We all know that CRM today is not a singular technology. It’s a collection of discrete, composable technologies that cover a huge swath of capabilities for the front office — capabilities that depend on how complex your deployment is and the needs of your specific industry — yet irrespective of the characteristics of your organization, all companies have one thing in common when it comes to CRM. They expect that CRM will let them:

  • Empower front-office workers to best support the customer. This is because CRM automates repetitive tasks such as scheduling, note taking, and call wrap. It guides the front office through best actions, conversations, and resolutions. And it lets the front office focus on strengthening customer relationships instead of rote activity.
  • Meet customers’ rising expectations for engagement. CRM empowers the front office with a full view of the customer. It also uses customer data, back-office data, and behavioral data to personalize content, offers, journeys, and connections that build customer trust and an ongoing relationship.

The CRM Landscape Can Be Divided Into Five Categories

If you search for a CRM vendor, hundreds of solutions show up. At Forrester, we compile the most significant vendors into five categories. They are:

  • Customer experience ecosystem vendors. These vendors offer the broadest portfolio of CRM applications to support B2B, B2C, and B2B2C engagement. There is a variable level of integration between the discrete CRM applications (e.g., marketing and sales applications).
  • CRM generalist. These vendors offer CRM capabilities unified on a singular platform, so the discrete applications share the same AI, data model, and workflows. This means more seamless support for the full customer journey: from prospecting to onboarding to account management, servicing, and retention.
  • Process-centric CRM. At the core of these CRMs is a process management engine that is used to create and manage complex customer workflows — such as those needed to open an account, apply for a credit card, or file a healthcare claim.
  • Digital-first customer engagement. These vendors offer modern CRM suites that include social research, marketing, conversational commerce, and digital-first customer service solutions. These solutions are often extended by journey analytics, social advertising, and loyalty management solutions, which are collectively used to drive brand loyalty and repeat business for B2C companies.
  • CRM sales. Vendors in this category offer a suite of unified applications used by B2B revenue-generating teams to engage customers from lead to sale to account management.

Our Now Tech: CRM, Q4 2021 report highlights these categories and identifies the vendor solutions that fall in each category. Let Forrester know if you have a question about CRM, CRM vendors, or our categorization. You can reach me via email at kleggett@forrester.com or speak to me by sending an email to inquiry@forrester.com.