With Customer Manager, Intuit hopes to do to for customer relationship management (CRM) what QuickBooks did for accounting: make enterprise-level tools accessible to small and midsize businesses. Intuit's $79.95 package helps you collect all the customer data you've squirreled away in different places--including address book entries, Microsoft Outlook appointments and e-mail correspondence, Microsoft Word proposals and invoices, and of course, QuickBooks accounting details--and organize it into prioritized calendars and to-do lists. Customer Manager is easy to pick up and benefit from, particularly if you're already working in Outlook, QuickBooks, and Microsoft Office. Small, project-based businesses that want to take control of scattered customer information should consider the program. But given Customer Manager's limited sharing capabilities, larger groups may want to consider more full-featured alternatives such as GoldMine.
Installing Customer Manager itself is easy, and once it's installed, it's a snap to find your way around. The program has an intuitive, project-centric interface that lends itself for use as a command and control center. Through Customer Manager, you can, for example, send clients follow-up e-mail messages, which the program reminds you to do, or fire off QuickBooks invoices. The program will keep track of both activities and remind you when it's time to follow up. In the History view, you can add shortcuts to related items from other programs, such as an invoice you produced in Word or a cost breakout you produced in Excel.
Customer Manager makes it easy to drill down and see everything associated with a given project. In addition to the history of completed tasks, there are windows for upcoming appointments, to-dos, and related contacts. If you need to see everything you have to do today, Customer Manager will assemble appointments and upcoming tasks from all projects into master calendar and to-do list views. There's also a master address book that, in addition to basic contact information, displays the projects and activities (e-mail correspondence, invoices, letters, and checks) associated with any given client.
Customer Manager compiles all your tasks and appointments into one central interface.
Unfortunately, Customer Manager's integration of data from other programs is inconsistent. As you'd expect, the program deftly handles information from QuickBooks, grabbing vendors, jobs, invoices, checks, and other financial history. Click a supplier name in the address book, and the financial activity for that individual appears. In our tests, we also easily imported address books from Microsoft Outlook Express, a Microsoft Access database, and a relatively obscure personal information manager. Customer Manager identified duplicate entries between the data sets, and when those entries contradicted one another, it asked us to identify the correct ones. But we had to manually tie invoices produced in Microsoft Word to accounts and projects. Other than contact information, Customer Manager is not prepared to ingest tables of data from other programs, such as invoices stored in an Excel worksheet or an Access database.
Importing data is only the first step. As your contact information evolves and as you enter new invoices, write new checks, and record payment information, Customer Manager will need to stay abreast of all those changes. Luckily, Customer Manager's one-button sync feature does a pretty good job of all that, with Outlook and QuickBooks, at least. In our tests, Customer Manager transferred our changes accurately in both directions. Unfortunately, after the initial import, we found no easy way to keep Customer Manager synced with our Access database or our obscure PIM.