So, it finally happened. Microsoft officially (sort of) announced the end of Outlook Customer Manager (OCM) by notifying customers it’s going away in June 2020. If you’re a regular user, you’ve probably seen a lack of support or new features over the last couple of years as they moved the development team to other projects in 2018.
But, today is a new day! It’s time to not only replace the functionality you’ve come to love with Outlook Customer Manager, but get even more out of the options available today. This article is designed to guide you through the process of selecting a replacement for Outlook Customer Manager that not only replaces the features you love but can take your team and business further in efficiency and coordination to drive more revenue.
There are six steps to selecting a replacement to Outlook Customer Manager. We’ll provide specifics for each:
- Create a list of the features that you used the most in Outlook Customer Manager.
- Talk to the team about what they didn’t like about the interface and using Outlook Customer Manager.
- Think forward to how your team is changing – what type of features or functionality will meet those needs?
- Understand what options are available – not just to replace Outlook Customer Manager, but to elevate your team in new ways.
- Select the software that will replace and enhance your sales CRM workflow.
- Transfer and train with the new software.
Step One – What are the Features Your Team Uses MOST in Outlook Customer Manager?
Your team probably loves that they can consolidate emails and activities around individuals while staying in the Outlook interface. What other features of OCM do they actually use? Do they share information about an individual across the team? Do they use reminders or customer lists? Maybe you like that is shows you the history of communications with a contact and associated deals?
This list is your foundation of the items that you don’t want to lose and need to ensure your replacement software not only has, but can provide in a seamless, easy-to-use environment.
Step Two – What Are The Elements That They Don’t Like About OCM?
There are always items that we wish software could do better or differently. No software is perfect. It’s important to have an open and honest conversation with the team (or yourself) on what you are not getting out of OCM. Is it buggy? Does it not handle calls very well? Does the platform lose data while you are on the mobile app? Is the iOS app very good/useful/helpful, or just a check box item? What if you are on Android? (There was no OCM Android App at all). Since Microsoft pulled the engineering team in 2018 (see article here) you’ve probably noticed no new features or that bugs were slow to be fixed.
This is your list to compare new software against and probe with the sales rep. Include this list not only in your demo, but also in software trials and proof of concepts.
Step Three – What WILL You or Your Team Need in the Future?
Now is the time to not just replace functionality but upgrade from a simple – and frankly limiting – Outlook contact manager to a more robust sales CRM that can do more and help more. This is a strategic opportunity to improve your efficiency or your team’s efficiency. The goal is always to do more value-added work, with less manual or repetitive effort.
Do you want a better deal workflow? A central spot to store proposals or sales collateral that stays consistent across your team? An automatic quote generator? Better integrations into other systems like QuickBooks? Better reporting or dashboard analytics? A better way to use the platform on an Android device? A more comprehensive view of your customers?
This is your opportunity to invest in a platform that is still easy to use but does more than the simple functionality of OCM.
Step Four – What Options Are Available?
There are a lot of CRM products on the market. Based on the first step – the things that you not only liked, but actually used with Outlook Customer Manager – these should be your filter to start the list. Having a CRM as an integrated part of Outlook so that you don’t have to flip between a webpage and your email platform is a basic requirement for small and mid-sized business that live in Outlook. Prophet CRM was the original CRM built in Outlook and is still the most robust – but of course, we’re biased :-). Stepping into a web based sales CRM like Salesforce, Zoho or Hubspot means that you are in and out of different systems that sort of integrate with Outlook vs living IN Outlook.
With so many options, having one or two core requirements will help narrow the field. For small and mid-sized businesses, it is much more important to have software that fits into how you and the team works vs you having to change how you work to fit into software. Staying with CRM software that is truly embedded (not just integrated – it’s different) in Outlook makes a lot of sense and will minimize your transition pain.
Step Five – Select the Next Generation of YOUR CRM Software
Now that you have the options identified and have a good idea of the features you want – it’s time to reach out to the companies, do the demos, talk amongst the team, compare reviews and dig in on pricing. This sounds odd, but I really like talking to sales people. They are really helpful in terms of digging into how their software can help, what the options are, what is coming down the pike in terms of improvements and provide comfort in the selection process if they are responsive, friendly and helpful.
Of course, this has to be balanced with third party reviews on sites like G2Crowd and Capterra. You should also look at companies that have been around for a while as it shows people will not only buy the software but renew and keep using it as no software company will stand the test of time if customers don’t like their software (Avidian has been around for 15 years – did I mention they were the FIRST to embed CRM in Outlook?).
Step Six – Transition, Transfer and Train
Congratulations! At this stage, you are now in the tumultuous but exciting stage of bringing on and using a new core software product in your world. During the buying stage you should talk to the sales team about the training and data transfer options as well as any best practices for getting the product and team up and running. It’s really important to have someone on point for the transition – it may just be you – but having one person list the different steps, data needs, password management, and training schedule will help drive success once you are through the process. And considering the deadline you have of getting out of OCM by this June, you may want to start by exporting your data now: How to Export your OCM Data.
Having a clear idea on what the key milestones are and what success looks like on the other end will dramatically improve your chances of a smooth transition.
Conclusion: A Better CRM integrated in Outlook
It’s not rocket surgery, but it is important. Transitioning out of a software like OCM into a new platform – in this case by force – is an opportunity to take a minute and figure out what is working, what is not and what will make your life easier – and more profitable – going forward.
Prophet CRM was the first CRM product actually embedded in Outlook over 15 years ago, and continues to help thousands of customers be more productive and more successful while staying IN Outlook vs bouncing back and forth between web browser and email platform.
Schedule a demo with the Avidian team today to see if Prophet CRM is the right next step for your business.
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