It doesn't really matter how good your products or your prices are — if you can't look after those with whom you do business with, you'll quickly find that the phones stop ringing.
Customer relationship management (CRM) products have evolved through ever-increasing layers of complexity until these days they can basically head out and find new customers for you. That complexity can come at a price — how do your users make productive use of a product which can do almost everything for them? How can they make sense of mountains of data and, most importantly, how can they translate all this information into effective practices and workflows that will allow your company to grow?
Paradoxically, while CRM products have become more powerful, they've also become far more portable. Gone are the days when an enterprise-class business solution involved massive infrastructural investment. Datacentres and the expanding global bandwidth penetration means that companies can have entire solutions hosted offsite, giving them greater flexibility about when and where to deploy and, more importantly, how quickly. The drive to be first to market is incessant, and with hosted services or software as a service will allow companies to deploy rapidly and effectively.
In this round-up of CRM vendors, we were particularly interested in feature sets and the maturity and accessibility of their hosted solutions. As customer relationship management can sometimes be a vague catch-all phrase, we also wanted to get a sense of the vision these companies bring to their customers and to see what innovations they bring to market to stand out from the crowd.