Is Outlook a CRM?
Outlook is not a CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) by itself. It is actually a
PIM (Personal Information Manager), but it is essentially the standard in business
today for individual email, contact and scheduling management. It falls a bit short
on providing the advanced functions such as customer management, sales management,
and reporting that most businesses need. Getting to those features can be easier
than many think. The best way to get to a true Outlook CRM is to find an Outlook
add on that includes CRM features.
What’s in an Outlook CRM
The features available from CRM programs can be quite extensive. To get the most
from an Outlook CRM, there are some primary functions to focus on.
- Outlook integration: A true Outlook CRM is actually built into Outlook and
utilizes the powerful functions already present. Be careful of programs that change
or replace the existing Outlook forms; this can add some functionality but at the
cost of losing integration with the rest of Outlook. This can also create confusion
when working in the program.
- Advanced Contact Management: An Outlook CRM program needs to offer additional
functionality for managing contacts as well as companies. Look for the ability to
track Company accounts and all the contacts and information associated with them.
It should also provide additional views for retrieving and reviewing your customer
information quickly and easily.
- Sales Management: This can be one of the most vital aspects of a CRM. The
ability to track each sales deal, related it to a client and account, and record
all communication and activities. This can be a powerful advantage for an Outlook
CRM as all this data is in a program people are already familiar with, eliminating
the need to relearn common functions (email, calendar, task, etc.).
- Relational Database: Having all your information available through Outlook
would be of no use unless it was all inter-related. Contacts are associated with
Companies, Sales Opportunities are associated with Contacts and Companies, and all
notes, emails, appointments and tasks are related to the appropriate records. Having
all this information available and tied together inside Outlook shows the true power
of an Outlook CRM. Focusing on the areas above will make it easier to find Outlook
CRM software that fits with your business. There are dozens of additional features
available, and they will be easier to review when keeping the above items as a point
Pitfalls of Outlook CRM
Having all your customer information in Outlook can be a great advantage. However,
there are a few items to be mindful and cautious of when selecting an Outlook CRM.
- Outlook integration: Yes, this is the primary advantage of this kind of CRM
program but if you are not already using Outlook it can reduce many of these advantages.
- All the data is stored in Outlook: Many Outlook CRM programs store all the
new data and records added to the program right in the Outlook database. This can
create storage issues as the Outlook profile has a storage size limit. Those programs
that store their unique data in a separate but linked database can provide more
data storage capacity and a redundant back-up should your Outlook database have
- Alteration of Outlook forms: One of the big advantages to Outlook CRM is
that most people are already familiar with the look and feel of Outlook, making
for faster implementation. If the program changes those forms (contact, email, appointment,
etc.) that are so familiar it can create confusion and take additional time to relearn
a feature. Look for a program that adds to what Outlook does, but doesn’t change
what it is already doing so well.
Why Outlook CRM over other CRM?
As discussed above, having all your customer relationship management information
inside a program like Outlook can be a great advantage. Outlook is used so ubiquitously
in business that most people already have a good level of familiarity with it, making
training times for Outlook CRM shorter. This also makes acceptance of the CRM program
higher since the users feel like they already know the program. Having access to
your CRM and basic office functions (such as email) through the same program makes
users more efficient and can make record management and storage a more centralized
process. While Outlook alone cannot give your business everything it needs for customer
relationship management, a good Outlook CRM plug-in can provide the building blocks
for a complete solution that can grow with your company.