Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is all about enabling your sales and marketing teams to have instant access to personalized data about your consumers. With this, they can craft amazing offers, knowing that the information they’re using is up to date and relevant. This relevance extends to customer support, which your CRM setup should help make as fast and comprehensive as possible. In addition, you’ll want to reassure your customers that their sensitive personal information is being properly cared for and used. A cloud-based CRM system can help you to accomplish all of these things.
What is Cloud-Based CRM?
Cloud-based CRM is a Customer Relationship Management platform that’s hosted in the cloud. These systems typically ship as web or mobile applications that can be accessed from anywhere that has an internet connection. And they provide the full range of functions that you’d expect from an enterprise Customer Relationship Management program: instant access to market intelligence, customer data, or business insights, the automation of critical business functions like qualifying sales leads, mechanisms for closing sales, and tools for providing support or customer service, to aid in customer retention.
Cloud-Based CRM vs. On-Premises CRM
A cloud CRM system is distinct from an on-premise Customer Relationship Management setup in a number of ways. These include:
Ease of Installation
For starters, a traditional on-premises CRM system requires a great deal of expensive and complex hardware, software, and IT infrastructure. This typically takes a lot of time and effort to install and get running, in addition to a dedicated IT team for system support, management, and maintenance. For this reason, on-premises CRM has historically been the preserve of large enterprises, which have the necessary budget and human resources.
In comparison, a cloud-based system requires no heavy capital outlay for infrastructure and software since the CRM platform is housed on remote cloud servers. The CRM provider takes responsibility for system updates, administration, maintenance, and data storage.
While an in-house CRM program may take hours, days, or even weeks to get fully up and running, activation of a cloud CRM can be as simple as the sign-up process for any standard web service. Once you register your subscription with the CRM service, your business can almost immediately gain access to all the features and benefits that the cloud system has to offer.
Ease of Use
Unlike the more complex and intricate on-premises systems, cloud-based CRM applications are designed with ease of use in mind. Cloud CRM providers understand how difficult it can be for sales agents to learn new systems and often provide tutorials or personalized training. More importantly, the software itself typically includes features like click-and-drag construction of customized email templates, interactive dashboards, visual reporting, and Help Desk options for consumers. And all of these features provide users with instant access to critical information throughout the sales cycle.
An on-premise CRM system will typically only be available to users from within the confines of the corporate office during standard working hours. With a cloud-based CRM, users can access the system at any time of day and from any compatible device (desktop computer, laptop, tablet, smartphone, etc.) with a viable internet connection.
Mobility is crucial to sales activity, as agents and managers often spend much of their day outside the office. Building on the “anywhere, any time” options offered by cloud CRM, these systems have the advantage over on-premise in that agents working from home or on the road can gain instant access to the information and resources that they need to pursue critical leads or seal important deals. All they need is a smartphone or tablet with internet capability.
Cloud CRM eliminates the requirement for purchasing hardware and software or hiring specialist IT talent that on-premises installations demand — effectively saving significant amounts in capital expenditure.
Cloud CRM providers typically offer their services on a pay-as-you-go subscription basis. This is charged as a set monthly fee for the package, which at current price levels may be as low as $40. As a result, organizations can avoid hidden costs such as software licensing, and smaller-scale businesses can get an enterprise-grade CRM system without breaking the bank.
If an on-premise CRM installation goes down, sales and marketing agents throughout the enterprise will lose access to vital resources and their ongoing projects. Cloud-based CRM providers mitigate this risk by providing redundant data storage and business continuity measures to ensure that subscribers get uninterrupted access to the services and tools they’re paying for. Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and network uptime guarantees such as 99.99x% availability are contract clauses that cloud CRM providers may give in this regard.
Other Benefits of Cloud-Based CRM
Cloud CRM solutions also offer advantages in these areas:
Cloud-Based CRM Integration With Other Platforms and Applications
In a digital business environment, information exchange is a key component — and compatibility or ease of integration with third-party apps and platforms is a critical part of this.
Using application programming interfaces (APIs) and Software Development Kits (SDKs), cloud-based CRM platforms allow for easy integrations with phone systems, social media, email services like Gmail, and popular business applications such as Trello or Slack.
Social media integration on cloud CRM enables agents to access Facebook, Twitter, and other feeds directly from their dashboard and stay up to date with trending posts, customer queries, and activities in social commerce. Email integration can help businesses expand their outreach across multiple channels. And integration with your business VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) telephony service enables agents to manage phone traffic without leaving the CRM platform.
With an on-premise system, these integrations would require an IT team to modify the code of an existing application or build entirely new software from scratch.
Flexibility and Scale
With on-demand subscription payment to a cloud CRM provider, businesses can choose a Customer Relationship Management package that includes the tools and number of users they actually need. Additional features or more advanced modules may be added to the mix as your business grows or the requirements of your market change.
While cloud-based systems have traditionally been a source of concern to enterprises regarding data and cyber security, today’s cloud CRM providers go the extra mile to ensure business continuity and secure governance. This typically includes measures like data recovery planning and automated backup. Users can also adopt additional measures such as strong password policies and two-step authentication — especially relevant in the current climate of strict data privacy and data governance protocols such as GDPR or California 2020.
Choosing the Right Cloud-Based CRM Solution
Cloud-based CRM solutions come in many shapes and sizes, and you’ll need to consider several factors in choosing one, including price and whether the platform has all the tools and features that your organization requires.
Ease of use is a critical factor, so you should look for a solution that has an intuitive user interface and lots of customization options. These may include customizable dashboards and visual reporting tools, enabling your agents to manage their tasks without worrying about juggling multiple tools.
Look for a comprehensive set of features, including built-in email and phone facilities, intelligent workflow automation, visual deal pipelines, and lead scoring based on artificial intelligence (AI). You should also check how well the solution integrates with third-party applications and other popular business platforms.
The Cloud CRM Software Market
A recent study by Gartner indicates that 60% of businesses will be relying entirely on the cloud by 2022. Of the $331.2 billion projected to be generated in the cloud industry by that year, much of the activity will be in Customer Relationship Management. It’s easy enough to see why.
A Customer Relationship Management platform fully hosted in the cloud effectively guarantees that teams throughout your enterprise will have instantaneous access to real-time information for meeting customer expectations, along with the tools and processes required to render effective and speedy customer support and service. And with regular backups, enterprise standard encryption, and adherence to industry data management protocols, your customers will be confident that their personal data is in safe hands.
Some of the larger cloud CRM providers offer their customers free CRM software solutions, with options for small businesses that include unlimited storage and customer profiles. Not every offering is free — but many providers offer customizable plans, which can work out to be extremely cost-effective.
Among the top names in cloud-based CRM software are products including Agile CRM, HubSpot CRM, SugarCRM, and Zoho CRM. But if you were to type “CLOUD-BASED CRM PLATFORM” into your Google search box, chances are the first result to appear would be the Salesforce cloud software option, Salesforce Sales Cloud — a platform provided as Software as a Service (SaaS) for browser-based access, or as a mobile app.