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Discussion Starter #1
What do you guys use for customer management? I've been pondering writing a complete database system for our customer management.

Currently when someone calls their name is written on paper and doesnt get into the computer until we write the proposal in Word, then doesn't go into a database until the job is completed.

My idea, like big comanies do it, is like this:
Customer calls, the person answering the phone fills in the blanks on their computer screen. The info is now in the database.
The sales rep calls back to set appt. and asks further info filling in more blanks on the screen, which is kept in the database.
Details about the job, such as material color, start and completion dates and mroe can all be kept in the database.

It's my belief that all companies should work this way. If a customer calls and asks a question all the info is right there in front of you. This database can even be made web accessible for tele-comuters.

What are your thoughts? Should I make this complicated program, which I have the ability to do, or should I look into buying one?
 

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Unless your needs are truly unique, don't bother writing your own. ACT! is an excellent program (comes in single and multi-user versions), and in another career, we used it to record all customer support interactions in a call center of 6 people, 4 salespeople, 11 developers, and several managers for a client base of about 2,000. In my current work, we use a software called ECCO PRO (no longer sold) which was even more sophisticated than ACT!, but has a steep learning curve. I think it's flexibility was its down-fall, as it is extremely powerful, but most users just got overwhelmed with the options. Works fine for our group though.

There are a number of programs servicing the need of tracking prospects, leads, customers, and contacts, although ACT! and Goldmine are the top sellers.

The minus is that before you implement it for your company, you need commitment from everyone that they will use it, you've got to flow-chart your basic sales or support interactions, and set up the package to reflect this reality, and then train everyone to use it correctly. In our support centre, the software was installed in one week, but it took about six months to get everyone on board and participating. It just takes one person who keeps their customer interaction offline to screw things up. And everyone has to remember to record the last interaction with the customer or lead BEFORE going to the next one. This includes what was said, what was promised, and any other important information.

The plus, is that once everyone's on board, it becomes quite easy to stay on top of followups, and get the full history of the interaction with any customer.

In our own system (built using ECCO PRO), we track all contacts, classify them as to business potential, record each contact (sale, service call, information request, etc.), and review the database periodically. Couldn't run our business without it.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I've tried gold mine. Not powerful enough in my opinion.

I've never used act so I can't comment. I think since I have the know how, I will just begin writing it based on a open source program I have found.
 

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Grumpy,

Like anything else a lot depends on your budget. I have used both Act! And Goldmine extensively, and in my opinion neither are powerful enough for a contractor who usually runs a “jobs based” and “contacts based” database. For the past two years I have been running a program called Commence. It’s primarily set up on three levels, “Contacts”, “Companies” and “Projects” with data from all three levels being interlinked and accessible from any level. For me it has been the perfect fit. What makes it really nice is the ease of customization. Every contractor is different and wants to keep track of different data (you mentioned colors, completion dates, etc). This program has existing boilerplate entry screens that contain some of the most common data but it very easy to, add edit, and delete fields and screens to customize it to your business. Learning curve is medium but you sound like you have a good working knowledge of software so you should be able to master it with relative ease.

Major downside is cost, about $1000 for the stand alone version which I run, around $700 per user for network. It was a big hit on my budget because I’m such a small company but it has been some of the best money I’ve spent.

Good luck.

BSC
 

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Discussion Starter #6
pgriz said:
Unless your needs are truly unique, don't bother writing your own. ACT! is an excellent program
So a friend gave me his act. Legal copy. I am just learning it and don't see how it can be so powerful as people say.

:)

I dont suppose you'd want to send me an empty copy of your ACT setup.
 
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