Contact Management Software Gives Complete Picture Of The Customer

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By giving sales professionals a complete picture of their customers, contact management software helps them to check account status easily, determine where additional sales opportunities may exist and keep customers happy, manufacturers say.

If the information is shared via the office database, the software also lets colleagues get up to speed swiftly on the status of any given account, points out Greg Anderson, GoldMine product marketing director for FrontRange Solutions Inc., Colorado Springs, Colo.

“If Im out, my assistant can look and see where an account is in the sales process,” Anderson says. “It also allows you to manage your schedule more effectively. You know where you need to be and what you need to do, because it lets you keep track of opportunities.”

Steady improvement by manufacturers has extended contact management software beyond merely recording each customer contact. By helping sharpen after-sales service and support, producers can better find and retain customers, manufacturers claim.

Many salespeople depend heavily on the software, says Greg Head, general manager of Act! for Best Software, Scottsdale, Ariz. (Act! is a contact management program.) He claims typical users have the software running an average of six hours a day.

Most recent versions from popular manufacturers standardize such tasks as e-mail and form letter follow-up and scheduling of callbacks.

They also make it easier to attach documents in a variety of formats to customer information and to create follow-up activities.

Best Software says it upgraded its widely used contact manager in August with the introduction of Act! 6.0.

The new release gives Act! advanced integration with Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Office, Lotus Notes, Adobe Acrobat and the Internet, the company notes.

The product makes it easier to track the history of e-mail correspondence with a given client or on a specific subject, Best says. Other new features include the ability to send and receive HTML e-mails, to add new contacts to any Act! database, and to access both Act! and Outlook address books from a variety of applications.

Users can attach documents created with Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint or MapPoint, and with Adobe Acrobat, JPG and BMP files, the company adds. These files can be viewed from within a customer record without launching a separate application. The user also can edit, save and print these documents from within that record.

Fields from an Act! database can be mapped quickly to Excel for quoting premiums to customers, Best says.

A contact activity look-up feature identifies which customers producers have contacted recently, as well as which ones have not been contacted in a specified period, so they can plan follow-up, says Best. Act! 6.0 carries a suggested retail price of $200.

FrontRange Solutions Inc. introduced version 6.0 of its GoldMine Business Contact Manager late last year. GoldMine offers templates to customize the software to specific industries, including insurance and financial services.

Users also can utilize the software to customize their computer screens to display Web-based or other content regularly needed for their work, says FrontRange.

Contact-related HTML pages can be imbedded with each customer record, along with images, Web content or data from within GoldMine itself, the company notes. GoldMine also has upgraded the programs calendar and scheduling features.

GoldMine 6.0 Business Contact Manager is priced at about $200.

Siebel Systems Inc., San Mateo, Calif., is known for high-end, server-based software for medium to large businesses. Recently, however, it introduced a stand-alone version of its insurance sales and service programs, which allows them to be run in small offices or even on a lone desktop or laptop.

In partnership with IBM Corp., Armonk, N.Y., Siebel in early October introduced Siebel CRM OnDemand, a Web-based customer relationship manager with contact-management capabilities.

The company derived CRM OnDemand from its Siebel Insurance Sales 7.5 and Insurance Service 7.5 softwarerecent upgrades of its server-based programs aimed at insurance carriers and large agencies and brokers.

The server-based Insurance Sales and Insurance Service, which Siebel calls its enterprise versions, provide contact management as a subset of a larger sales management package, says Siebel. The contact management component helps track sales opportunities and service requests of a given customer.

The Siebel OnDemand version is “a hosted CRM environment,” says Ron Young, general manager, Siebel Insurance–meaning it is accessed by subscription over the Web. “It has a lot of the same functionality” as Siebels bigger programs, Young notes.

Siebel charges a monthly fee of $70 per person for OnDemand, with discounts for offices with multiple users.

For the enterprise version of the software, Siebel charges on a per-seat basis. Prices vary, depending on the quantity of modules purchased as well as number of people using the system. Fees range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars per user, says Siebel.

Broker DB Inc., Hopeland, Mass., doesnt offer its own software but will help agencies and brokers to tailor off-the-shelf contact management programs to their needs. This helps eliminate the one-size-fits-all drawback typical of generic software, says Joe Markland, president of Broker DB.

The company customizes products from Best Software and Siebel to the needs of life and health and employee benefits agencies.

“Buying into a prebuilt system makes you change your workflows to meet their system rather than vice versa,” says Markland. “We let you buy a solution to a problem, rather than buy a product.”

DB Brokers fees vary widely depending on need and number of users but generally range from $600 per user for a low-end system using Act!, to $1,200 for a SalesLogix system (another product from Best Software), and $3,000 for a Siebel system.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, November 21, 2003. Copyright 2003 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.