Should I use Outlook by itself as a CRM tool ?

CRM Abstract

Someone on LinkedIn posted the question: How do I use Microsoft Outlook for CRM ?   I posted my answer on LinkedIn.  Outlook is great for what is called a “PIM” (Personal Information Manager). Outlook is great for E-mail, quickly adding contacts from e-mail into distribution lists or categories and calendar management for yourself.   Then, it’s quite easy to get those contacts your smart phone.  We use Outlook in house with Office 365, and it works really well.  The difficulties using Outlook as CRM include:

  • Creating proper conversation notes and sharing them.
  • Documenting conversations by date/time stamp.
  • Implementing contact security among your peers.
  • Creating a sales forecast.
  • Creating a mail-merge to a Word document.
  • Creating effective user fields to classify contacts by more than one field such as "category".
  • You have to resort to redundant data entry in Excel for call reports or sales forecasts.

What’s the best CRM platform for you?  It depends on what business business processes you want to improve.  Then, figure out your budget; then, we can come up with a custom solution.  Some products like Act! and WiredContact can be self-hosted or hosted by us.  Or, some programs are only hosted on their data center like Zoho and Benchmark One (Hatchbuck).

If you aren’t sure how to approach this, feel free to contact us for a complimentary discovery call.


Act! v20.1 Review

Act! and Outlook 2016Swiftpage released Act! v20.1 on 3/22 in the US market. v20.1 focused on a few key areas:

  1. Rebuild Outlook integration for e-mail, contact and calendar sync as well as mail-merge functions.  80% of our help desk relates to the e-mail history not recording properly to Act!, and this update addresses this problem.
  2. Enhance Act! Insight, the new report writer.
  3. Create custom tables. For example, you can create a list of multiple insurance policies someone bought over the years under one contact record. Until now, you had to use third party products to make this work. Or, you had to make a large grid in the contact record that wasn't easy to search.
  4. Offer North American and Saturday phone support.

For this updated Outlook integration to work, you must have Outlook 2013 or newer installed as cited in the system requirements.

Should you upgrade ? First and foremost, make sure you have Office 2013 or newer; then, we'd have to see what business processes need improving to make the call since we last spoke. Sometimes, we can leverage what you have and just bolt a plugin to your system. Or, we just train you on a feature you may realize you didn't have within Act!.


Act! and Outlook Tech Support Check List

Act! and Outlook 2016This checklist outlines the most common solutions to solve Act! Outlook E-Mail integration:

Initial Checklist:

  • Make sure your version of Act! is compatible with Office, and you can use this chart to checklist to ensure your versions are compatible.
  • Office must be installed before Act!.  If this didn't happen, uninstall and reinstall Act!.
  • Until Act! v19, only 32 bit versions of Outlook are supported, and here is how you check your edition of Outlook. If you have to downgrade Office; then, reinstall 32 bit Office. Then, reinstall Act!.
  • Click to Run versions of Office are known to problematic, and here is the deep article to determine whether its present even if you installed a full version.

If you have Outlook 2016, and made a software update after June 13, 2017, read this before going further.  Many of these problems were solved with v20.1, and we recommend upgrading.

If emails are not recorded to Act! history, try these procedures:

Solution 1

  • For Office 2013+, re-enable the Act! Outlook Addin. Instructions

Solution 2

  • Sometimes, for reasons unknown, Act! trashes the user name/password setting.  Add the Act! Address book credentials back to Outlook.
    • From Outlook go to File -> Account Settings -> Account Settings -> Address Books
    • Select Act Address Book and press change
    • Enter the Act! user name and password
    • Restart Outlook

Solution 3

Solution 4

Solution 5

  • If only one e-mail didn't work, look at the history queue for individual messages' status

Solution 6

  • Re-Enable the Redemption Helper Extension in Outlook. Picture

Solution 7

If starting Outlook, and it states the "Act! Address book isn't found..Would you like to edit the settings ?" try one of these fixes:

  • Restart SQL. This usually applies to single user deployments or sync databases. Instructions
  • Click on Yes and change the settings to your current Act! file location, user name and password. If you changed the Act! user name or password or the path on the network where Act! is hosted, this error will come up.

Solution 8

If the above suggestions didn't work, here are additional articles from Swiftpage for history not recording to Act!.

Solution 9

Here are additional reasons on the address book not connecting from the Swiftpage website.

Additional Options

Here are the tech support options if these articles don't work:

  • If your company is on Act! subscription; then, you can contact Swiftpage at 866-578-7875 for phone support at no additional charge.
  • For Act! Pro clients, Swiftpage offers a $99/user/year support contract for Act! v18+. The number of users purchased must equal the number of licenses you own. So even if one workstation out of a five user license has this problem, a 5 user support contract must be purchased.
  • Use actkb.com as self-help tool
  • Acquire fee-based support from MondoCRM

Sometimes, we recommend a Outlook IntegrateR1 written by another consultant that is more stable and offers more features. For $30 a workstation + optional installation services, it's a good deal. Here is download to the trial version and manual. This program focuses on the recording of history to Act!.


Act! and Office 2016

Act! and Outlook 2016On June 13, 2016 Microsoft released Office 2016 version 16.0.8201.2102. This build broke some of the standard MAPI APIs used by Act! and other 3rd party programs.  One symptom is if you try to setup Act! <-> Outlook email integration, and the setup wizard doesn't list Outlook.  Another symptom is e-mail no longer records history to Act!.  A 3rd symptom is broken calendar or contact sync.

Here is the short term solution:

  1. Close Act! and Outlook
  2. Open the folder "C:\program files (x86)\act\act for windows" in Windows Explorer
  3. Rename adal.dll to adal_old.dll (Screenshot)
  4. Reboot

The cause was a recent Outlook update now has a file called, "adal.dll" also.  Since Act! wrote something called, "adal.dll" used for legacy conversions, the programs collide, and the e-mail integration breaks.  Over the next couple weeks (after 6/28/2017), Swiftpage will publish updates for Act! v19 and v18.  v17 and earlier are no longer supported.  So, the short term solution listed above is the way to get around it for legacy versions.  Or you can use a plugin like this.

As of 8/21/2017, Swiftpage has published updates for this going to version 18.2.  Follow their documentation to install the updates.


Outlook Integrate R1 - Value Doesn't Fall within Expected Range

After installing Outlook Integrate R1, disable the native ACT! Outlook Addin.  This will also solve the error "Value does not fall within the expected range" when Outlook restarts.

1) Click File -> Manage Add-ins (screen shot)

2) Disable the "Act! Outlook Addin"

3) Restart Outlook

Disable act Plugin Office 2013