What Is Service CRM? a Breakdown of the 10 Best Options
Today, perhaps more than ever, service and support departments are at the forefront of a company’s success. Customer success depends on synergizing customer service representatives with the rest of the company. Generating valuable customer data is integral to this process.
A customer relationship management system, or CRM, with unique and dedicated service and support features, helps guarantee the customer’s experience is amazing at every brand touchpoint.
CRM for customer service?
While software dedicated solely to customer service and support (CSS) does exist, service customer relationship software integrates CSS functions holistically—not as something tacked on at the end, but working with marketing and sales at every stage of the customer experience.
Better customer interaction translates to more returning customers. In other words, we should stop thinking of a one-way funnel, and visualize more of a circular journey—after great service experience, a customer is primed to resume shopping.
Contacting support can at times be frustrating: having to ID yourself and explain your issue only to be put on hold or transferred and asked to repeat everything all over again.
A service CRM system avoids these issues by providing service and support staff instant access to all relevant customer touch-point information. This means not only less frustration but also faster resolutions.
How a service CRM works
So what are some of the key elements of service CRM? Firstly, information about the customer is captured by every department in the customer relationship management ecosystem so that it is accessible by the service reps.
Customers can contact support through all channels: phone, email, online forms, chatting and social media.
Once a customer reaches out, a “ticket” is created. This contains the customer details, the nature of the complaint, and suggestions to whom the ticket should go to, for example, problems logging into an account might go to IT; problems with delivery would go to shipping.
It might include details about the service-level agreement (SLA), which makes both rep and customer aware of what to expect regarding how long it might take for the issue to be addressed and resolved.
A “workflow” organizes and automates the various steps toward resolution. Like, if the customer wants to return a broken item, workflows should trigger a task to inventory and shipping to promptly mail out a replacement.
At a later stage, customer service software can gather feedback about their service experience, which further boosts support quality for every future ticket.
How CRM software can improve customer service
Faster turnaround to support customer queries
A CRM is first and foremost a tool to make work more efficient. By broadening the channels of communication, customers can get quicker and more convenient access to help any time, any place, anyhow. When service reps have all the necessary information about the customer, the order and the issue, they’ll waste much less time fixing the problem. Repeated issues can lead to re-usable solutions, and workflows can automate common tasks. Great platforms also have a mobile app, so reps can always be available to assist.
Real-time data sharing of customer’s queries with your entire support team
Marketing, sales and service might have different roles and skills, but all are dealing with the same contacts and customers. Each department gathers unique data based on their interactions, and this data only adds to more robust customer profiles that benefit agents from other departments. Service is unique because it needs as much info as possible to do a great job, but also collects deeper data other departments might never get at.
View a complete history of customer’s interaction
Personalization is a huge aspect of good customer support experience. When someone reaches out to support, a CRM will display a detailed history of all customer engagement including their list of purchases and any past issues they may have had. This helps reps skip the tiresome intros and get right down to the business of helping. A service CRM also makes it easier to identify problems, and of course, reduce the chance of old problems repeating.
Real-time analytics of support queries
CRMs are all about accumulating and storing data to improve the customer experience. The kind of data gathered by service and support departments isn’t only about identifying and anticipating problems, it can also be invaluable for marketing and sales. Great analytics and reporting features are necessary for service CRM.
Knowledge base for customers
A dedicated service CRM isn’t only about empowering reps to help more people in less time, it also sets up a system whereby customers can help themselves quickly and with little effort. FAQs and knowledge bases are easily organized using past service CRM data, and they can be regularly updated and improved with little coding required. This frees up reps from handling simple tickets, and customers also get a friction-free experience when needing to resolve common issues.
Learn customer’s pain points and issues
A company’s service department gets to see all sides of the customer experience, both the good and the bad. With a CRM for service, companies can get a higher-level picture of common issues and pain points. It also offers a more personal picture of individual customers or specific demographics, from which one can anticipate any future problems or plan new ways to delight current and potential customers.
Building improved relationships with customers
Goods and services are increasingly secondary to customer experience and fostering great relationships between people and the brands they love. It’s easy to win someone over with a great sale, but a more meaningful relationship is keeping people satisfied afterward, especially if things are not going as smoothly as planned. Customer service teams need all the tools and tech available to be the best relationship managers they can be, and sometimes that can mean having an excellent customer service software to back you up.
10 Best service CRM tools:
The Agile CRM plans include bits of their customer service features along with other tools from sales and marketing, all tied together by a solid CRM base. The dashboards are easy-on-the-eye and the price is pretty competitive too.
Agile CRM’s service features include Helpdesk, which segments types of customers based on previously-known issues then matches them to reps who have the most experience in that area. Even reps can be grouped into silos to quickly funnel the issue to the next available specialist. There’s service automation, which includes workflows and canned responses. They do chat pop-ups with anticipatory solutions. There’s a good telephony system that makes and records calls, plus auto-generates call logs and voicemail automation. Finally, there’s a feedback system to build up the knowledge base, and customer support analytics.
There’s a free plan for 10 users.
Starter plan is $9.99 per user/per month, billed annually.
Regular plan is $39.99 per user/per month, billed annually.
Enterprise plan is $64.99 per user/per month, billed annually.
HubSpot Service Hub
It's impossible to ignore HubSpot, the innovators of inbound marketing are now a total package, and that includes service and help desk software. HubSpot is famous for its ease of use, its great resources to help you get the most of the platform, and finally, its free iterations.
First and foremost, the Service Hub package gets you their CRM tools. The ticketing system lets you prioritize tickets, assign them to reps, and track their progress. You can get a chat widget to put on your site for live communication, and there's also VOIP for live phone talking. All other incoming messages from emails and chats arrive in a shared inbox, from where messages can be instantly turned into new tickets. There's a bot tool that can handle common problems, direct customers to a knowledge base, or route the issue to specific agents. Finally, HubSpot Service Hub reports on everything from ticket resolution stats to agent performance.
HubSpot offers a free plan.
Starter plan is $40 per user/per month, billed annually.
Professional plan is $320 per month, billed annually (Includes 5 paid users).
Enterprise plan is $1,200 per month, billed annually (Includes 10 paid users).
Sugar CRM brings together the usual suspects of marketing, sales, and service, but also includes IT. The software works independently but also functions inside Microsoft Outlook, syncing contacts, calendars, and tasks.
Within their service product, Sugar sets up service-rep teams based on skills and experience. Workflows route the latest issues to the first available rep or specific cases to the most appropriate match. Sugar’s self-service portal is a place where customers can not only access the FAQ but also update their own customer information. The CRM system has a case-management and a bug-tracking tool, which gives all customer-facing staff both the full purchase history and other customer interaction details, as well as the genealogy of a specific bug as it may have arisen in multiple cases.
Serve plan is $80 per user/per month, billed annually.
Freshdesk is great because of its modular position with a bunch of other “Fresh” platforms. For support, it’s a solid mix of tools, some to help reps get personal with contacts, others for automating tasks and letting customers use support resources on their own.
Inbound tickets from every channel are unified for whole-team use, helping balance rep workload. Intelligent ticketing learns which rep is best suited to deal with each issue. Every ticket has rich contact profiles and histories of past service requests. You can link tickets, or split them. There are automation features for sending responses to customers. Freshdesk does auto-suggested solutions for common problems, or customers can search within a unified knowledge base. There’s reporting on everything from customer satisfaction to service rep performance.
Sprout is a free plan.
Blossom plan is $15 per user/per month, billed annually.
Garden plan is $29 per user/per month, billed annually.
Estate plan is $49 per user/per month, billed annually.
Forrest plan is $10 per user/per month, billed annually.
Freshdesk offers a 21-day free trial on the Estate plan.
Creatio was formerly Bpm’online. Now it’s a full CRM solution for sales, marketing and service. This one’s great for scaling teams who need to work with lots of accounts in an omnichannel direction. Bonus points go to Creatio’s display views, which try to put data relevant to the task at hand front and center.
With Creatio, you receive a total picture of all your accounts and contacts, including their locations on a map, social media profiles, and service histories. The single interface can be shared by teams, letting reps collaborate with customers across all channels. There’s smart data enrichment, which fills in missing info and constantly refreshes profiles. Creatio also helps you find new contacts through social media. You can group customers, and set up parameters to auto-segment them. It also provides analytics on customers, ticket issues or timeframes.
Customer Center plan is $35 per user/per month, billed annually.
Service Enterprise plan is $50 per user/per month, billed annually.
Zendesk has evolved into a suite of services including Zendesk Support. It’s advertised as being out-of-box ready, but it’s also highly customizable. By combining support, guide, chat and call center modules, this is a pretty-near complete package, good for both big and small businesses or independent operators.
A customer context tool makes sure all reps have the relevant details on any contact creating a ticket. The ticket system does a straightforward job handling the issuing and prioritizing of support tickets sourced from multiple channels like web, email, and social media. Users can create custom macro responses, or populate the knowledge base of FAQs. You can get customer satisfaction ratings and other analytics. There's also a visual WYSIWYG editor for creating common resources like wikis.
Essential plan is $5 per user/per month, billed annually.
Team plan is $19 per user/per month, billed annually.
Professional plan is $49 per user/per month, billed annually.
Enterprise plan is $99 per user/per month, billed annually.
Elite plan is $199 per user/per month, billed annually.
Zendesk offers a free trial with the Professional plan.
Maximizer CRM for service is one part of the trinity (which includes sales and marketing), and one price gets you the whole package. This is a very professional-looking tool, and even the service features have an eye toward helping sales. It can be hosted on their cloud or on-premises too.
It starts with syncing all your CRM data from Gmail or Outlook. There’s an intelligent address book where every contact with all their info is readily accessible, and you can upload and store documents there too. Maximizer shows you all related contacts, for example, grouped by job, industry or location. Multiple-step solutions can be standardized and reused as templates. There are triggers for alerts and notification tools that can be customized. They also have a reporting dashboard, and can handle phone call logging.
On-Premise CRM plan is $40 per user/per month, billed annually.
CRM Live plan is $65 per user/per month, billed annually.
CRM for Financial Advisors plan is $70 per user/per month, billed annually.
Maximizer offers a 30-day free trial.
Bitrix24 is a business-class CRM with equal emphasis on sales and marketing. The customer support and contact center have loads of features that could take some time to master, but once the learning is done, the opportunities are plentiful. There’s a good telephony feature too.
With Bitrix24, you can manage incoming support issues from live chats, emails, phone calls, social media and messenger apps all in one place. It’s easy to monitor tickets based on priority, status and SLA details. There are simple auto-reply features to offer customers basic information with custom-canned answers. Open tickets and conversations can be routed to the right rep, shared between reps, or transferred during the resolution process. Finally, you can use this CRM system as an online call center complete with phone routing and recording.
There's a free plan for 12 users.
Start+ plan is $19 for 2 users/per month, billed annually.
CRM+ plan is $55 for 6 users/per month, billed annually.
Project+ plan is $55 for 24 users/per month, billed annually.
Standard Business plan is $79 for 50 users/per month, billed annually.
Professional Business plan is $159 for unlimited users per month, billed annually.
NextOS is the communication-technology arm of Nextiva, which includes a service CRM. They also promise more AI in the future for things like reading customer “sentiment” and being more proactive with ‘next issue resolution’ (NIR). Otherwise, they’re big on automating tasks.
With NextOS, you get all multi-channel communication in one place, complete with detailed contact profiles. You can aggregate loosely-collected info from customer touchpoints (phone, chat, email) as well as from analytics and surveys. There’s internal chatting, which lets reps support each other while simultaneously dealing with customers, thereby bringing in extra expertise when needed on the fly. The platform handles standard features like feedback surveys, helps simplify the build-up of internal wikis, and helps to automate workflows.
Basic plan is $10 per user/per month, billed annually.
Pro plan is $20 per user/per month, billed annually.
Enterprise plan is $30 per user/per month, billed annually.
Centrahub CRM is a pretty robust package in itself, even without being linked up with Centrahub’s other modules. They’re aimed at some specific verticals, like for real estate, retail, project management and more. The survey features are a nice added touch.
Centrahub’s contact and customer database has the usual data and purchase histories, as well as useful indicators like ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ and product catalogs with warranty info or contract terms. Incoming tickets from email, social media or web forms go into a single platform where they can be grouped or routed individually. You can make workflows to help common issues or direct customers to knowledge bases. There are metrics for ticket stats or your team’s performance. Finally, they have survey features to monitor customer satisfaction.
Startup plan is $16 per user/per month, billed annually.
Professional plan is $30 per user/per month, billed annually.
Enterprise plan is $50 per user/per month, billed annually.
Ultimate plan is $83 per user/per month, billed annually.
Centrahub CRM offers a free trial.
Bonus: 7 service & support tools
RescueAssist (previously known as GoToAssist)
RescueAssist Service Desk is really a niche tool for the IT sector, where service reps are likely to be technicians. While it doesn’t call itself a CRM, there is a contact management tool that serves that purpose. GoToAssist has a flexible API to integrate with more dedicated CRM or other IT tools.
There’s a contact management dashboard that organizes data on all your customers and staff, the latter of whom can also receive customizable permission to use the database. All communication between reps and customers gets stored for future access. The ticketing dashboard shows all open issues by priority, deadline, and progress measured against SLAs. Customers can also enter their own tickets into an online portal. Staff can turn resolved incidents into knowledge articles. Automated workflows are also available. Finally, there’s reporting and time tracking.
$55 per user/per month, billed annually.
Tenfold Service Connect does a nice job with NLP, as in, the speech command: “I’ll call you tomorrow” will actually trigger a reminder tomorrow. It integrates with over 10 CRMs, including Sugar and Zendesk and over 40 voice systems.
Here’s another platform for computer telephony integration (CTI) with CRM software. As an intelligent assistant, Tenfold makes all contact info available for each call. Your contacts can get tagged and organized by things like priority or company, while tickets get grouped into parent cases. You can log calls, add notes, then seamlessly sync everything back to your CRM. There are tools to manage the status and availability of your phone agents. With Natural language processing (NLP), the app “listens” for task-related cues (eg: I’ll call you next week”), and automatically turns them into scheduled tasks with reminders.
For demos or prices, please contact the vendor.
SupportBee is a ticketing system where the main emphasis is on making team collaboration smoother—as the reference to bees implies. The platform is set up to have a typical email workflow, so the learning curve is short and honey-sweet. As for CRM integrations, there are five in total including ZohoCRM and Insightly.
Customers use the portal themselves to submit tickets and get status updates. The shared inbox functions like email, except its equipped with collaborative features, letting you assign tickets to reps and keep track of who's working on what. It also updates automatically, so new tickets hardly wait to get noticed. For workflows, they use the extremely simple but efficient categories of: answered, unanswered, or archived, to keep things simple but salient. The ‘KBee’ tool gives you a rich-text editor to create a knowledge base or FAQ, which can then be easily embedded on your website.
Startup plan is $13 per user/per month, billed annually.
Enterprise is $17 per user/per month, billed annually.
SupportBee offers a 14-day free trial.
Help Scout boasts a system that lets users forget about ticket numbers and focus more on helping customers with issues in a more personalized way. Another useful bit is their keyboard shortcuts to help cut down on typing time. Help Scout integrates with several CRM, some notable examples include Pipedrive and Salesforce.
With Help Scout, you can handle email, chat, and phone from one central place. There’s a mailbox organizer that lets you create separate folders based on categories like issue type, customer, team or department. The customer profiles show you all previous conversations, and it pulls data from other apps too. Easy-to-use IFTTT rules let you automate simple tasks. As for collaboration, teams can add notes, @mention each other, and get notified in case of possible rep collision. You can also gather satisfaction ratings from customers.
Basic plan is $25 per user/per month, billed annually.
Standard plan is $40 per user/per month, billed annually.
Plus plan is $70 per user/per month, billed annually.
For the Company plan, please contact the vendor.
Help Scout offers a 15-day free trial on any plan.
CustomerWise is the service and support arm of TechExcel. This is a great portal for both reps and customers to use when working together. As a support management package, it’s ripe for the B2B tech industry. The automation tools are quite powerful too.
With CustomerWise, you can track all customer interactions and sales, and past ticketing issues for each contact. Each new ticket can be broken down into tasks to be tracked and checked off. There’s a tool to identify and define specific kinds of tickets and to set up workflows to auto-respond to them. They have reporting which monitors your performance against SLA and other contract data. CustomerWise offers FAQ and knowledge base tools. Important events trigger email notifications to reps, or directly to customers.
Professional plan is $20 per user/per month.
Enterprise plan is $35 per user/per month and includes the complete CRM package.
Integrating Kayako with a CRM solution like Salesforce or Zoho CRM is a snap using Zapier, so each Kayako ticket gets the complete contact picture. Kayako’s shared inbox and their live chat modules are easy to use and very effective.
The support management software aggregates incoming issues from email and social media as well as through Kayako’s live chat module. There’s a self-service help center for common issues. With each ticket, you get a picture of the customer’s journey. Canned responses can be auto-sent to certain messages. You can invite team members to help with tickets and add internal notes. With smart business rules, you streamline workflows, particularly with reminders. There are customer satisfaction ratings, team analytics and a variety of reporting options.
Inbox plan is $15 per user/per month, billed annually.
Growth plan is $30 per user/per month, billed annually.
Scale plan is $60 per user/per month, billed annually.
Enterprise plan starts at $100 per user/per month, billed annually.
Kayako offers a 14-day free trial on any plan.
As far as integrations go, there’s a good handful of telephony platforms, while for CRM they do Microsoft Dynamics 365, ServiceNow and Salesforce. Companies with sizeable phone support reps could really benefit from InGenius (which was acquired by Upland in October 2019).
This tool lets you connect a dedicated telephony system to your CRM for beefing up live voice customer support. When calls come in, the caller’s profile pops up on the rep’s screen. You can dial directly from a CRM database, and transfer calls and screens to other agents mid-call. There is intelligent dialing, which means you always connect. Calls get logged automatically, you can add notes, and the data gets synced to your CRM. It also gathers and analyzes performance metrics for creating reports.
For demos or prices, please contact the vendor.
Keeping everyone in the loop
If you’re focusing on customer service, sometimes you don’t need all the “bells ‘n’ whistles” of a full-package CRM. However, it’s important to consider a customer service software that integrates well with sales and marketing departments as well.
Today, all departments work together to provide the best customer experience. In-house customer support is no longer the last-ditch-resort of a company trying to assuage peeved customers screaming for refunds. Its contributions are valuable for every customer touch-point.
Just as marketing, sales, and support departments strive to be more closely connected, so should the features of CSS software remain part of a larger CRM ecosystem.