Effectively managing contacts is one of the most mission-critical tasks of running a business. Sales and marketing need the ability to quickly find the current status of an active opportunity in their database, while support teams should be able to quickly find a contact’s entire customer history.
This buyer’s guide will provide a brief overview of contact management software, which is designed for these purposes (among others). Here’s what we’ll cover:
At its core, contact management programs store customer contact information. This can include customers’ names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and even social media profile information. These databases are often easily searchable and store important documents within each contact profile.
These systems are designed to increase efficiency by consolidating critical customer data into one tool. Rather than trapping contact information in your team’s individual inboxes or address books, everyone maintains a single view of the customer.
In addition to the core capabilities described in the previous section, contact tracking systems might also include the following features.
|Calendaring & notifications||These features allow users to schedule events and tasks and associate them with a contact in your database. This might include reminders to follow-up with an active opportunity in your pipeline, or a task for an account manager to send a renewal contract to one of your customers.|
|Note-taking||In addition to storing contact information, your team might also want to make notes about a particular customer or opportunity. This might be notes from a recent call or meeting, or comments about the best time or day of the week to reach a certain person.|
|File-sharing||Your team likely creates a variety of documents during the course of their relationship with each customer. These features allow them to easily store these contracts, proposals and other files in account profiles. Often, users can simply drag and drop files from their desktop; or, they can quickly click to upload them to the contact profile.|
|Tags||Tagging features allow users to quickly pull subsets of customers at once. These tags are often highly customizable, so businesses can create groups by geographic region or project, for example. Think of it as a sort of index for your accounts, allowing you to quickly find customers of a certain type.|
|To-do lists||Allows you to create to-dos for your team within each contact profile. Often, staff will be notified when a to-do is assigned to them. Then, when that person closes out the task, management receives an alert. Often, these tasks can be selected from a drop-down menu, which allows you to standardize workflow.|
Contact tracking software is essentially a more basic version of a customer relationship management (CRM) system, although vendors sometimes use these terms interchangeably, particularly when discussing CRM systems designed for small businesses.
Typically, CRM systems include the most common contact management features described in the previous section; however, they might also incorporate more robust workflow automation, reporting and interaction tracking, among other features. Depending on the CRM application, the system might also offer features for marketing automation, sales force automation, customer service, field service and help desk and call center management. For more information on CRM software, visit our buyer’s guide.
Despite many vendors differentiating their systems in this way, you might still encounter systems that have more features than another product described as being a CRM system, and vice versa. Regardless of what the system is called, deciding between a basic contact management system or a more robust CRM system could depend on a variety of factors.
Most of the buyers we speak with are smaller businesses, or smaller departments within larger businesses, which don't require capabilities beyond tracking contact information. These buyers most often can function exclusively with the core capabilities described in the “common features” section.
Meanwhile, CRM software buyers need more capabilities that extend well beyond simple contact management. They may need features specific to their industry (e.g., field service) or for a particular operational role, such as customer service. Very large enterprises might also need contact managing features to work in concert with other types of automation, so they would buy an integrated CRM suite.
The world of business software has offered contact management solutions for many years, probably longer than most other types of business software. But just because contact management apps have existed for many years, that doesn’t mean the products and their functionalities aren’t still evolving. Vendors of contact management software continue to refine their products in light of the changes brought by increasingly digital business environments. Modern contact management systems are often designed to be:
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