Get more from your sales teams with CRM and machine learning

how can crm and machine learning improve sales for SMEs

There’s a famous saying in business that the customer is always right. Most companies strive to develop meaningful interactions with customers that lead to long, mutually beneficial relationships. But achieving this is not always easy, especially for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) with limited resources. Here, we look at CRM and machine learning, and how the latest techniques can improve the way your sales teams deal with clients.

how can crm and machine learning improve sales for SMEs

How can CRM software help my business?

CRM software helps you manage all interactions with clients to improve customer service, make your teams more productive, and lower the cost of sales. While many CRM products exist, all with different features, most act like a database with a record for each of your customers. That record contains a history of the customer, what they’ve purchased, what issues they’ve had and how your support teams solved them, when their products need servicing or replacing, as well as a complete history of interactions they’ve had with your sales teams.

With a CRM system, this data is centrally stored and accessible to those in your business who need it, not kept on various spreadsheets (which was the case at 32% of SMEs last year).

The number one benefit of CRM software is the ability to provide better customer service. You can automate much of the communication and management that sales teams have to do to maintain good customer relationships. More advanced packages exist that help you analyse customer data, which lets you automatically segment customers to target them with appropriate sales and marketing campaigns, for example.

The best CRM for small business

What is the best CRM for your small business? To get an idea of how small business have used CRM to increase sales and grow their business, take a look at these case studies.

Multideur is a Dutch company making industrial and garage doors. It replaced various manual processes – many still on paper – with a modern cloud-based CRM in Microsoft Dynamics. Now, larger clients have more confidence in Multideur’s ability to serve them, sales have increased, and the company has doubled its headcount.

Salespeople at Redsquid – a unified communications company – were storing customer information in online folders that were not always easy to access when on the road. Nor could teams easily report on customer activity. Redsquid found a solution in OpenCRM, which centralised documents, call records and previous sales to improve visibility across the organisation.

Machine learning: the next step for CRM

Machine learning is a hot topic in both computing and business right now. It describes techniques that let systems – like CRM – learn from data and make decisions based on what they find without being explicitly programmed to do so.

Large CRM providers have boasted machine-learning capabilities for several years now. Salesforce, the original cloud-based CRM, lets users score leads based on past sales or recommend products to customers depending on what interactions your employees have had with them.

Zoho has Zia – an AI-powered assistant – which, it claims, can spot whether your monthly sales targets are in danger and provide information to help you rectify the problem before it’s too late. It can even tell you when a prospect is most likely to pick up the phone.

How can SMEs benefit from machine-learning-powered CRM?

Machine learning helps humans spot patterns we’re not ‘programmed’ to see. Conventional CRM software can organise customer data, sync between systems, or log calls, but machine learning gives CRM systems the ability to find hidden insight in data.

benefits for crm and machine learning

Take customer segmentation. Traditional wisdom would have sales and marketing teams split customers into standard demographic groups: by age, income, the size of their business, or location. Machine learning can analyse data for unconventional groupings that let your small business run hyper-targeted marketing campaigns for the niche customer groups you never knew existed.

Lead nurturing is an area where most major CRMs have machine-learning capability. From the moment a customer first interacts with your business – by visiting your website for example – an intelligent CRM can develop a journey that funnels that customer towards a sale. It analyses their actions – what they clicked on, what they scrolled past, who they spoke to at an event, how they interacted with your business on social media – to serve the most appropriate content. This could be web or email marketing, sales calls, or custom offers, to turn a lead into a sale.

Machine learning and predictive analytics often go hand in hand. This gives SMEs the ability to more accurately predict the outcome of a bidding process, make more precise pipeline and revenue forecasts, and gauge how likely sales teams are to meet quarterly targets.

The benefits of intelligent CRM systems are compelling. According to Salesforce’s third Sate of Sales report, high-performing salespeople are nearly 5 times more likely to use AI-assisted selling than their less successful colleagues. They also consistently rank AI and machine-learning capabilities like intelligent forecasting, lead prioritisation, and opportunity insights as having more potential impact.

Whatever your size and requirements, you can find the right CRM for your business on our website

Five ‘horrors’ that keep HR managers up at night

HR issues

At Halloween we open ourselves to the things that scare us most. For many of us, that means ghosts and spirits, but for managers HR issues are much more real. From the nightmares of payroll and timesheet management, to the monsters of compliance and talent management, their days are fraught with complex and time-consuming tasks.  

In this seasonal special, we look at the top five HR issues facing UK HR managers today. But to be sure that you don’t have a sleepless night, we’re also going to show how these horrors can be vanquished with the right choice of HR software in the UK. 

Payroll management

Keeping on top of the payroll can make even the bravest HR manager tremble in his boots. Using only manual processes, managing the ever-changing range of salaries, wages, bonuses and deductions that underpin every business becomes a hair-raising challenge. In fact, 40% of businesses now spend 80 or more hours per year on taxes, payroll, and working with accountants – time that could be better spent. 

However, thanks to automation software, you no longer have any reason to fear the payroll as an HR issue. Today’s software allow you to sit back and let the system take care of salary and wage management. Payroll Software can track time off, holiday accrual, benefits and retirement accounts to provide a complete package that firms can manage on their own. 

HR managers are increasingly aware of the benefits on offer with payroll software: according to our survey, 21% say it’s the main feature they are looking for in new HR software. 

Talent management

Another HR issue is how to accurately evaluate the work carried out by employees and ensure they are adequately rewarded and given tasks suited to their skills. With skills gaps emerging across many business functions this imperative is more pressing than ever: if you’re unable to manage your talent effectively you could see them march off to work with a competitor, leaving you understaffed in critical business functions.  Like Martine Robins, Director at HR Dept Woking and Guildford, comments: “the best way to avoid this is to be very clear about the skills and experience that you need in your business when you are looking to recruit.”

Companies with EU nationals as employees are also looking at software to help their EU employees ensure that all their  employment and residential status is uploaded to HR software when requesting settled status following Brexit –  due to happen later this month. Jules Wix, Apprenticeships and Talent Manager at Cambridge Spark comments that employees “can access any evidence needed quickly and as employers we have an overview of where our staff stand.”

Software can make talent management much more accurate, reliable and effective. Talent management software puts data at the heart of talent management and gives employers the digital tools they need to manage, evaluate, and compensate based on performance. Doing so improves the effectiveness of the workforce and provides useful insights into employee needs. 

Employee engagement

Closely related to talent management is the need for HR managers to keep employees engaged. When employees are not engaged by their work, they will be less productive and more likely to look elsewhere. According to one study, highly engaged teams are 21% more productive than those with low engagement. Conversely, disengaged employees are estimated to cost the UK £52-70 billion per year in lost productivity – and 70% of UK employees say they are disengaged. 

This is very scary stuff. Getting employee engagement wrong costs your business money, adversely affects employee experiences and makes winning the war for talent harder. But fear not – software is at hand. Employee engagement software can help you build awareness amongst employees of your corporate culture and its values (something that is becoming increasingly important to employees). What’s more, through employee surveys, gamification tools, team sentiment analytics, and many other applications, employee engagement software can help increase employee’s level of investment in the company. 

Jules Wix comments that the key to employee engagement is to use all the tools and platforms possible for effective communication and education, keeping the process transparent and relevant for all team members. Jules states that “once people can see and track their own holiday on the HR system, own and edit their own employee data in a GDPR compliant way and check the policies that impact them they feel safer and more comfortable in the knowledge that the company is focused on them.”

HR issues

Time Management

If your employees manage their time correctly and complete tasks efficiently, the business can improve margins. Good time management can also help your employees create the right work/life balance, thereby improving satisfaction and making it more likely they will stay with you. One study found that employees work 21% harder if they believe they have a good work life balance than those who don’t. 

However, without the ability to automate the tracking, storage and analysis of data around how employees spend their time, the dream of time management quickly turns into a nightmare. HR managers that rely on analogue timesheets face an ongoing horror-show of manual data collection and number crunching where errors are all too easy. 

It’s little wonder, therefore, that in a recent survey, 21% of HR managers said time tracking is one of the main features they look for in a software package. Known as ‘time clock’ or ‘timesheet’ software, there are a range of options on the market that can help you automate the tracking of employee attendance, scheduling, and holidays. 


The spectre of compliance is truly scary. One wrong move, and your business can find itself facing crippling fines and even legal action. 

Perhaps the scariest of compliance burdens is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which applies to the personal data of employees as well as customers. Three quarters of HR managers have said has significantly impacted their business. 

But GDPR is just one of many regulations that HR managers have to help their business comply with, such as pay gap disclosure laws, National Living Wage payments and employment law obligations. HR managers can feel like they are spinning compliance plates, and that it will only be a matter of time before one or more come crashing to the ground.

Fortunately, the complexities of compliance can be overcome through software. Compliance software works by automating the processes by which internal controls and policies are monitored, ensuring that the standards required by the many HR regulations you need to follow are met. 

If you are an HR manager and are looking to get rid of the ghosts chasing you ahead of Halloween, visit our HR directory on Capterra to find out how software can be your best allied in fighting them.

PAWfect software: top picks for grooming salons

dog grooming software uk

One in two adults in the UK own a pet – and one in four of those are dogs. Dogs have an estimated population of 9.9 million in the UK; and that is a lot of flurry heads to wash a year!

dog grooming software uk

If you own a pet grooming salon you are probably used to handle all breeds and personalities. However, not all of the job is washing and brushing amazing dogs all day. Like in any other business, it’s vital to keep track of bookings, supplies, and other administrative tasks. Pet grooming software can streamline some of those tasks so you can focus on keeping your canine customers happy.

To make sure that you choose the best-suited dog grooming software for your business in the UK, we have selected the four most popular pet grooming software solutions in Capterra’s directory chosen by:

dog grooming software uk

Rated 4+ stars by users on

dog grooming software uk

High search volume in the UK

dog grooming software uk

Offer product and customer support in the UK


Rate: 4.5 / 5

Ease of use: 4.5 / 5

Customer service: 5 / 5

Pricing: Starting at £17/month

Free trial: Yes


BookSteam offers four plans for users depending on the number of staff members that will use the software: Solo, Small, Medium and Large. Prices start at around £17/month for the Solo plan, increasing to £57/month for the Large subscription. For salons with more than 5 staff members the Medium option may be better suited.

BookSteam keeps all data within one dashboard, making it easy to access information quickly. The main dashboard includes features such as calendar management and analytics, where business owners can keep track of their calendar and generate sales reports. The program offers pet shop owners the ability to keep records and information on clients. Through the system, customers can also book appointments online and opt-in to receive SMS reminders.

Another feature to highlight is the integration with MailChimp. It enables subscribers to design email campaigns, send email newsletters, manage subscribers and track results.

BookStream offers a 14-day trial to try out the features. It allows customers to leave reviews and subscribers can also manage their social media profiles. 

dog grooming software ukOur take: If you are looking for a software that can add features to allow you to scale your business, this software is a good option for you, as it offers four plans that can adapt to your business’ needs depending on the growing stage.


Rate: 4.5 / 5

Ease of use: 4.5 / 5

Customer service: 5 / 5

Pricing: Free version

Free trial: Yes


MoeGo is a specialised software for pet grooming businesses. It offers separate plans for grooming salon and mobile grooming. 

Both options have a free model that includes one staff & one van (for mobile) as well as standard features such as unlimited pets and clients and up to 50 appointments per month. MoeGo offers online bookings through the website, apps and social media as it is cloud-based, allowing all the data to be updated and synced in one place.

For mobile groomers, it also offers the option to see the appointment address and calculates the best route fast to help save time. It also offers appointment reminder and the opportunity to communicate with customers via SMS to update them.

dog grooming software ukOur take: If you are looking for a solution for both salon and mobile grooming, this may be a good option for you. The software has dedicated features to help mobile groomers with appointments and customer communication as well as salon owners.


Rate: 4.5 / 5

Ease of use: 4.5 / 5

Customer service: 5 / 5

Pricing: Starting at £61/month (billed annually)

Free trial: Yes


MyTime offers three plans for users depending on the needs of the business starting at £61 / month if paid annually: Scheduling, Growth and Premium.

The Scheduling plan offers features to allow users to manage bookings such as an online dog grooming booking system, SMS appointment confirmation, reporting and analytics, customer records and point-of-sale features. The Growth plan also incorporates more advanced features such as targeted email campaigns and promo codes.Finally, the Premium plan focuses on driving business success to its pet grooming clients. As well as offering all the features included with the Scheduling and Growth plans, the Premium plan also includes a dedicated reputation manager feature to track customer reviews.

Reviewers on Capterra note the ease of use of the tool that integrates all the relevant information in one place. Customers have an overview of the main features in one dashboard, where they can access the schedule, POS, client history and orders. They can also access a report where they can have an overview of client transactions and company revenue. 

dog grooming software ukOur take: MyTime offers an all-round software that would work well with the more established businesses looking to focus on customer marketing and reputation management.


Rate: 4.5  / 5

Ease of use: 4.5 / 5

Customer service: 4.5 / 5

Pricing: Starting at £38/month 

Free trial: Yes


Pawfinity offers software targeting pet groomers, kennels, and daycare service business to help them improve efficiency and enhance the overall client experience. 

Pawfinity offers three plans starting at £38/month: Stay & Play, aimed at kennels or pet sitting businesses; Groom & Train, aimed at pet grooming salons and the Royal package, aimed at all pet businesses.

The first two plans offer features tailored to the business profile. The Groom & Train plan includes specific features for pet salons such as grooming appointments as well as SMS notifications to avoid no-shows. As well as these, the plan also offers integration with Quickbooks (only available in the US and Canada at present), inventory, payroll, POS and client profiles.

Reviewers note the ease of use and the convenience of text messages to ensure that clients are reminded of their appointments and the mobile app, that allows them to book appointments faster and optimising their time to grow the business.

dog grooming software ukOur take: If you are looking for specialised software for your pet grooming business this is a good option as it offers tailored features that you can leverage to grow your business.


Finding the right software for your business can be almost as challenging as finding the right pet – you want to make sure that it’s going to be a long-term companion that you get on with! For more information, visit our pet grooming software list here to see all the available options for you.

What is PSD2 and how will it affect my SME?

what is PSD2

what is PSD2

While the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) took most of the headlines in 2018, a lesser-known piece of European legislation known as PSD2 (the Second Payment Services Directive) also came into force last year. 

Here, we will take a look at what PSD2 is, what it means for SMEs and how you could benefit from it.

What is PSD2?

PSD2 came into force in January 2016. However, members in the European Economic Area (EEA) states were only required to implement it into law in January 2018. 

PSD2 is intended to:

  • Increase competition in the financial services sector.
  • Protect consumers and businesses.
  • Increase the range and quality of services that financial services companies can offer with the goal of helping consumers and businesses make better financial choices.

Unlike GDPR, PSD2 does not directly affect most businesses. It mainly refers to financial institutions like banks and building societies, as well as payment service providers (PSPs) – companies that enable merchants to take payments via credit or debit cards and have that money transferred to their bank. If you’ve ever bought or sold something online, you’ll be familiar with PSPs like PayPal, Worldpay, Sage Pay, or Apple Pay.

Importantly, PSD2 lets bank account holders choose whether and how their banks share information with trusted third parties. Expect to see new companies offering services that help you analyse and manage your finances. This also means that merchants (online stores, for example) could take payments directly from your bank account rather than going through an intermediary PSP or card provider (like Visa or Mastercard).

Under PSD2, PSPs are required to implement stricter checks (known as strong customer authentication (SCA)) to certain transactions to reduce fraud. You may have seen these introduced by your card providers or banks in the past year when you shop online or use mobile banking. Although the deadline for SCA was set at 14 September 2019, an announcement from the European Banking Authority has given member states the freedom to extend their implementation periods in light of the technical complexities of implementing such checks.

How can PSD2 benefit my small business?

PSD2 enables payment service providers to develop new services to help consumers and small businesses. While these services are not specified in PSD2, the improved ability to exchange information makes several scenarios possible.

Better financial insight

Businesses that hold accounts with more than one financial institution could allow trusted third parties to access all their account data and present it on one screen with detailed insights into financial performance. 

The natural progression to this is integration of your business bank account data with other administrative systems. This could be your own accounting software, your e-commerce platform, your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, or your customer relationship management (CRM) system.

Safer, simpler payments

PSD2 could be good news for small businesses that take payments from consumers online. Stronger authentication is set to lower the number of fraudulent transactions. According to UK Finance’s Fraud the Facts 2019 report, fraud losses on UK-issued cards reached £671.4 million in 2018. That’s 19% higher than the £565.4 million losses recorded in 2017.

Merchants could also reduce the cost of payments by routing them directly between a customer’s bank and their own. This would bypass traditional card and payment providers, who currently take a small percentage of a sale.

Do I need to do anything to comply with PSD2?

For most small businesses outside of the financial services industry, the answer is no. But you should be aware of SCA changes.

If you take online payments, you will need to ensure you have the appropriate controls in place to accept payments where the payer uses strong customer authentication (SCA). As mentioned above, the new deadline for SCA controls is still in the air. It’s a complex field, with governing authorities, media, PSPs and banks all offer advice. Barclaycard and Visa have both produced useful preparation guides. Merchants should investigate 3-D Secure 2.0 – a protocol that complies with SCA and one that many PSPs are already adopting. 

What are the risks?

While there are many benefits to PSD2 for SMEs, the main risk lies in the expansion in the pool of entities that could access to your company’s financial data. Third parties must be approved to operate in this area, and you must always give explicit and detailed consent about the data you’re willing to share, but PSD2 represents a fundamental shift in how we share financial information. Protecting your sensitive information is vital. 

UK finance has produced an FAQ guide covering PSD2 and its implications for data protection.

For a comprehensive overview of cybersecurity and authentication software to protect your business from online threats, visit our website. 

User Study: Online reviews trusted more than peer opinions in the UK

how to choose the right software

“It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it” said Warren Buffet, CEO of the American corporation Berkshire Hathaway. And in today’s digital world where everything is instantly online – good and bad – his quote is relevant more than ever. 

The rise of online reviews allows customers to leave their opinions of your business almost in real time. But why has online reputation become so important? Reputation has always been critical for the success of a business. In the days before the internet, customers were the ones spreading the word by telling friends and family their opinion about the business, and their opinions would eventually make their way back to the business. 

how to choose the right software

Capterra interviewed 299 businesses in the UK to find out the importance of online reviews. The results of the study revealed that 62% of people prefer to consult the opinions of other buyers rather than listen to experts or recommendations from acquaintances before deciding on buying a product. 

The ideal review for UK customers

If we had to imagine the perfect review for UK customers drawn from the results it would look like this:

  • Positive: Results showed that positive reviews (57%) are more trusted than negative ones (43%). 
  • Number of reviews: 5-20 is the ideal number of reviews that a product requires in order to be trusted by customers (46%).
  • In this case, less is less: Only 7% of respondents would trust a product with less than 5 reviews.
  • Fresh reviews preferred: A third of respondents (30%) prefer reviews that are not older than 3 months.
  • Reviews over ratings preferred: 75% of respondents would trust a less rated product with higher number of reviews.

how to choose the right software

Respondents in the UK trust online reviews more than experts’ opinion

84% of respondents consider that is very good that customers can leave their opinion online. In addition, 53% of respondents always read online reviews about a product/service before buying a product, and 40% often before making a decision. Only 2% rarely read a review before making a decision.

how to choose the right software

62% of respondents trust online reviews more than expert’s opinion when looking for trusted opinions on the web. Only 11% of respondents would consider expert opinions before making a purchasing decision. And, as Dr. Alex Fenton states: “Word of mouth now extends to electronic word of mouth where customers will often be strongly influenced by reviews of people they do not know.” 

how to choose the right software

This result may not come as a surprise. If you think about it, online reviews are trusted more because they come from real users in that specific industry that have used the product. That does not mean that the expert’s opinion is not valued, but in the end is the user’s review that people value most.

Satisfaction is the main motivation to leave reviews

Over half of respondents (56%) leave a review often and when asked for the reason why they write reviews, respondents stated that they wanted to help other customers before they buy the product (37%) and show satisfaction (35%). 19% stated that they leave reviews to show their dissatisfaction and only 8% wanted to give feedback to the manufacturer about the product.

how to choose the right software

In the UK, users leave reviews if they are satisfied with a service so other users can see that the product or service they are looking to buy or try is worthy. However, despite the percentage of customers showing their dissatisfaction being lower (19%) than the satisfied ones, it’s also common in the UK to find reviews from customers that weren’t happy with the service as a way to complain and make future customers aware. The most important characteristic of a review for respondents is the comments in text form (70%) followed by rating of the product (16%) and number of reviews (11%).

how to choose the right software

Software, one of the least reviewed items online

The results of the survey showed that electric items (24%), food (20%) and clothing (15%) are the three most reviewed items online by customers. Only 4% of respondents had reviewed software in the past. 

This could mean that many users are not aware of software comparison platforms. When asked about what platforms respondents consider to be the most trusted for reviews over half of them (55%) stated Amazon and industry-related rating platforms such as Tripadvisor or Trivago. Despite this, 42% of respondents consider reviews very important when buying software.

Companies not dealing with reviews

When asked about how important is for the company to respond to reviews, respondents stated that they would have wanted a response from the company (39%), while 48% are not interested in having a response from the company. 

how to choose the right software

Nearly half (40%) of respondents state never having received a response from the company following a review from one of their products and 61% has never had a reaction from the company following a customer rating. 

Companies are missing an opportunity to engage with their customers. By answering their reviews (positive and negative ones), they are acknowledging the customer’s voice, making them feel part of the company. A study by Harvard Business Review that analysed how Tripadvisor and Expedia were answering reviews on hotels found that a third of the hotels studied increased their ratings by half a star in six months from the first management response.

Our study found that 92% of companies are not using software to evaluate online customer reviews. Investing in a  review management software can help you collect reviews, respond to negative feedback and improve customer perception of the product or service that the business offers, leading to an increase in reputation and sales.

As Warren Buffet said, reputation is hard to gain and easily lost but with the right software by your side you can minimise the effects of bad reviews and turn them into positive reviews!

Methodology of the study

To collect the data for this report, we conducted an online survey. The answers come from a sample of the target market UK. The survey was completed by 299 participants who qualified to complete the survey through screening questions out of a total of 325 participants in August 2019. Qualified participants are employed (full-time, part-time or self-employed), work in a small to medium sized enterprise (1-250 employees).

User Study: 43% of SMEs in the UK use HR software


How do small businesses in the UK handle their HR? Do they use spreadsheets, notebooks or Google Calendar? In today’s fast world where time is money, it’s important for companies to invest in the right software that will help reduce time and money by speeding up processes and reducing errors.


Gartner defines HR software as: “Business applications for the management of HR-related transactions, best practices and enterprise reporting. Functions typically include core HR tracking, payroll and benefits. The scope is often extended to include recruiting, competency management, training, time management, performance management and self-service offerings.”

We conducted a survey amongst British SMEs to understand how they are using HR software, below are the most relevant results.

Highlights of the study

  • Almost half (45%) of British SMEs in the education, financial and IT sectors in the UK don’t use HR software.
  • Price (24%) is the main factor stopping businesses from implementing HR software.
  • 44% are interested in investing in new HR software or update the current one they have.

hr software for small businesses uk

43% of SMEs in the UK use HR software

The results of the survey show that almost half of British SMEs (43%) are investing in HR software. This is a significantly large result compared to the CRM adoption, with only 31% of SMEs having a CRM solution in place.

The results also show a divide almost equal between companies that are using HR Software, with 45% of them currently not using any HR software.

hr software for small businesses uk

We wanted to know how midsize British businesses were tracking their employees so we conducted a survey of 282 of businesses in the UK: Results showed that only half have a system in place. But what are the reasons for not adopting a HR software?

Price stopping businesses from implementing HR systems 

When asked about the reasons that are stopping them from implementing HR software, respondents stated that price being too high (24%) was the main one. There is a misconception around small businesses that HR software can’t help them manage their staff and that it’s an unnecessary expense. However, as their business grows, they’ll need support to manage all the growing number of staff and the increasingly complicated HR processes that come with a larger company.

hr software for small businesses uk

Almost half of SMEs are interested in HR software

Despite the concerns listed above by businesses when looking to implement HR software, almost half of SMEs are looking to implement a system for the first time (23%) or are currently using one and looking to change it (21%) for another more suited to their needs.

hr software for small businesses uk

It’s important to note that once companies have tried a software solution, they are more likely to want to stay with software rather than moving back to manual methods or spreadsheets. Companies that are looking to implement software for the first time should look at less feature-heavy solutions to start with, and add tailored features as the business grows. 

Most HR software  vendors offer free trials and demos where you can try their features to see if it’s a good fit for your company.

Companies looking would mostly consider a free software

Almost half of businesses (40%) would only consider free software and a third (30%) less than £10 per month. 16% of respondents would be willing to spend up to £50 and 5% up to a £100.

hr software for small businesses uk

Most vendors on the market offer entry level, free software that has basic features. However, as your business grows, you may need a more comprehensive system. Most vendors offer different pricing plans that start a low cost with limited features and move up to pricier plans that include complex features. 

Users want payroll and time tracking

We found a clear relation on the challenges that companies are facing and the solutions they are looking for. When asked about the biggest challenges that HR departments are facing, managing payrolls (21%) and tracking productivity (26%) came up as the two main ones.  

hr software for small businesses uk

When we asked what features from an HR software that companies would be most willing to invest in, respondents indicated that managing payrolls (21%) and tracking workers’ time and holidays (21%). 

hr software for small businesses uk

Other features include tracking travel and expenses (10%), manage the workforce (8%), regulating health insurance and other benefits (8%),  the applicant recruitment and application process (7%), scheduling shifts (7%), tracking productivity (6%), and other (4%).

Payrolls and recruitment: The two most outsourced features from HR departments

The results of the survey showed that 81% of SMEs handle their HR inhouse and only 14% use and external company to help them manage their payrolls. Only 5% of them use an external consultancy or headhunter to help them with recruitment.

If you are interested in learning more about HR software options in the UK, visit our full HR software directory on Capterra UK.

Methodology of the study

To collect the data for this report, we conducted an online survey. The answers come from a sample of the target market UK. The survey was completed by 282 participants who qualified to complete the survey through screening questions out of a total of 289 participants in August 2019. Qualified participants are employed (full-time, part-time or self-employed), work in a small to medium sized enterprise (1-250 employees).

How could Brexit impact trade for SMEs?


Despite Brexit fears, the number of SMEs that export is on the rise. Between 2017 and 2018, this figure increased by 6.6% to 232,000 – that’s 9.8% of all SMEs. By contrast, some 41% of large businesses export overseas.

Smaller businesses may have reduced budget, reach, skills, and time but there are several resources available to help SMEs realise their potential in overseas markets.

Here, we will look at the UK’s export landscape and tips on how SMEs continue to export, as well as a discussion of the software that can help businesses manage international trade.

Brexit trade impact

The UK export landscape in 2019

According to the official government handbook, exports made up 29.8% of GDP in 2018. In 2017, 235,800 companies exported goods or services, which represents around 10% of all businesses.

The top ten destination for UK-produced goods and services by trade value are:

  • United States (£113.8 billion)
  • Germany (£56.4 billion)
  • France (£41.0 billion)
  • Netherlands (£38.6 billion)
  • Ireland (£36.7 billion)
  • China (£22.1 billion)
  • Switzerland (£20.0 billion)
  • Belgium (£19.3 billion)
  • Italy (£19.3 billion)
  • Spain (£17.3 billion)

The top five exported goods were cars, mechanical power generators, pharmaceuticals, crude oil and aircraft. The top services were business services (including professional, management consulting, technical and trade-related services), financial services, travel services, transport services, and telecoms and IT services.

How could Brexit affect UK exports?

Exports to the EU as a whole makeup by far the biggest proportion of exports – around 40%, according to the government’s own figures. Should the UK leave the EU with no negotiated deal on 31 October – a so-called “No Deal Brexit” – it would also exit the single market and customs union. This means that imports and exports to and from the EU could be subject to customs checks and tariffs.

How can my SME start exporting?

The UK government’s own website is the best place to start. It offers a simple-to-understand overview of the exporting process. You can also register for an Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) number, which only takes ten minutes. You’ll need one of these if you want to export goods to the EU.

Exporting to the EU 

The government has also produced this video explaining any changes to export. The video is only three minutes long and contains vital information for SMEs.

As well as an EORI number, you may need to get export licenses and check the commodity code and customs procedure code (CPC) for your goods to help with tariffs and customs checks. You’ll also need to investigate registering for the National Export System (NES), which lets you complete export declarations online.

Software to simplify global exports

If your SME does decide to export, there are many products available to simplify processes and reduce the complexity – and ultimately the cost – of exporting.

Transport management systems (TMS)

Help any business manage vehicles and supply chains. They can also help you understand vehicle routing, utilisation and availability to optimise your fleet and reduce costs.

Warehouse management software (WMS)

Helps businesses understand what goods are coming in and out of warehouses. It often interfaces with TMS and ordering systems to provide a complete overview of inventory.

Logistics software and freight management software

These are closely related concepts. They cover the entire system of moving goods into and out of your business and help businesses gain insight into overseas supply and distribution chains. Many packages integrate with transport, shipping, accounting, and warehouse management software (any many other systems) to provide global insight into your business operations.

You can find a full directory of logistics and freight management software on our website, where you can also find information, download links, and reviews from SMEs just like yours.

ePrivacy vs GDPR: what’s the difference?


ePrivacy regulation vs GDPR

The introduction of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) back in 2018 was a bombshell moment. Due to come into force either later this year or early in 2020, the ePrivacy Regulation will open a new can of regulatory worms for businesses of all sizes. 

Here is more information about the law, how it differs from GDPR and what you can do to comply. 

ePrivacy vs GDPR 

The ePrivacy Regulation will replace the ePrivacy Directive, which many of you will be familiar with. But what’s the difference? Well, whereas a directive merely sets a direction of travel for EU member states for legislation, a regulation is much more prescriptive and must be implemented in full in each EU jurisdiction – much like the GDPR is today. 

In fact, the GDPR and the ePrivacy Directive are very close relatives. The latter is the application of the privacy and consent principles of GDPR to the specific case of personal data that’s communicated electronically by businesses. The provisions of GDPR can therefore be seen as sitting above those of the ePrivacy Regulation. 

What the ePrivacy Regulation means for you

Technicalities aside, the burning question for businesses is whether or not you need comply. The short answer is that if you provide any sort of online communications service, engage in electronic direct marketing or use any form of online tracking, such as cookies, then you do. 

Unlike with the old ePrivacy Directive, companies like WhatsApp or Skype that use others’ networks to deliver their services are now obliged to comply. Another novelty is that the new regulation covers not only the content of communications but also the associated metadata – the time a message was sent, for example, or the location it was sent from. Companies can now only use this data if a user has given their explicit consent. Other innovations include simplifying rules around the use of cookies and stronger protections against spam. 

The message to small and medium-sized businesses is therefore clear: the regulatory ride is only just beginning. GDPR has established solid principles around privacy and consent that we can now expect to see applied into specific markets through new laws like the ePrivacy Directive. This means businesses need to have in place a dynamic approach to compliance, once that can respond rapidly to new regulations as they emerge without causing too much disruption to their business.

The role for compliance software

It’s here that choosing the right compliance software can make all the difference. When it comes to data privacy, there are a wide range of data governance solutions on the market that combine features such as big data analytics, storage, and security in a single package. Such software helps businesses keep on top of how they use and analyse data so that they can ensure they comply with all relevant obligations around consent and security.  

Additionally, and as you might well expect with a regulation as high-profile as GDPR, the market has also responded with a number of new GDPR-specific solutions. Some of these products offer solutions to niche areas of GDPR compliance, such as helping businesses easily respond to requests for access to data by the owners of that data, while others provide a more complete approach and seek to address all elements of the law.

Finding the best software for your business

What’s important is that you find the right software for your business. By researching what’s on the market you can get a good idea of the capabilities on offer and select the solutions that plug your existing compliance gaps and which look likely to be flexible enough to adapt to future requirements as they emerge. To help in this task, look through the Capterra directory for data governance software, where you will be able to compare products by user reviews, features, cost and other important factors. 

With the tide of regulations continuing to rise, this search won’t be a one-off job. It’s more important than ever to keep an eye on the regulatory environment and make sure you continue to take appropriate measures – whatever the size of your business. 

Making Tax Digital: 6 popular software options for your business

Making Tax Digital

Paying tax may well be one of the oldest business obligations out there, but here in the UK the process is undergoing a very modern makeover – courtesy of the Making Tax Digital (MTD) regulation. 

For those of you that missed it, Making Tax Digital obliges all businesses that make more than £85,000 a year in revenue to maintain records and submit VAT returns digitally. 


The regulation is already in force, so businesses that have not yet prepared for it need to get their ducks in a row pretty fast. Thankfully, the software market has responded and there is a broad range of options that will enable compliance. But which is the best option for your business? 

Here is our list of the most popular accounting software packages listed on the Capterra directory chosen by:

  • Rated 4+ stars by users on
  • Listed by highest search volume in the UK
  • Are HMRC compliant for Making Tax Digital and listed on their website


Rating: 4.5/5

Ease of use: 4/5

Customer service: 4/5

Features: 4/5

Pricing: Starting at £10.00/month 

Free trial: Yes

Making Tax Digital Xero

Xero is rapidly growing its profile in the UK and building a reputation for ease of use, particularly when it comes to reconciling transactions. When it comes to Making Tax Digital, Xero offers a dedicated microsite that contains information on how to submit VAT records and also links to the HMRC page for further information.

Xero has also created a more detailed resource centre for Making Tax Digital, where accountants and bookkeepers can access free guides, toolkits and updates to help them and their clients become compliant using its software. 

To enable Xero for  Making Tax Digital, all customers need do is sign up with HMRC first and then activate Xero’s Making Tax Digital for VAT feature. From there, you will be able to post VAT returns in real-time, view and adjust VAT returns, access Xero’s bridging software and much more. 


Rating: 4.5/5

Ease of use: 4.5/5

Customer service: 4/5

Features: 4.5/5

Pricing: Starting at £12.00/month

Free trial: Yes

Making Tax Digital_QuickBooks

QuickBooks has long been a big name in UK accounting and the software regularly wins praise for its ease of use and cost-effectiveness. QuickBooks is also doing a big push around Making Tax Digital. In addition to free guides on the regulation, the company has also produced a short questionnaire to help businesses find out if they are compliant or not. If you have more complex questions you can even request a call-back from QuickBooks’ dedicated Making Tax Digital team.    

QuickBooks offers two ways to become Making Tax Digital compliant, which reflect the different needs of businesses. The first involves using bridging software to upload a spreadsheet with your nine-box VAT summary to QuickBooks before electronically filing securely to HMRC. The second option involves migrating your full accounts data to QuickBooks to track and calculate VAT automatically and has electronic filing capabilities. 

Zoho Books

Rating: 4.5/5

Ease of use: 4.5/5

Customer service: 4/5

Features: 4/5

Pricing: Starting at around £7.50/month  

Free trial: Yes

Making Tax Digital_Zoho Books

Zoho Books’s integration with CRM systems and its large range of built-in features has been praised by Capterra users.  

On its Making Tax Digital microsite, Zoho Books has created a short educational video around the regulation, which is well worth the watch. The site explains concisely how Zoho Books can help you achieve compliance and offers new customers 24/7 access to its support team to help make the transition from spreadsheets to digital software. The company also provides a general resources page where you can access more information and guidance around the regulation. 

To achieve Making Tax Digital compliance with Zoho Books, all users need do is choose the option to directly file returns through the software. However, this option can only be selected once a business has registered with HMRC for Making Tax Digital. From there, Zoho Books enables automatic HMRC compliant reports computation and direct VAT returns submissions. 


Rating: 4/5

Ease of use: 4/5

Customer service: 4/5

Features: 4/5

Pricing: Upon request

Free trial: No

Making Tax Digital

NetSuite is recognised as a truly enterprise-grade product that is perfect for SMEs that are aiming to grow into the big league. NetSuite has posted a useful blog that sets out how customers can achieve compliance with Making Tax Digital simply and rapidly. The company has also produced some supporting videos to help customers with their compliance preparations.

All that NetSuite customers need do is enable the International Tax Reports SuiteApp within the software package. Doing so allows the use of HMRC-compatible Making Tax Digital links and creates an HMRC VAT filing capability with audit trails.


Rating: 4.5/5

Ease of use: 4.5/5

Customer service: 4.5/5

Features: 4.5/5

Pricing: Starting at around £12.00/month

Free trial: Yes

Making Tax Digital

FreshBooks is known as a quick and dependable suite for accounting with a great user interface and good service levels. As with most other providers listed here, FreshBooks is promoting its Making Tax Digital credentials. The company’s FAQ on the subject provides a very useful at-a-glance guide to the fundamentals of the regulation and walks readers through all the steps they need to take to sort out their Making Tax Digital compliance. 

FreshBooks enables compliance through its Making Tax Digital portal. Once customers have set up their Making Tax Digital portal and registered it with HMRC they’re ready to go. From the portal you can submit returns to the HMRC directly, view past submissions, access current liabilities and view your payment history. 

Deltek Vision

Rating: 4/5

Ease of use: 3.5/5

Customer service: 4/5

Features: 4/5

Pricing: Upon request

Free trial: No

Making Tax Digital _Deltek

Deltek Vision is a project-based solution for professional services firms and respected for its granularity and the resulting control it can give businesses. Deltek has published less content around Making Tax Digital, the company has included a Configuration Guide for Making Tax Digital

The process outlined by Deltek involves linking your WorkBook environment to HMRC through the company variables settings within the admin controls of the software. Once the link has been established, users can view, update, and submit Making Tax Digital compliant VAT returns. 

The information provided in the links above will give you all you need to learn more about Making Tax Digital and what each of the listed providers are doing around the regulation. 

However, before making your choice ,don’t forget to also check out our online reviews for each vendor. That way you can ensure that whatever software solution you decide to use, it will meet your needs exactly. Happy hunting! 



Why is cybersecurity important for small businesses?

why is cybersecurity important

Despite the volume, variety and severity of cyber threats, many SMEs still don’t see the value of investing in software that can protect them. Here, we examine the current threat landscape, the consequences of a breach for SMEs, why cybersecurity is important and the solutions available to keep your small business safe.

why is cybersecurity important

Why is cybersecurity important?

Cybersecurity is often a low priority for small and medium business owners. You have enough to worry about with revenue, staffing, competitors, markets, regulation and outgoings. Often, SME bosses are not even experts in technology, let alone cybersecurity, so choosing and implementing security software is not a project they can easily tackle.

But the threat is real. According to the Cyber Security Breaches Survey (CSBS) from April 2019, published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, 40%businesses (10 – 49 employees) identified a breach or attack in the 12 months leading up to the survey. For medium businesses (50-249 employees,) this figure rose to 60%.

According to Verizon’s Data Breach Investigations Report 2019, small businesses accounted for 43%of all breaches worldwide. That may seem counterintuitive – surely criminals would target larger firms where the rewards would be greater – but SMEs represent an attractive target.

Why is that? Because they tend to spend less on protection. According to the CSBS, micro and small businesses had a mean spend of £3,490 on cybersecurity, while medium businesses spent £25,100 on average. That’s in comparison to £277,000 for larger businesses. When attackers are looking for targets, it makes sense to pick the easy prey, and that means small firms with easy-to-penetrate networks and limited means to detect intruders.

What are the consequences of cyberattacks for a small business?

While cyberattacks on your business may be virtual, they can cause real damage. A 2018 study by Hiscox found that a cybersecurity breach costs a small business £25,700 on average. And the CSBS reports that repairing the damage can take between 1.3 days (for the smallest businesses where material damage is limited) to 5 days (for larger businesses that have lost data or other assets)

Just under half of all businesses have been affected in at least one of the ways listed below.

Lost data (and the regulatory consequences)

In a GDPR world, businesses of all sizes have become more careful about how they handle data. But no matter how carefully you prepare, a breach can have disastrous consequences. Fines for improper protection of data or incorrect reporting after data is lost can cost businesses up to 20 million euros – a sum that would bankrupt most small firms.

Business disruption

Loss of business continuity can happen for many reasons. Criminals can block access to your critical files and systems until you pay a ransom, for example. Or they can steal or corrupt data, which means you have to spend time identifying what data has gone missing and following the necessary steps to inform affected parties and regulatory bodies – all time you should be spending looking after your business. The CSBC says that 17% of businesses reporting a breach suffered temporary loss of access to files or networks. And 10% said their website or other online services were taken down or disrupted. 

Reputational damage

Large companies that suffer outages or lose customer data often end up on the front pages, and apologetic executives are forced to face difficult questions from news reporters as to why paying customers have been let down again.

While it’s unlikely that small and medium businesses will be subject to such public scrutiny, word travels fast in any industry, and customers, suppliers and partners will soon find out. The impact of this loss of trust is hard to calculate, but affected firms may find it harder to make it onto approved supplier lists for important contracts for a long time to come.

What cybersecurity solutions do I need to protect my small business?

There is a wide range of software to protect your workloads from various attack types. Many common IT solutions have security features built in, but paying for additional, specialised security software will bring more capabilities and let you benefit from the wider expertise and threat overview of a dedicated security vendor. 

Here are three cybersecurity solutions that SMEs should consider:

Anti-phishing software 

Phishing, which accounts for 80% of attacks on businesses, describes the technique where attackers send automated emails pretending to be from a trusted source, such as a bank or internet provider. Their goal is to trick recipients – your employees – into handing over critical data like usernames, passwords or bank-account details. These emails can be very sophisticated and hard to identify, but software exists that filters out phishing attempts and reduces their effectiveness. You can even run fake phishing campaigns to test how your company responds to these types of attack.

If your devices are infected with malicious software (malware), attackers can disable devices completely, steal data, or use your systems to attack others. Anti-malware solutions help identify, block, and remove such software from your company’s devices.

Network security software 

It includes solutions that monitor traffic across your network, block certain types of traffic, and compile data that can help you with internal audits or regulatory compliance. Together, anti-phishing, anti-malware and network security software form a multi-layered barrier that will strengthen your small or medium business’s defences.

You can learn more about the vast range of cybersecurity solutions available to small businesses on our website. Each solution is rated by businesses owners like you and features a detailed description and download link.