target audience might be — relies on customers. And, given how important customers are to any business, it only makes sense to want to keep them happy. But despite the almost-universal recognition of the importance of happy customers, many organizations still find themselves striking out with the people who should matter most. In the US alone, unsatisfactory customer service costs businesses a combined annual total of approximately $41 billion. It would seem that recognizing the importance of customer satisfaction is just not enough; for businesses to really improve the experience that their customers are receiving, they need the right tools. They need CRM.
What is CRM?
At its core, customer relationship management (CRM) is a relatively simple concept — it describes any process, strategy, or technology that is implemented with the purpose of improving customer satisfaction. But more specifically, CRM has come to describe the advanced tools that many companies use to record and recall vital customer data, automate certain parts of the customer journey, and track every interaction with clients and prospective clients. These tools are often cloud-based, allowing for easy coordination and real-time data analysis across all platforms and systems, all without the need to install or maintain expensive hardware in-house. These tools and systems have proven themselves invaluable for those businesses that adopt them, producing an average ROI of $5.60 for every single dollar invested.
However, regardless of how financially sound the average CRM solution may be, there are some organizations that simply do not have the money to invest in one. The bad news is that many of these companies will likely miss out on certain advantages that only the best CRM tools are capable of providing. The good news is that even if the budget doesn’t allow for the best CRM tools, businesses can still enjoy the benefits that come from having access to the best free CRM tools.
What to Look for in a Free CRM System
Now, there’s an old adage which suggests that you get what you pay for, and when it comes to CRM, this isn’t totally inaccurate. The most advanced CRM systems are likely to carry with them a significant price tag. Of course, those same CRMs will probably end up paying for themselves fairly quickly, but that doesn’t change the fact that they can be expensive; this is just one of the facts of CRM. Free customer-management software is generally much more limited, often instituting strict caps on the amount of data that can be stored in the system. In essence, most free online CRM options offer similar benefits as certain paid options, just for far fewer users/customers per account. This is because many of these free options are really just CRM software trial versions which can be upgraded for price.
Other free client management software options usually fall into the open-source category. What does this mean? It means that an organization can have full access to a working CRM, provided that they are willing to invest the time, energy, and manpower to installing, configuring, and maintaining it (which defeats several of the main benefits of using cloud-based CRM). And again, many providers of open-source CRM may be willing to take care of installation, configuration, and support — for a price.
When choosing a free CRM solution, look for those that mimic (or approximate) the functionality of leading CRM brands. For example, an open-source CRM software free version that can be improved through third-party applications is easier to customize to your organization’s needs than one that is locked. Likewise, CRM tools that are capable of integrating with existing systems, offer real-time reporting options, have full customer-support, are fully cloud-based, and that are easy to use will allow you to improve your customer interactions, without needing to make any major unwanted overhauls to your existing company processes.
Taking Advantage of Free Trials
Unfortunately, the simple truth is that in order to enjoy all of the advantages of a cloud-based, superior CRM, you need access to the best CRM providers on the market. Thankfully, some CRM providers offer CRM software free-trial options.
These aren’t the limited versions discussed above; these are fully-functional CRM solutions, with all of the features and support as the paid versions. The difference here is that these trial versions are limited in terms of duration, expiring after a set amount of time.
For those looking for an effective CRM, online free trial options can provide a base-line against which to compare other free and open-source options. These fully-functional trials can also give you an accurate idea of how beneficial a paid-option can be, so that should you decide to reevaluate your budget, you might have a better idea of what a superior CRM is actually worth to you.