Until recently, I’ve always thought that Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software was something automated, like Amazon.com’s renowned services, that help you automatically provide customers what they need the moment they needed it. This is indeed, CRM – or at least one aspect of it.
However, CRM, especially for smaller businesses, are tools that help you and your staff have the most updated information about a customer, let’s call this CRM lite.
CRM lite is a close cousin to basic contact management solutions, be it Excel or Outlook.
To be considered CRM (lite), the focus is LESS on just the contact info of a person (their telephone number and email address) and more on knowing their spending, their recent purchases, notes on the customer, last appointments and other things that are “customer relationship management” focused.
The most recent entrant into the CRM space is Intuit, with its release of Intuit Customer Manager.
At the outset Intuit’s Customer Manager is quite simple to use, with plenty of uncluttered white space and simple navigation buttons for actions to take. It’s not complicated, but quite basic: customer information, tasks, calendar and the ability to sync with QuickBooks in order to see the status of the financial information on each customer or company.
At $10 per month you can get access for up to 5 users. It’s simple enough that I was able to have it up and running in a few minutes.
What I would like to see from Intuit going forward is a CRM tool that has MORE features than the very basic options in this release. Integration with Outlook, alerts, web forms and other options and features would be quite welcome.
Intuit’s entrance into the CRM (lite) market is not earth shattering as there are many companies already providing similar services. But what does make this announcement important is that Intuit has a HUGE market share of customers using QuickBooks and its employee management (payroll services). It’s also one of the largest vendors selling exclusively to the small-medium sized business market.
If only a small portion of these customers convert to Intuit’s new service Intuit will be a leading player in the small business CRM lite space.
What does this mean for your business?
Intuit’s move into this space highlights the fact that being able to KNOW your customers better and ensure all your employees are on the same page, in regards to those customers, is not hard to to.
Competing with Intuit’s Customer Manager are dozens of other tools, including:
Outlook (with Business Contact Manager),
37 Signal’s Highrise,
Sage has a number of products such as ACT!, SalesLogix, SageCRM.com
Full scale CRM, like Amazon.com, also includes automated marketing, or automated CRM, Infusion Software provides a powerful automation foundation to enable automatic outreach to customers based on pre-defined triggers.
For example, a customer buys something, and software automatically performs a triggered reaction, such as such as sending a thank you email or adding them to another customer database.
WikiPedia has an interesting overview of CRM tools here.
But Wait…Real Time Collaboration Services
What is CRM lite? It’s really taking the contacts and other data that a lone sales person or employee would have about a customer and ensuring everyone in the company can access that information, in real time. Simple.
Look out for more companies to continue to provide services, be it shared email, CRM, or text editing that enable companies to quickly collaborate and share information about customers. These services might NOT be pure CRM.
For example, Palo Alto’s Email Center Pro is all about enabling companies to easily manage an inbox collaboratively.
All of these services, in the end are about helping your business build loyal customers. I call this “dating your leads and marrying your customers”