Within the next three years, the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software industry is expected to grow to a $36.5 billion market. Much of that growth is set to occur because of new, disruptive entrants in the space, as well as added functionality that’s transforming the old, standby CRMs we’ve known about for years.

But with so many variations of CRMs on the market today, it can be hard to figure out what they all actually do. Below, I’ll delve into the similarities and differences between three of the most common types of customer relationship technology:

  • Traditional Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software
  • Social Customer Relationship Management (Social CRM) Software
  • Customer eXperience Management (CXM) Software

Our Pick for the Best CRM Software: Salesforce

Salesforce is our top pick for the best CRM software since it is packed with features like no other CRM software on the market. Features such as workflow creation, content management, opportunity tracking, task management, customer engagement tools, collaboration tools, intuitive analytics, and a mobile-ready dashboard make Salesforce CRM software our top recommendation for 2024.

Traditional CRM

Traditional CRM software focuses primarily on tracking “traditional” methods of communication (as the name would suggest) with your customers and prospects, such as phone calls, emails, and conversation notes from conferences or live meetings.

CRM software typically includes a contact profile of each customer and/or prospect in your database. The profile, in addition to their contact info, will often include your outreach history with that particular customer, be it through email or phone calls a sales person has made or marketing campaigns they have interacted with. Also included is the customer’s responses to those outreaches, and often, the customer’s interaction with your website.

See below for an example of the type of data you might see in a traditional CRM contact record:

Beyond analyzing prospect behavior at the individual level, CRM software also provides overarching metrics on types of outreach,such as how many outbound calls your sales team has made this month, or which campaigns and offers are closing the most deals. These company-wide reports give you a look into your sales process and pipeline as a whole, plus they can identify ways to retain existing customers or upsell them on other products or services.

A few of the many benefits of CRM software:

  • CRM gives your marketing and sales teams actionable data to bring in higher quality leads.
  • You can measure where prospects are in the pipeline, all from one central system.
  • It allows you to provide better customer service because certain time consuming tasks can be automated. This means that customers can receive immediate responses for certain issues (think password resets or billing notifications), while even responses that can’t be automated can be given sooner, because your team will have more time. 

Social CRM

Before I delve into what social CRM means, you should know that Social CRM and CRM are not always distinct types of software. Some CRM software providers give the option for Social CRM, while others do not.

Social CRM can be seen as an expansion of traditional CRM, but with a slight change in marketing strategy. Paul Greenberg, an expert in CRM software, explains Social CRM as a strategy “to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation.” He notes that customers are becoming continually more in control of when and how they interact with companies, and that this can have an affect on a company’s outreach efforts.

Social CRM monitors both inbound and outbound marketing and sales communications between customers and your business. Beyond the tracking of traditional customer-business interactions, Social CRM also tracks interactions via outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and online forums or reviews platforms like Yelp.

And unlike traditional CRM, with Social CRM, you can track what your customers are saying about your business to one another, instead of just their communications with you . With more of this online data comes a fuller picture of your customers and prospects. Social CRM monitors where and in what context your company is mentioned throughout social media. This data allows you to keep a pulse on your customers’ interactions and opinions of your services. It can also lead to the discovery of new prospects.

More importantly, social media usage is quickly overtaking a large percentage of the sales process– for both B2C and B2B companies. On the B2C side, people are less likely to pay attention to ads played during their favorite show because they can often fast forward through them, and they may be more likely to pay attention to a product that is trending on Twitter. On the B2B side, 84% of B2B executives already source social media to make purchase decisions according to a recent study from Leadspace.

Within the social CRM category, there are two types of tools, depending on your needs:

  1. Social media marketing software with the capabilities to keep track of individual contact records and their history, or;
  2. Full-featured CRMs with social media platform integrations.

Here’s an example of what sort of data you might see in a Social CRM contact record:


Customer Experience Management, or CXM, although commonly confused with CRM, is actually quite different. A few years ago, experts said that CXM is not really a technology, so much as it was a strategy. And to some extent, that is still true, because CXM centers around qualitative metrics like customer satisfaction, retention, and loyalty. The CXM movement is being driven by the influx of Big Data and Business Intelligence software solutions.

But today, there are, in fact, Customer Experience Management software solutions available to businesses. While most CRMs (and especially Social CRMs) typically focus more heavily on the sales process and tracking prospects leading up to a sale or contract, CXM software focuses more on the customer’s experience post-sale with your product or service.

CXM systems often allow you to gather customer intelligence, track sentiment and customer feedback through surveys, analytics, and text analysis tools. CXM software seeks to treat each customer as an individual by defining what the company considers to be all the steps in its “customer experience”. In doing so, the software is able to identify the “types” of customers in your database, and you can then tailor future messaging and customer care techniques depending on your customer profiles.

Conclusion: Which One Do You Need?

Although it can be overwhelming to have so many options when looking for a CRM, each variation has unique benefits depending on the needs of your company. Having a system that fits the specific goals of your business will help you to be more efficient and will ensure you get the greatest return from your software purchase.

As you continue to look into CRM, Social CRM and CXM, remember that these systems are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Some software providers may have some combination or all of these options within one platform.

Salesforce CRM software allows you to make use of the scalability and customization options, the multitenant architecture feature, partner ecosystem, security features as well as the Salesforce cloud apps. This makes Salesforce CRM the best CRM software on the market.

What type of CRM technology do you use? What systems do you recommend? Share your experiences with these tools in the comments.

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