Best types of CRM software for businesses

When it comes to building a customer-centric culture, customer relationship management (CRM) software is a critical building block. It makes it much easier for your customer service, marketing, and sales teams to do their jobs effectively, resulting in higher customer satisfaction and better customer retention.

That's because CRM software puts all customer data at your teams' fingertips, anytime, anywhere. They get a complete view of your clientele's demographics, past purchases, and customer service interactions, making it much easier for them to build good customer relationships than teams at companies that don't have all this information collected in one central location. They can also use CRM software to track leads, send marketing emails, automate sales tasks, create custom reports, and more.

So, if you want to improve your customer relationships and use a solid data foundation to develop your marketing, sales, and customer service strategies, CRM software is a must. In this article, we'll show you the different types of CRM software, how operational CRM differs from collaborative CRM, and what features you should look for when searching for a new CRM system.

How many types of CRM software are there?

CRM software can be divided into four categories:
  • Operational CRM software uses automation to improve the operational efficiency of your business.
  • Strategic CRM software focuses on your clientele and their interactions with your business.
  • Analytical CRM software organizes and analyzes customer data, focusing on metrics such as recurring revenue, top-selling customers, and customer retention rates.
  • Collaborative CRM software is used to share customer information across internal teams.
Here's what to look for when choosing CRM software

If you're unsure about what features your business really needs, take some time upfront to identify the problems you want CRM software to solve or the business goals you want to achieve. Do you want to automate your marketing or sales processes? Or are you looking for a streamlined way to send quotes or estimates to customers? When you have a clear view of the results you want to achieve with CRM systems, you can highlight the features that are most important to you and more easily narrow your search.

Below you'll find some popular CRM features and learn how they can help you and your business.

Calendar/Reminder System

Set reminders in your customer accounts that sync with your calendar. This way, you can remind yourself and your team of any tasks, for example, when a customer needs to be reminded of the end of a trial period or when the sales team has a follow-up phone call with a prospect.

Contact Management

Store customer and prospect contact information, including their names, addresses, and phone numbers, in a centralized, searchable database.

Email marketing

Manage email lists, monitor the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, announce new product releases, and promote your products and services.

Interaction tracking

Document customer conversations, track the activities of specific contacts, and add notes about customer interactions.

Lead generation

Collect potential customers' contact information, such as email addresses or phone numbers.

Lead qualification

Determine if a customer is a good fit for your product or service based on their activities or interactions.

Marketing Automation

Help your marketing team automate and manage marketing campaigns.

Pipeline Management

Gain an all-around view of your entire sales pipeline. Track which stage each lead is in and how many leads are in each stage, such as lead nurturing or closed sales.


Distinguish between different groups of potential and existing customers by categorizing them based on common characteristics to identify your target market.

Task Management

Assign responsibilities or tasks to team members and track their progress.

Sales territory management

Plan and manage sales territories to generate leads and increase sales.

Workflow automation

Automate tasks like sending marketing emails, scheduling follow-up tasks, and setting lead qualification criteria.

Now that we've covered the basic features and capabilities of CRM software, let's look at the four types of CRM software and their typical functions and use cases.

Operational CRM software

Operational CRM software is used to optimize the customer relationship processes in your company. All CRM processes that your company still handles manually can most likely be handled faster and more efficiently with operational CRM software. One such process is organizing customer contact information, which is shown in the next screenshot.

Crucial functions

Operational CRM software optimizes processes for managing customer relationships, especially with automation functions. These include:
  • Calendar/reminder system with synchronization
  • Contact management
  • Marketing automation
  • Email marketing
Workflow automationAutomation features are useful not only because they save a lot of time, but also because they give different areas of your business immediate access to customer information. For example, with some CRM platforms, you can automatically upload leads from different marketing channels. These leads can then be assigned to your sales team, which contacts them, provides them with the necessary information, and ideally closes the sale. Operational CRM software, in this case, ensures that your customers move through the sales pipeline much faster than with manual processes.

Who should use operational CRM software?

If your business relies heavily on administrative processes to manage customer data (for example, accounting or law firms), operational CRM software is very useful. Automate tedious and time-consuming processes so your team can focus on more important tasks, such as answering customer inquiries. Also, if your business relies on information passing through multiple channels (as in the sales example above), operational CRM software is very useful.

Strategic CRM software

Strategic CRM software focuses on building strategies that use customer interactions as a foundation. This type of CRM solution is especially useful for companies whose success is based on long-term customer relationships. It is called strategic CRM software because it helps you develop more effective business strategies based on customer data and market trends.

Crucial functions
  • Strategic CRM software prioritizes customer interactions through features such as:
  • Calendar/Reminder system with synchronization
  • Contact management
  • Interaction tracking
  • Lead generation and qualification
  • Pipeline management
  • Segmentation
This feature helps you gain insights that your teams can use to customize how they interact with customers and improve the customer experience. For example, they can find out whether your customers prefer to communicate via email or social media.

Who should use strategic CRM software?

If your business offers a recurring or ongoing service, such as a gym, auto repair shop, or internet service, a strategic CRM system will give you the tools you need to foster long-term relationships with your customers.

Analytical CRM Software

Analytical CRM software helps your business gain insights from its customer data and make informed decisions based on that data. It focuses heavily on reporting and analytics, providing details on metrics such as average business cycle, top-selling customers, and customer retention rates.

Critical functions

Analytical CRM software monitors sales trends and captures customer data through features such as the following:
  • Lead generation and qualification
  • Pipeline management
  • Sales territory management
These features help your company identify patterns in customer data and gain a comprehensive view of the customer lifecycle, the entire process from customer identification and solicitation to retention and nurturing. For example, if you can identify where customers are leaving your sales pipeline, you can use that information to adjust customer service strategy and run through different scenarios with your team.

Who should use analytical CRM software?

If you want to actively use customer data to increase your company's sales and create more targeted marketing campaigns, an analytical CRM platform is worthwhile. This is true for a great many businesses.

Collaborative CRM software

Collaborative CRM software helps different teams or departments in the company work together and provide better customer service. It is similar to strategic CRM software in that the focus is on customer service, while operational and analytical CRM systems are primarily used to improve operations and sales processes.

Crucial functions
The features of collaborative CRM software ensure that all team members are on the same page when it comes to customer interactions.

These include:
  • Contact management
  • Interaction tracking
Task managementAlso common are features that aid in team communication, such as Agile CRM's video conferencing feature shown above.

This allows departments such as sales, marketing, and customer support to work closely together and share information more easily. If these departments work separately or customer data is in silos so that only certain teams have access to it, it becomes more difficult to ensure that customers receive consistently good support.

Who should use collaborative CRM software?

Collaborative CRM software is suitable for any company that wants to improve collaboration between internal teams and external steakholders. It's equally useful for companies with multiple locations or branches, such as credit unions, franchise restaurants, or clinics.

Looking for more information on CRM software?

The above categories can help you communicate more precisely what goals you want to achieve with a CRM tool. At the same time, it's important to know that most CRM systems offer a combination of these categories. Finding the right CRM software will be much easier if you know which features are essential for you and which are just a useful extra.