Customer Service Automation: Benefits and Best CRM Suppliers

Customer service agent talking on headset

By Rob Binns | Senior Writer | Updated: 1 February 2021

We’ve researched, ranked, and rated the best customer service CRM systems for US businesses. Find your perfect fit today, and compare tailored quotes from suppliers


Salesforce Service CloudZendesk SupportFreshdeskHubSpotZohoDynamics 365
Starting price (per user, per month)$25$5$15$50$12$50
Highest price (per user, per month)$300$199$99$120$100$95
Customer interaction trackingX
Customer loyalty tracking$XXX
Customer history
Issue management capabilities$

We’ve all been there. Stuck on hold, getting bounced from one customer service agent to another, trying to resolve an issue. When you finally do get to speak to a real person, they’re clueless to your situation, and you have to explain everything again.

It’s bad customer service, and you can't afford it happening at your business.

Enter customer service automation. With it, you’ll turn your agents into lean, mean, service machines. No more spreadsheets, no more notebooks, and no more data silos – just a system that unifies communication across your email, social media, and phone channels, and helps you prioritize, organize, and handle customer service issues with aplomb.

But which customer service automation CRM is the right fit for your business?

We’ve researched, rated, and ranked six of the leading customer service CRM providers in the US in an attempt to answer that very question for you…

…so let’s find out!


What is Customer Service Automation?

Customer service automation is both a process and a tool.

First and foremost, it’s how businesses automate key manual tasks when it comes to customer support. Let’s be clear, automation isn’t about replacing your human service agents – it’s about helping them to do their job.

It’s nothing new-fangled or sinister, either. If you’ve ever used a chatbot to set up a direct line with a company – or accessed a business’s online knowledge base to solve an issue, rather than speak to an agent – then you’ve experienced customer service automation first-hand.

Did You Know?

It’s estimated that 95% of all customer interactions will be automated by 2025.

Whether it’s managing issues, providing technical support, or pulling a customer’s entire history of interactions with your business and brand, it’s all easier, quicker, and more seamless when automation is involved.

Customer service automation is also a type of CRM (customer relationship management) system, too. 

You’ve probably heard of CRM software already – it’s a platform for storing info about your contacts, leads, and deals, and using them to get more value from your customers.

Customer service CRM, then, is a branch of this software. Put simply, it’s dedicated to helping your phone-based and online support teams do their job more effectively – plus a whole bunch of other features, which we’ll get to in a second.

First, think about the last couple of experiences you’ve had receiving customer service from a business.

Were you passed seamlessly from one customer service agent to another? Did you feel surprised as to how quickly they had all the info about your issue to hand? Did you hang up with a smile on your face, impressed with the personalized level of assistance you received?

Yes? Well, this is customer service automation at work.

Did You Know?

84% of surveyed consumers cited customer service as one of the key factors when deciding whether or not to buy from a company.

Without the right customer service automation CRM, there’d be infinitely more paper shuffling, clicking, ‘ums’, ‘ahs’ and ‘I don’t knows’. There’d be data silos, miscommunication between support agents, and dropped balls.

Worse still – for your customers, that is – there’d be a lot more time spent on hold, suffering through a tinny, interminable loop of Bonnie Tyler's ‘greatest hits'.

So, what can customer service automation do for you?


Customer Service Automation: Features and Benefits

Let’s take a look at the features all top customer service CRM systems do well – and how these can help your business grow.

Issue Management Capabilities

When customer service issues arise – and no business is perfect, so rest assured they will – you’ve got to respond with speed and professionalism.

And, with customer service CRM, you can do just that. CRM software allows you to create ‘tickets’, with which you can record, organize, and track any issues that have been reported to your team. Using a simple drag-and-drop queue, you can keep tabs on the status of each issue, and easily spot links between different cases.

You can also prioritize issues, and assign team members to specific ones – thus increasing the accountability of your team, and ensuring that cases are resolved with greater efficiency.

Customer Interaction Tracking

As with CRM for sales and marketing – where tracking customer interactions helps you sell to them – CRM for customer service allows you to monitor how and where your client base is interacting with your brand.

Is that through social media? Do your customers prefer to get in touch via email, or would they rather pick up the phone and give you a call? 

Tracking your customers’ interactions with your brand helps you understand their preferences, and empowers you to tailor how – and when – you deliver your service going forward.

Customer Loyalty Tracking

Acquiring new customers is important… but the real business is in retaining them.

It’s cheaper, for one. Plus, statistics show that your probability of converting an existing customer is around 60% to 70% – with new customers, that figure is as low as 5%.

Given this, engendering customer loyalty to your brand and services becomes even more crucial – as does being able to accurately track it.

CRM allows you to gain invaluable insights into your brand and industry, courtesy of your customers themselves. From directly within the CRM, you can reach out to your client base with surveys and feedback requests – allowing you to better understand your business’s NPS (Net Promoter Score), and how it’s impacting on your bottom line.

Customer History

A key benefit of a customer service automation tool is being able to build up a rich, detailed history of each interaction you have with your customers.

Having a comprehensive record of what conversations you’ve had – and whether they took place via phone, email, or social media – allows you to better understand the customer, and where they are in their journey with your business.

Plus, when your team grows beyond a certain size, having a customer history database isn’t just a plus – it’s a necessity.

When one service agent picks up the phone, it won’t always be the same one that the caller dealt with last time – so it’s important that they have all the info they need to handle the new enquiry, right at their fingertips.


Customer Service CRM: Top Suppliers for US Businesses

According to our research, the best CRM for customer service teams is Salesforce Service Cloud. Comprising the rest of the top six is Zendesk Support, Freshworks’ Freshdesk, HubSpot Service Hub, Zoho, and Dynamics 365 for Customer Service.

How did we decide, exactly? Jump to our methodology to find out.

Before you dive into our research and rankings of the best CRM software for US customer service teams, why not compare CRM software quotes with us? Simply provide us with a few details about your business, and you’ll receive quotes tailored to the size and unique needs of your customer service team, for free.

1. Salesforce Service Cloud

As our top CRM pick for customer service, Salesforce (somewhat predictably) dominates across the board for customer approval ratings, features, and help and support. And while it scores slightly lower on price – its expensive premium plans see to that – its basic plan should still be accessible for most small businesses.

Salesforce bosses our rankings for customer service automation. Built on the pioneering Salesforce Customer Success Platform, Service Cloud is an industry-leading customer engagement tool for businesses of all sizes. From streamlining key processes to creating automated workflows, Salesforce Service Cloud frees your team up to do what they do best – provide world-beating customer service.

Expert Rating:

Salesforce Service Cloud: The Basics

Starting price$25 per user, per month
Highest price$300 per user, per month
Customer supportLive chat, phone (24/7), email, knowledge center
Data storage limitN/A
Contact limitN/A
Free trial?30-day free trial
Did You Know?

Salesforce also features at the summit of our list of the best CRM systems for small businesses. Go check it out!

Salesforce Service Cloud for Customer Service: Feature Analysis

Issue management capabilities? Salesforce boasts strong case and issue management functionalities across all plans.

Upgrading to Salesforce’s more expensive tiers (i.e. ‘Enterprise’ or ‘Unlimited’) provides advanced issue management functionality, including case re-routing and case milestone tracking. All plans enable quick, seamless communication between your customer service agents.

Customer interaction tracking? Yes.

Customer loyalty tracking? Yes.

Customer history? Yes. Salesforce Service Cloud’s ‘Field Tracking History’ capability allows you to track any field changes to accounts, cases, and service contracts over the last 18 months. This ensures that you keep your finger on the pulse regarding any changes in your customers’ situations or details, and can react accordingly.

Pros:

  • 24/7 phone-based support available
  • Case re-routing and case milestone tracking included as standard
  • No data storage or contact limits

X Cons:

  • Can be complicated to set up and use; onboarding support is recommended

Killer customer service automation features, an affordable starting price point, and an enigmatic CEO to boot.

Should we really be surprised that Salesforce is one of the most popular CRM solutions on the market?


2. Zendesk Support

A classy customer service CRM tailored to the needs of small teams, Zendesk Support excels in the metrics of both help and support and price, and boasts a strong weighted customer approval score of 85%.

With seamless social media and channel integration, a slick ticket prioritization tool, and a multilingual interface that allows agents to work in their own language, Zendesk Support is a top pick for customer service teams. It’s great value, too, with packages starting at a mere $5 per user, per month, and plenty of data storage thrown in.

Expert Rating:

Zendesk Support: The Basics

Starting price$5 per user, per month
Highest price$199 per user, per month
Customer supportLive chat, phone, email, knowledge center
Data storage limit30MB to 200MB per agent (data), 500MB to 10GB per agent (files); dependent on plan
Contact limitN/A
Free trial?Free 30-day trial

Zendesk Support for Customer Service: Feature Analysis

Issue management capabilities? Included as part of Zendesk’s ticketing system.

Customer interaction tracking? Yes, across all plans.

Customer loyalty tracking? Yes – Zendesk allows you to generate NPS surveys to gauge customer engagement with and loyalty to your brand.

Customer history? Yes.

Pros:

  • Offers over 500 integrations via Zendesk Marketplace
  • ‘Guided mode’ feature lines up tickets for your staff to work through, helping prevent task ‘cherry-picking’

X Cons:

  • As with most customer service CRM software, you’ll have to shell out more for the premium features

Zendesk offers two major CRM packages: ’Support’, which you’ve just been looking at, and ‘Sell’, its chief offering for sales teams.

As it happens, both are downright excellent. Zendesk Sell, in fact, is our third best CRM system for sales teams. If you’re looking to adopt an integrated system that includes both sales and customer service automation, you can’t go wrong here.


3. Freshdesk

Freshdesk (from Freshworks CRM) is our joint-top customer service CRM pick for price, but its limited features prevent it from reaching the heady heights of our list’s summit. Freshdesk also suffers from a relatively poor customer approval score, though its help and support is still among the best we found.

Though Freshdesk doesn’t boast as many features as Salesforce, it’s much more accessible in terms of pricing, which starts at $15 per user, per month. It’s also one of the most fun customer service CRM systems to use. You can create tickets in a flash, easily prioritize conversations by urgency or date, and organize support requests by the channel they came in from. It’s no wonder its customers love it so much!

Expert Rating: Try Freshdesk for Free

Freshdesk: The Basics

Starting price$15 per user, per month (when billed annually – expect to pay 30 to 40% more on a monthly plan)
Highest price$99 per user, per month (when billed annually – expect to pay 30 to 40% more on a monthly plan)
Customer supportLive chat (24/5), phone (24/5), email, knowledge center
Data storage limitN/A
Contact limitN/A
Free trial?Free version and 21-day free trial available

Freshdesk for Customer Service: Feature Analysis

Issue management capabilities? Freshdesk enables excellent issue management across all plans. Key highlights include its priority setting feature, split ticket functionality, and (for those on the ‘Garden’ plan and beyond) the ability to create customizable satisfaction surveys to monitor progress against your customer service goals.

Customer interaction tracking? Yes, across all plans – even its free one!

Customer loyalty tracking? Freshdesk’s ‘Garden’ plan and above enable you to integrate your CRM with Survey Monkey – letting you capture overall customer loyalty and track NPS scores.

Customer history? Yes.

Pros:

  • Sports an excellent free plan, with features spread out across all pricing tiers
  • Solid customer support, with round-the-clock service included as standard

X Cons:

  • You’ll pay up to 40% more to be billed monthly

Heads up – you’re halfway through our list of the top 6 customer service automation CRMs. Time to start comparing quotes?

Simply hit one of the buttons below to start our quick questionnaire. It takes just 30 seconds to do, and by telling us more about your business’ specific customer service automation requirements, we can help ensure that you receive the best, most personalized rates on customer service CRM software.

Compare Quotes From Leading Customer Service CRM Providers and Save
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1. Does your business already use customer service automation? YES NO

4. HubSpot Service Hub

Though HubSpot excels in its CRM offerings for sales and marketing teams, its customer service-focused software doesn’t quite hit those same lofty heights. Hamstrung by a more limited range of features and a hefty price tag, HubSpot’s Service Hub is redeemed by wonderful help and support, and superlative customer approval ratings.

Many customer service CRM providers do automation well, but HubSpot Service Cloud takes it to a new level entirely. Its conversational bots do the talking for you, while a live chat feature enables you to work out issues in real-time, via your website. What’s more, HubSpot’s a pleasure to use – its stripped-back, modern look and feel makes it easy to get to grips with, and there’s phone-based support if you do get stuck.

Expert Rating: Try HubSpot for Free

HubSpot Service Hub: The Basics

Starting price$50 per user, per month (when billed annually – expect to pay around 25% more on a monthly plan)
Are you a startup? You might be eligible for 90% off, with HubSpot’s ‘HubSpot for Startups’ program.
Highest price$120 per user, per month (10 user minimum)
Customer supportLive chat, phone, email, knowledge center
Data storage limitN/A
Contact limitN/A
Free trial?Free version available

HubSpot Service Hub for Customer Service: Feature Analysis

Issue management capabilities? Yes – these are included as part of HubSpot’s ticketing system. With this feature, you can record, organize, and track all of your customers' issues from a single dashboard, which is accessible to your entire team via the cloud.

Customer interaction tracking? No.

Customer loyalty tracking? No, but Service Hub’s ‘Professional’ and ‘Enterprise’ plans allow you to run NPS surveys to calculate overall customer loyalty.

Customer history? Yes.

Pros:

  • Offers intelligent in-built reporting tools for measuring customer service agent performance
  • Laudable customer support

X Cons:

  • Expensive upper pricing tier
  • No customer loyalty or interaction tracking

It’s not only in the field of customer service automation that HubSpot excels.

HubSpot is well known for its simply sublime marketing features, too. And it hasn’t gone unnoticed – HubSpot’s smart CRM tops our list of the best marketing automation tools in the US.

Unsurprisingly, this makes it the perfect fit for agency life. Advertisers, creators, marketers, take note – HubSpot is one of the best agency CRM solutions you’ll find, period!


5. Zoho

A poor customer score, so-so features, and help and support ratings that lie at the wrong end of the spectrum are offset by Zoho’s biggest selling point – it’s really, really cheap!

As with its products for sales and marketing teams, Zoho’s customer service CRM lacks the same depth of features as the Salesforces and HubSpots of this world. However, Zoho makes up for its shortcomings with a low starting price of just $12 per user, per month, an intuitive interface, and a generous free version. Sure, you won’t get much in the way of customer service analytics here – but for all the basic stuff, Zoho should suffice.

Expert Rating: Try Zoho for Free

Zoho: The Basics

Starting price$12 per user, per month
Highest price$99 per user, per month
Customer supportLive chat, phone, email, knowledge center
Data storage5,000 records (10MB) to 5,000,000 records (10GB)
Contact limitDepends on the type of correspondence
Free trial?Free version available

Zoho: Feature Analysis

Issue management capabilities? Yes! Zoho even allows you to create solutions whereby the system tracks issues automatically, and uses the customer’s initial query to populate the relevant fields when replying.

Customer interaction tracking? Yes.

Customer loyalty tracking? No.

Customer history? Yes.

Pros:

  • Boasts an interface that’s as easy to use as it is on the wallet
  • Purchasing an annual subscription nets you a 20% discount

X Cons:

  • No customer loyalty tracking
  • Too simplistic for the customer service demands of larger teams

Zoho is one of the cheapest CRM systems on the market.

So, what are you waiting for? Go explore the rest!


6. Dynamics 365 for Customer Service

Bringing up the rear is Microsoft’s own answer to the CRM needs of customer service teams. Though much more affordable than its solutions for sales and marketing, this saving is reflected in Dynamics 365 for Customer Service’s scaled back list of features, and indifferent help and support.

Normally renowned for its big data, analytics-focused approach to CRM, Dynamics 365’s offering for customer service teams is surprisingly light on features. There’s no loyalty tracking capability, while the interface – tough to use, and void of visual flair – ails from an ironic lack of dynamism. Still, it’s cheap. And, if you’re a Microsoft lover looking for a way into a system that’s normally beyond the budgets of most businesses, Dynamics 365 for Customer Service might just be the software for you.

Expert Rating:

Dynamics 365: The Basics

Starting price$50 per user, per month
Highest price$95 per user, per month
Customer supportPhone, email, knowledge center
Data storage limitN/A
Contact limit100,000 cases per month
Free trial?Free trial available

Dynamics 365 for Customer Service: Feature Analysis

Issue management capabilities? Yes, and all basic case management features are included. Among our favourites are case re-routing, and the ability to convert service issues into knowledge center articles.

Customer interaction tracking? Yes.

Customer loyalty tracking? No. Dynamics 365 for Customer Service currently offers no way of keeping tabs of individual loyalty to your brand.

Customer history? Yes.

Pros:

  • Cloud-based, but with on-premise options available, too
  • Reasonable pricing range

X Cons:

  • No live chat support
  • No customer loyalty tracking capability

One of the things that sets Dynamics 365 apart from many other customer service CRM providers is its flexibility. You can deploy Microsoft’s impressive customer service automation tool as either an on-premise or cloud-based solution.

Not sure what the difference is? We’ve got you covered. Head over to our guide to cloud-based CRM software to start comparing and contrasting, and find out which option is best for your business.


Next Steps

Though we’ve ranked these six customer service CRM suppliers based on their features, help and support, customer approval ratings, and price, there’s still more research to do to find the right system for you.

And ultimately, the system you choose will be defined by the unique requirements and restrictions of your own business.

Bargain hunter? Go for Zendesk Support, or – at a stretch – Zoho.

Hung up on the aesthetics? HubSpot Service Hub is your best bet, while Freshdesk also provides a high level of usability – with fewer CRM costs.

Dynamics 365 is for the hardcore Microsoft fans only, while Salesforce Service Cloud, as our top pick, is recommended for all.

Remember, which customer service CRM is best for you always comes down to the bespoke needs of your team. And that, in turn, is why we always take your needs into account when you use our free quote-finding service.

Simply tell us what CRM features you want, how many people it’s for, and what (if any) contact management software you’re already using. We’ll do the rest, and you’ll be contacted with tailored quotes from leading CRM software suppliers. It’s that easy!

Our Methodology

How We Analyze and Rate CRM Software Providers

At Expert Market, it’s our aim to provide you with the most accurate, up-to-date, and transparent product and service reviews possible. So, to help you better understand the best CRM software options out there, we’ve conducted in-depth, extensive research into the CRM software market and its top companies.

Here’s how we did it:
Independent researchers
We worked with three independent researchers to rate eight different CRM systems over a total of 40+ hours. This included five separate varieties of CRM software, as well as more than 61 specific features. Using a bespoke, industry-style algorithm, we rated each provider across four key metrics.

Ratings

  • Help and support: we assessed the level of customer support (such as email, phone, or live chat), as well as its availability (24/7, or weekdays only?), to provide a weighted score for each CRM supplier.
  • Affordability: our affordability algorithm took into account the cost of CRM ownership over 12 months – based on the average buyer – as well as factors such as free trials and money-back guarantees.
  • Features: we assessed each supplier on five specific features per type of CRM. We then weighted these scores, and translated them into a point value system. This allowed us to form accurate ratings for each CRM provider, broken down by the industry it best serves.
  • Customer approval: we assigned each provider a ‘customer score’, which involved seeking opinions from within the community, as well as feeding data aggregated from online sources into a unique algorithm. This allowed us to calculate overall customer approval scores for each CRM supplier, in real time.

survey
We take the integrity of our research seriously. If you’ve got any questions at all about our research process, feel free to get in touch with Rob, our CRM specialist, at rob.binns@expertmarket.com.

Rob Binns
Rob Binns Senior Writer

Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, business loans, fulfilment, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny (socially-distanced) corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.

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