About 10 years ago, I was leading a Customer Care function, and we purchased a number of key infrastructure systems, including phone switches and CRM systems during a period of very rapid growth. These systems were very spendy, and if we every made the decision to buy, it ended up being a major capital purchase decision.
As a result, these decisions were always a serious pain in the butt.
Today, instead of spending $100K or more per year, it's more like $1000 - $5000. And, it can be even lower!
Case in point: Zoho.
Zoho is probably best known for a bunch of hosted on-line apps that are competing against Google apps. They also have two other applications that are usually thought of as big investment items, CRM and HRIS & Applicant Tracking.
CRM: $50 per month, flat fee ($600 per year).
HRIS & Applicant Tracking: Sliding scale, starting at free for a company w/10 people including 1 recruiter, and going up to $850 per month for 1000 person organization.
A startup can have an HRIS system with an applicant tracking system for free? You can drop using spreadsheets, or other home-grown systems and go with a real, live full-service system that is designed to do this work.
For those small companies that are about their people and their customers, go take a look at these systems!
ps. On the Customer Care front, I'm particularly enamoured of Zendesk @ $19 per agent per month.