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Does your customer relationship management (CRM) system leave you feeling tethered to the office? Maybe you’re tired of calling in from the field to request a customer’s service history? If these pain points sound all too familiar, you’re probably operating with an antiquated, server-based CRM.
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If so, there’s no need to panic. It’s how many businesses managed their customer data since the rise of CRM software in the 1980s. But like many software applications, CRM systems are migrating away from bulky, in-house servers in favor of cloud applications (no hardware required).
Today, nearly three quarters of businesses use a cloud CRM system—and for good reason. A cloud solution offers several advantages over an on-site CRM, including financial savings and better data security.
This guide provides a side-by-side comparison of on-premise and cloud-based field service management software, and explores several reasons why a cloud platform offers a superior CRM experience over server-based software.
What Is Cloud-Based Customer Relationship Management Software?
Cloud CRM, also known as software-as-a-service (SaaS) CRM, is more similar to your Netflix subscription than the clunky, in-house servers taking up space and radiating heat in the office.
With cloud software, the CRM vendor stores customer data on its servers, and your team accesses the information over the internet (the cloud). The CRM vendor is responsible for providing maintenance, security, and ongoing feature updates. As the customer, your field technicians, sales reps, and other teams can access the CRM from any internet-connected device.
The SaaS model typically allows for monthly or quarterly payments, unlimited storage space, seamless implementation, and the option to turn the service on or off. It more closely resembles an online purchase than a physical software installation, hence the term software-as-a-service.
Cloud vs. On-Premise: Cost
Cloud-based CRM offers several financial benefits over on-premise software, including lower installation, implementation, and maintenance costs. Cloud computing also removes the need to house physical servers onsite, or hire IT staff.
Cloud-based CRM: Expect significantly lower installation and maintenance costs since all data lives in the cloud. With a cloud CRM, there’s no need to invest in on-site server hardware and bulky equipment, or pay for ongoing IT support. Instead of locking into a years-long contract, the SaaS model offers more flexibility, typically allowing monthly or quarterly payments. It not only frees up cash flow, it lessens financial risk. A cloud CRM certainly offers a more cost-effective solution.
On-premise CRM: With on-premise software, you’ll need to purchase computers and in-house data servers, and also pay for the installation and ongoing maintenance. In addition to high upfront costs, you may have to sign a multi-year contract, which could be financially devastating if the CRM lacks the right features, or a clunky user experience prevents employees from embracing the system.
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Cloud vs. On-Premise: Mobility
A cloud environment enables all employees, including service technicians, sales reps, and dispatch, to input and access customer data from a mobile device (not the office).
Cloud-based CRM: In today’s climate, employees need to conduct business on the go. That means using a mobile device to access real-time customer data while at home, in the office, in the field—or virtually anywhere with an internet connection. Remote access also ensures customer data stays up to date and timely.
On-premise CRM: A server-based CRM offers very limited mobility, typically requiring a VPN connection. In many cases, techs must call the office to relay customer data, wasting time and creating a poor user experience. It also makes it difficult for technicians and sales reps to make real-time updates from the field.
Cloud vs. On-Premise: Security and Maintenance
Cloud infrastructure shifts the data security and maintenance burden away from the customer, reducing risk.
Cloud-based CRM: The CRM vendor maintains the cloud servers, mandates safety and encryption protocols, and backs up your customer data. It adds an extra layer of security, and prevents data loss if a device goes missing or crashes.
On-premise CRM: With an on-premise CRM, the customer remains on the hook for protecting customer data, which typically involves the need to hire an outside data center, adding additional costs. Plus, you could potentially lose all customer data if the on-premise CRM crashes.
Cloud vs. On-Premise: Feature updates
Similar to downloading the latest version of a web browser, cloud-based feature updates occur regularly and automatically, requiring no additional work for the customer.
Cloud-based CRM: The CRM vendor can activate new features remotely and make them available to all users. That ensures employees always have access to the most up-to-date features, and requires no financial commitment or lag time.
On-premise CRM: With an on-site CRM, the vendor needs to manually install new features on your in-house servers. It not only takes longer, it may be so cumbersome that you avoid installing new updates altogether.
Cloud vs. On-Premise: Implementation
The SaaS model allows for a seamless implementation, lowering downtime, eliminating the need for hardware, and reducing capital expenses.
Cloud-based CRM: Because there’s no hardware or equipment to install, you won’t have to wait as long for implementation. The SaaS business model makes implementing software as easy as online shopping.
On-premise CRM: Implementation times vary depending on the business and CRM provider. Installing dedicated servers is not only time-consuming, it adds additional costs. One study found that 30% of companies had to wait over a year to fully implement a new CRM. It’s risky and impractical.
Cloud vs. On-Premise: Data and Metrics
Business owners in the trades need convenient access to real-time customer data. A cloud platform makes it easy to look up customer details, check technician performance, and track marketing efforts, from the office or in the field.
Cloud-based CRM: Not only is data accessible from anywhere, data updates whenever a tech enters a customer note, or a sales rep closes a deal. With a cloud solution, employees will always have the most accurate data at their fingertips.
On-premise CRM: With an on-premise solution, data is only as accurate as the last time an employee made an update from the office. Data could be days, or even weeks, behind, which could cause embarrassing mistakes and amplify other inefficiencies.
Cloud vs. On-Premise: Service and Support
Cloud service providers typically offer same-day and or 24/7 customer support, so you can resolve any CRM-related issues quickly and conveniently (no IT department needed).
Cloud-based CRM: The cloud model typically offers 24/7 support via phone, email, and live chat. Additionally, support teams can address problems remotely—even while you’re in the field or with a customer.
On-premise CRM: With an on-site CRM, you’re at the mercy of the vendor’s business hours. If there’s a problem and the provider lacks a 24/7-support offering, you’ll have to wait days or weeks for someone to physically show up and address the problem.
The No. 1 Cloud CRM for the Trades
ServiceTitan’s cloud CRM solution helps HVAC, electrical, plumbing, and other skilled trades optimize their customer relationship management. Our end-to-end system can help with the following business needs, and more:
Client interaction tracking
Scalability and customization
Mobile access and support
Marketing and campaign management
Workflow automation and employee management
Seamless integration with direct mail, email marketing, project management, financial reporting (QuickBooks), invoicing, billing, and other tools
Sales automation and lead management
ServiceTitan is a comprehensive software solution built specifically to help service companies streamline their operations, boost revenue, and substantially elevate the trajectory of their business. Our comprehensive, cloud-based platform is used by thousands of electrical, HVAC, plumbing, garage door, and chimney sweep shops across the country—and has increased their revenue by an average of 25% in just their first year with us.