2015 CRM Solutions: What's Trending

While new product versions aim to improve the user experience, you'll want to test your selection before committing to it.

August 25, 2015

CRM cloud services are an evolution of the desktop software of the past. They’ve come to offer more robust options and features, but that means you have to be more aware of what you’re getting. Here are some of the latest CRM trends you should know.

Software as a service: With CRM services in the cloud, you’ll have distinct advantages over programs that were installed on a single PC, including anywhere/anytime access to data on multiple devices. Plus, you’ll get updates for the latest features and functions without the need to purchase upgrades in the future.

Choices: Many CRM suppliers have come and gone because they weren’t able to establish enough of a user base to sustain a place in the market. That hasn’t changed, so carefully consider the product and vendor history when evaluating solutions. The longer the company has been in business, the larger the user base, the more stable the provider. If you’re attracted to a CRM system from a new player, think about an exit strategy. Should it not survive, make sure you can export your data to a new system.

Versatility: Real estate CRM systems offer a diverse mix of features. Some concentrate solely on managing information and interaction with clients; others provide additional tools for marketing, finances, listings, and documents. Before you evaluate solutions, decide if all you need is a CRM system or if you would be better served with a full business management system that includes CRM as a component.

An ongoing expense: Cloud services are sold on a subscription basis with a monthly or annual fee for as long as you use the program. A few carry an additional one-time setup fee. The number of users and upgrade options can also increase the cost.

Mobile support: Expect to use your smartphone or tablet to access the data and full functionality of your CRM in the field. Vendors tout this capability, but their idea of fully functional mobile access may differ from yours. Don’t take them at their word. Take advantage of free trial offers and thoroughly test any CRM you’re considering.

Greater integration: Many CRMs have become more efficient by adding the ability to meld their functions with other tools and services. For example, real estate coach Gary David Hall cites integration with the MLS as a noteworthy advance in some real estate CRMs. “The buyer’s automated searches can be initiated and maintained from within the CRM,” he notes. “You’re also able to track what properties are being viewed and how often, enabling the agent to better see the hotter prospects more readily.”