What Is Collaborative CRM? Definition, Uses & Tools

Monday, November 11, 2019
Christopher Sirk
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Getting a CRM is worth considering as it can help you achieve all your business goals. A customer relationship management platform puts all your business activities together in one place for visibility, automates tasks that eat up your time, and centralizes your data. It cuts down workload, helps with project management, customer feedback, and brings more positive results across various departments with less effort.

In the world of CRM solutions, there are a few different types. But operational, analytical, and collaborative—the type which we’ll be featuring in this article—are the big three.  

Operational CRM is the most holistic one: this type of digital tool tackles marketing, sales force, service automation, and customer interactions. The general point is to generate leads, make said leads into customers, and close more deals.

Analytical CRM works ‘behind the scenes,’ taking in data from various channels (spreadsheets, contact lists, email, social media, company website, and more) to make it available and intelligible. Data-driven insights drive customer acquisition and retention, while data warehousing and mining streamlines data management. Analytical platform works best in combination with operational and collaborative CRM features for full visibility. 

Collaborative CRM is quite a bit different than these other types. It’s geared towards facilitating communication throughout your team, as well as with external stakeholders like suppliers and distributors. All to collaborate on strategy, and deliver best practice results. 

Let’s dive in a little further.

 

 

 

What is collaborative CRM?

Collaborative CRM is a digital tool focused on improved customer experience. It delivers this by giving your whole team better information.

Tracking and sharing customer data lets everyone be on the same page. It’s very useful for keeping a seamless multi-channel customer experience humming along while you run your day-to-day operations.  

Collaborative customer relationship management also offers integrations with other applications, ensuring you can aggregate information from different channels and move smoothly between them. By sharing information and linking your activities across social media, instant messaging, email, and more or less everything else under the sun, you gain in productivity and visibility. 

All this is increasingly important in the competitive, relationship-centric economy we find ourselves living and working in. As you already know, a key way to differentiate yourself from competitors with similar product/service offerings is to ‘get’ customers and meet their individual needs and expectations. But as said needs and expectations get more and more niche, you are going to be very happy to have an integrated, collaborative platform that handles a big chunk of the social arithmetic for you.

Collaborative CRM is comprised of two basic parts. 

Parts of collaborative CRM

Interaction Management 

By sharing customer information across your team, you can establish best practices for contacting them (when, and over which channel) and ensure consistent, quality customer interactions. By syncing data across your organization, you can manage every aspect of your interaction, make sure agents are available and alerted to customer needs, plus meet and exceed your public’s expectations. 

Channel Management 

Channel management is all about maximizing customer satisfaction across channels and optimizing the customer experience as it occurs in each individual channel. Machine learning and AI, automation, and data analytics can help you find out what your data means, and you’ll be able to arrange duties for various team members and rationalize your team’s activities in any given channel.

Benefits of collaborative CRM

Improves customer services & customer interactions

Some customers prefer contact via email, others like social media, over-the-phone, or face-to-face. It can be hard to keep track of who likes what. One of the major advantages of collaborative CRM is that you can reach out through the correct, most effective communication platform automatically. 

Customer data available across teams for multi-channel interactions

Your customers interact with you in a multitude of ways, over multiple channels. With collaborative CRM you can combine data from all your communication channels, and connect your call center activities with your other operations, delivering interactions that transcend any single department or team function.

Helps retain existing clients 

Collaborative CRM helps you form a comprehensive profile of a customer and their preferences for best practice. You’ll be able to reach out to them over the channel they prefer, armed with up-to-date information—a sure-fire way to drive customer retention and decrease churn.

Makes your team work better

Having customer interaction information in one place makes your organization smarter. Team members will be able to access individual case files in real-time.  The need for face-to-face meetings is reduced, and mistakes and redundancies are stamped out, so service costs fall too. 

7 examples of Collaborative CRM Software

Microsoft Dynamics 365

Benefits:

Microsoft Dynamics 365 offers a comprehensive suite of tools for all your business processes in its Microsoft Azure cloud computing ecosystem. It also has five CRM-type modules: sales, customer service, field service, project service automation, and marketing. Within each module, you’ll find several ‘apps’ you can purchase individually to mix-and-match.

For collaborative CRM features, you’ll probably want the Sales Professional or Enterprise plan or the Customer Service Professional or Enterprise plan, depending on which department your team member is working with. Both platforms provide sales force automation and Office 365 productivity and co-working features.

All modules integrate with virtually all the products in the Microsoft ecosystem, furthering collaborative possibilities (for example, integration with OneNote and OneDrive allow you to share and work together on documents). Dynamics 365 products all provide general data production regulation (GDPR) compliance with top-tier security and data governance. 

Drawbacks:

In October 2019, Microsoft switched to a ‘buy a base, attach add-ons’ pricing structure, discontinuing its Customer Engagement all-in-one CRM package. This has made Dynamics 365’s pricing more flexible, but also increases the complexity of implementation. Customer support is sometimes not the best.

Pricing:

  • Sales Professional plan is $50 per user/per month for user’s first Dynamics 365 app, and $20 per user/per month if said user already has Dynamics 365 product(s), billed annually.

  • Sales Enterprise plan is $95 per user/per month for user’s first Dynamics 365 app, and $20 per user/per month if said user already has Dynamics 365 product(s), billed annually.

  • Customer Service Professional plan is $50 per user/per month for user’s first Dynamics 365 app, and $20 per user/per month if said user already has Dynamics 365 product(s).

  • Customer Service Enterprise plan is $95 per user/per month for user’s first Dynamics 365 app, and $20 per user/per month if said user already has Dynamics 365 product(s), billed annually.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 includes a wide range of apps to mix-and-match for your business needs. 

Website: dynamics.microsoft.com

 

SAP Business One (SAP Customer 360)

Benefits:

If you want collaborative CRM functionality attached to a broad featured CRM/ERP business suite, the SAP Customer 360 component of SAP Business One may be worth checking out. The module allows you to monitor your sales pipeline, review aggregated sales data for individual customers, and coordinate the perfect strategy for interacting with them.

Drawbacks:

Installation and implementation is fairly complex and will take time and help from IT specialists. UI is dated.

Pricing:

  • Varies, but average price for SAP Business One professional license is $80-94 per user/per month.*

*SAP Business One is priced in consultation with the vendor. Price varies depending on the size of the organization and business needs, as well as whether you require a HANA or SQL database, cloud or on-premise solution, etc.

Website: sap.com/products/business-one.html

 

SugarCRM

Benefits:

Multi-purpose CRM with features focused on encouraging collaboration. Detailed, visual reporting features allow easy organization-wide communication of information on leads, tasks, revenue line items, key metrics. Report distribution features ensure speedy delivery to the right team members.

Offers automatic email archiving to record so specific cases are always accessible to relevant team members. Design and implement advanced workflows incorporating human processes. Real-time push notifications keep you on task. 

Drawbacks:

You’ll need to have at least 10 people on your team to use SugarCRM. If your team is small, this may be a deal-breaker right out of the gate. There is a moderate learning curve.

Pricing:

  • Sugar Professional plan is $40 per user/per month (10 user minimum), billed annually. 

  • Sugar Enterprise plan is $65 per user/per month (10 user minimum), billed annually. 

  • Sugar Serve plan is $80 per user/per month (10 user minimum), billed annually. 

  • Sugar Sell plan is $80 per user/per month (10 user minimum), billed annually. 

  • Sugar Market plan is $1,000 (unlimited users, 10,000 contacts per month), billed annually.

A free trial is available for all plans. After answering a few questions on the vendor website, you’ll be offered the version of SugarCRM that correlates best with your business needs.

Website: sugarcrm.com

 

Sage CRM

Benefits:

Sage offers a collaborative CRM alongside its enterprise resource planning and account product range. Targeted at small and medium-sized businesses, it focuses on eliminating duplication of work, consolidating data in one view, and increasing productivity and efficiency with unified information and reliable insights. 

Drawbacks:

Process of setup and implementation is resource-intensive in time and training. Database errors can cause the platform to glitch.

Pricing:

  • Sage CRM subscription is $69 per user/per month, billed annually.

  • On-premise software implementation starts at $1,495 per server, and $495 per user license.*

*On-premise pricing varies based on size of business and requirements. You can request a callback from Sage CRM to negotiate fees.

Website: sage.com/en-us/products/sage-crm/

 

Copper

Benefits:

Created with the ‘era of relationships’ firmly in mind, Copper is designed to foster collaboration that closes deals and promises a 43% lift in teamwork. Copper tracks customer moments so you have full visibility of other colleagues’ interactions. It also reduces admin expenses by facilitating direct interactions between team members.

Drawbacks:

Has a moderate learning curve, which can come as a surprise given the app is made out to be super user-friendly.

Pricing: 

  • Basic plan is $19 per user/per month, billed annually.

  • Professional plan is $49 per user/per month, billed annually.

  • Business plan is $119 per user/per month, billed annually. 

Copper offers a 14-day free trial for all plans.

Website: copper.com

 

Bitrix24

Benefits:

Comprehensive CRM with lots of collaboration tools. Lets you create unlimited work and user groups, set up an HR help desk, and use private social intranet for internal business communications. Centralizes document storage, allows you to turn emails into tasks, calendar events, and discussion topics for collective action.

Drawbacks:

UI does its job, but is slightly “maximalist,” which makes app navigation more complex than it should be. 

Pricing:

  • Free starter business tool suite for up to 12 users.

  • CRM+ plan is $69 per month for up to 6 users.

  • Project+ plan is $69 per month for up to 24 users. 

  • Standard plan is $99 per month for up to 50 users. 

  • Professional plan is $199 per month for unlimited number of users. 

The prices above are for the cloud-based version. On-premise solutions are also available.

Website: bitrix24.com

 

Pipeliner CRM

Benefits:

Built to meet today’s complex selling needs with real-time communication and collaboration. Pipeliner helps sales teams effortlessly view opportunities and their place in the sales process, as well as completed and in-progress tasks. You can create, import, save, and store collaborative documents in-app.

Drawbacks:

Sometimes a number of “opportunities” are auto-generated by accident and you have to delete them manually. Software and support are only available in English, which can be a dealbreaker for non-Anglophone companies.

Pricing:

  • Starter plan is $25 per user/per month, billed annually.

  • Business plan is $65 per user/per month, billed annually.

  • Enterprise plan is $85 per user/per month, billed annually. 

A 14-day free trial is available for all plans.

Website: pipelinersales.com

How to start using collaborative CRM

There is no ‘best collaborative CRM’ per se. As you may expect, the best CRM system will vary depending on your needs, the size of your organization, and your budget. 

Fortunately, there are plenty of vendors offering free trials, so you can kick plenty of tires before committing money to any one platform.

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