Intuit gives rise to a brand-new software category with its new QuickBooks Customer Manager. Populate this innovative product with contacts and data from several popular applications and you get one centralized application that holds your critical customer data. Its an interesting and well-executed concept, though there are some caveats.
The program guides you through bringing in your own database or building one based on QuickBooks data. Customer Manager is built to work with QuickBooks, Quicken, Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express, Access, and Excel. Quicken, Access, and Excel data comes in as plain text, and Customer Manager provides a field-mapping tool that facilitates smooth importing. You can also import text files from other applications, but they cant be synchronized; they must be reimported every time.
You can display several different list views of your data, sorted by name (a very thorough, customizable contact record), by project (a very skimpy project definer), and by to-do items. For scheduling, you can use either the calendar format provided or Outlook.
Each contact has its own dashboard-type screen that displays all pertinent information, and you can enter new data on this page. To-do items, notes, appointments, and related contacts are all linked to the open contact. Financial transactions show up in the Recent History box along with contact-related data.
A built-in tool helps you keep your data in sync. In this first version, the synchronization automatically brings in everything you specify from the originating application, but you cant automatically send changes back. You can send individual records back to QuickBooks via a check box, and theres a workaround for Outlook, but theres no automated sync for other apps.
This first release of Customer Manager doesnt have the chops to compete with established CRM products. That said, the melding of limited contact management and QuickBooks financial data, combined with an effective one-screen display of that information, provides convenience that some users may be looking for.