Contact Management Software and its Evolution to the Web
Contact management software started out as a way for individuals to create an electronic database of customers and business contacts. As companies have searched for ways to consolidate, streamline, and share customer information, client management software tools have greatly expanded in scope. Nowadays, contact management systems let people and businesses record and track customer, client, and supplier interactions, including emails, faxes, calendars, faxes, project- and sales-related documents, and more.
Businesses have come to understand that they can boost productivity and lower costs by managing all this information with a single, integrated platform rather than a proliferation of client management software tools with different data collection schemes. As a result, the older method of using Microsoft Outlook with a simplified database has become largely obsolete.
Contact and client management comprise part of a much larger business activity: customer relationship management (CRM). CRM applications have revolutionized the way companies conduct business and provide customer support. They are especially critical for sales, where relationships are key. However, conventional client management software provides just a small portion of the capabilities needed to automate and optimize a sales organization’s contact management activities and resources.
That’s why so many companies have replaced limited on-premises contact management software with salesforce.com’s Web-based CRM solution. Salesforce CRM integrates an array of advanced contact management features into the larger sphere of CRM. Because users access Salesforce CRM through the “cloud,” (Internet), its capabilities and data are always available to everyone in the organization. This approach results in more productive tracking, sharing, and analysis of customer information than is possible with conventional contact management software. With Salesforce CRM, you gain the power to centralize, share, manage, and analyze all your contact management data, free from tedious manual processes and administrative hassles.
Contact Management Software as a Service
With salesforce.com’s cloud-based CRM solution, workgroup contact management and collaboration is much faster and more efficient.
- Work from any Web browser. Unlike conventional contact management software, Salesforce CRM doesn’t tie you to a single computer. All you need is a Web browser and Internet connection. This flexibility makes it easier to work from home and also on the road—where so much critical customer contact takes place. With mobile Salesforce CRM access via popular devices like the BlackBerry and iPhone, you can update and annotate contact management information instantly, while customer interactions are fresh in your mind. Once entered in Salesforce CRM, your business-related notes and data become available to everyone. That’s a lot different than on-premises client management software, which requires your entire team to wait until you get back to the office, boot up your desktop computer, and find the time to make updates.
- Contact management with a real-time, 360-degree view. Salesforce.com lets your team automatically share and report on contact- and customer-related activities, tasks, and calendar events in real time. Everyone gets a full and current picture of all customer records, automatically—there’s no painful and unreliable synchronization required. This capability puts Salesforce CRM in a class by itself: client management software tools can’t match its complete customer view or its easy team collaboration.
With information-rich contact management profiles that are always available, accessible, and up to date, Salesforce CRM delivers benefits that conventional software lacks: Complete management visibility into contact and customer histories. Higher productivity. Better and faster collaboration. Minimal chance of leads falling through the cracks. Fewer manual processes. And less reliance on paper and spreadsheets.
- Contact management that keeps private information private. With Salesforce CRM, contacts that are not linked to an account remain invisible, regardless of your organization’s sharing model. Only the owner of the contact and administrators can view it. Contact management sharing and workflow rules do not apply to information that is private.
Eliminating the Drawbacks of On-Premises Client Management Software
- Contact management without IT headaches. Salesforce.com is delivered as an online application that requires just an Internet connection and Web browser. There’s no additional hardware or software to install. By contrast, sharing on-premises client management software over a local area network (LAN) entails costs and hassles such as IT consultants and staff plus server hardware and maintenance. Such contact management software is generally beyond the ability of non-technical business users to manage on their own.
Contact Management that Works the Way You Do
Over the years, many business professionals have grown accustomed to using Microsoft Outlook for corporate email. You don’t have to give up this convenience to take advantage of the greater scope of contact management features in Salesforce CRM: the two applications are already integrated.
- Contact management with seamless Outlook integration. You can continue to use Outlook for email and calendaring with the assurance that all your contact management data will be captured in Salesforce CRM for organization-wide visibility. No cutting-and-pasting is required. You can even embed Salesforce CRM directly into Outlook, and navigate to any Salesforce CRM tab, using folders available right in the Outlook window.
Although some traditional client management software systems can co-exist with Outlook, they don’t provide the Web-based ease of collaboration, IT-free affordability, and anytime/anywhere access of salesforce.com’s cloud-computing solution. Equally important, no client management software comes close to delivering the same robust, wide-ranging contact management feature set.
- Contact management with maximum ease and flexibility. You can log incoming/outgoing Outlook messages in accounts, contacts, leads, opportunities, or cases in Salesforce CRM. Contact, appointment book, and task information are easily shared between the two applications. You also have the flexibility to selectively log only necessary emails in Salesforce CRM. That means you can minimize manual processes and realize a corresponding spike in productivity.
All this is invaluable for busy sales reps, who get a complete customer picture at a glance—including contacts, assets, account history, the latest news, and more.
Proactive Contact Management
Unlike typical contact management software systems, Salesforce CRM does a lot more than merely capture leads. It moves you to the all-important next step of pursuing them in the most productive, efficient, and effective way so you can maximize their conversion to opportunities and ultimately, to successful sales.
The Lead Search and Merge features let reps easily identify prior interactions with a lead before following up. Duplicate leads can easily be merged with existing leads, contacts, and accounts. You can set up lead queues and lead assignment rules to automatically route leads to the right sales organization or rep based on customized business rules. For the ultimate in contact management, you can monitor leads end-to-end—from creation to conversion—with capabilities that include automatic date/time stamping, campaign or lead source tracking, lead status changes, and lead activity management.
Ultimately, there’s no meaningful contest between the contact management power of cloud-based Salesforce CRM and the limited features of conventional, on-premises contact management software.