How to keep things friendly

Customers like the personal touch. Contact management software can help business people to recall a golf handicap or the names of a client's children

Contact management software helps you to con your clients, but in the nicest possible way. Chatting to them on the telephone, while every detail of your past dealings with them is presented on-screen, means a level of professional intimacy impossible with the British Standard Mark 1 brain.

Asking your client about his children by name or whether his golf handicap has improved shows a genuine interest, even if you haven't spoken for a year. Your customer will feel important and valued, smoothing the path to doing business.

Contact management software, as distinct from the personal-life-organising PIMs (Personal Information Managers), is designed to help businesses make use of their contacts. The software consists of two parts: the database, where all the client information is stored, and a scheduling system, to remind you of key times and dates and to help you to plan your week.

The database is designed to accept information in all its forms. Names, dates, minutes of meetings, letters and faxes can be stored and even photographs can be scanned in for future reference.

Phoning a customer is one thing. You can prepare and have your script ready with those important details such as previous purchases, key dates in their buying cycle and the names of the real decision-makers. But what if the customer, unannounced, phones you? With a good contact management package, quickly typing in a customer or company name, or even a postcode, should instantly have you up to speed on the complete client low-down.

The power of the better packages is such that the data built up over time can be analysed for use as sales and marketing tools. The database can be interrogated to produce information based on geography, products or particular markets. You can even send direct mailmerge letters or faxes from your desktop PC. Even more powerful, contact data can be shared over a network, giving all your sales force access to detailed customer information.

In its June issue, PC Magazine reviews five market-leading contact management packages. Starting on the premise that unless the product was easy to use, a sales force wouldn't use it, PC Magazine put all the packages though its Usability Labs. Here each package was tested for intuitiveness, how productive it was and the level of satisfaction felt by its users. In addition, the features in each product were considered with each function weighed up for its usefulness.

PC Magazine's Editor's Choice went to ACT! 3.0 from Symantec at pounds 189 (plus VAT). This package has been on the market for a long time and just gets better and better. ACT! 3.0 got top scores for both usability and features and is both easy to use and sophisticated. It runs under all current flavours of Windows 95, DOS and Macintosh and there are even versions for the hand-held Psion Organiser.

For the budget-conscious and less demanding user, Janna Contact Personal at pounds 49 (plus VAT) represents great value for money. Very easy to use, if less heavily featured, this product is perfect for a single user not needing to share contact data with colleagues.

Using contact management software in your business lets you capitalise on that most valuable of assets: client information built up over years. Remember your customers and they might remember youn

Nick Edmunds

Symantec 0171-616 5600

Janna Systems 01628 789878

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger & Credit Control Assistant

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Ledger & Credit Control...

Recruitment Genius: Junior PHP Web Developer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Guru Careers: Front End Web Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: Our client help leading creative agencies ...

Christine McCleave: FP&A Analyst

£36,000 - £40,000: Christine McCleave: Are you looking for a new opportunity a...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot