9 Apps That Help Juggle Relationships With Customers

customer service

Photo: lawgeek via Flickr

Customer relationship management has always felt like the wrong term to me.You don’t “manage” customers. You don’t “manage” your relationship with a customer. You might nurture it. You might encourage it. You would strive to strengthen it. But manage? No.

However, I understand what a company is aiming for when they say it, and the term has stuck for a long time, so I will get off my soapbox and share nine powerful CRM tools you’ll want to consider for managing your small business.

Each of these tools has a customer database at its core; that’s a given. How they approach that customer data is what each section explores.

Click here to see the apps →
This article originally appeared at Small Business Trends.


InTouch CRM

Best for: Managing e-mails

InTouch CRM promises to make your life with customers easy. To prove their philosophy, if you only want to store your customer contact information, you can do it for free with InTouch. If you want to be able to use the powerful customer database and communicate via e-mail or SMS with your customers, then you'll have to subscribe to a paid plan.

I signed up for the free trial and was impressed with the simple dashboards and how quick it was to set up sample templates (you have to pay to start e-mailing) and campaigns for both e-mail and SMS. Naturally, you can see all your customer data at a glance.




Best for: Socializing and collaborating

Rapportive is for the Google Gmail user. If you use Gmail, you'll love Rapportive. Right within your inbox, on the right side (replaces where the ads usually run, yay), you'll see contact information for the person whose message you are reading.

Rapportive scours the social landscape and provides links and details from LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and numerous other sites to give you a fast glance at just who it is you're corresponding with. It will also tell you location information, if they are nearby and using such services, of course.


Best for: Socializing and collaborating

Gist reminds you that your contacts are everywhere. In e-mail, on social networks, on your mobile phone, and many other sources. Gist combines them all into one place to give you a full view of your network, making it easy to find anyone, anytime.

It works with Gmail, with Outlook, with the iPhone, and Android phones, with Salesforce.com and even Lotus Notes, to create a powerful listening post.

Smartsheet Sales Pipeline

Best for: Sales focus

Smartsheet Sales Pipeline is for the many users who want a powerful database, but with a user-friendly interface like a spreadsheet. If that's you, then take a close look at Smartsheet.

Think of this as a spreadsheet on steroids -- interactive and collaborative. Stop e-mailing spreadsheets around. Great reporting functions as well as Gantt charts and ways to enhance your sales results presentation.


Best for: Sales focus

SalesForce.com is one of the best-known online CRM tools; it was built with sales in mind. SalesForce is one of the companies that defined the software-as-a-service (SaaS) space.

Sales teams can see and access prospect and customer contact information via the Web and mobile devices. Hundreds of applications bolt onto the Salesforce system, and thousands of small business owners use it. The company just purchased Jigsaw to help you find more sales prospects.

Sugar CRM

Best for: Sales focus

Sugar CRM offers several different CRM tools, all of which are open source. While Sugar CRM is not free, it's extremely adaptable, allowing you to easily create custom modules as well as add external data.

There are many CRM applications in the market today. Tell us which ones you're using and how in the comments.

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