With many CRM systems, users find information difficult to extract and cumbersome to key in, and worse, the information doesn’t actually serve to help handle relationships. Contactually is a Web-based tool that attempts to address this perennial problem.
To this end, Contactually bills itself as a proactive CRM that was created to help users prioritize their relationships and stay top of mind with their most important contacts and leads – but without having to deal with the learning curve and complexity of a full-fledged CRM.
How Contactually CRM Works
Contactually’s key selling point is that it works unobtrusively. As a Web-based CRM service, there is nothing to install, although users will need to connect at least one email account for Contactually to do its work. When configured for the first time, Contactually will take some time to scan all outgoing emails to extract pertinent contact details. The system also attempts to locate information from online resources to “fill in the blanks” – more on that later.
While good to have, raw contact details are not all that useful by themselves; contacts must first be placed in context to be valuable. This is where Contactually’s innovative concept of “Buckets” comes into play. The logic is simple but powerful: New contacts are first sorted into buckets such as “Co-workers,” “New Leads” or “Customers.” This information is remembered by the service and used to generate follow-up action.
Unlike most CRMs, Contactually’s interface is intuitive and designed in such a way that one actually feels motivated to bucket contacts. Indeed, users can also opt to use a simple, gamified version of the feature called the “bucket game.”
On the privacy front, Contactually says the company will never store your email messages on its servers – unless specifically requested to do so. When a particular message is requested, the company will download it in order to show it. Because only outgoing emails are tracked by default, this conveniently stops spam from being captured – although you can configure Contactually to scan incoming emails as well.
My Experience with Contactually CRM
After adding my Office 365 account to Contactually, the service ran in the background and identified more than 2,500 contacts from about two years’ worth of email messages. The contacts are accessed under the “Contacts” tab from the Contactually website, where clicking on individual names brings up a page containing details such as a list of recent conversations and statistics on the frequency of correspondence exchanged with a particular person.
Contactually automatically attempts to establish a connection between user accounts and their accounts on social media networks such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Flickr and Google+. More impressively, the system locates pertinent information from social networks that you connect to; I’ve seen data fields such as company name, title and location automatically populated. If desired, the data can be manually corrected or additional information added; notes about a particular contact can also be attached to each entry.
You know that customer who uses more than one email account and often mixes them up? Contactually detects duplicate contacts and highlights them on a dashboard where users can opt to merge them into a single entry at the click of a mouse.
Perhaps one of the most praised capabilities is how Contactually identifies five (or more) users to follow up on each day. It is easy to imagine how a concrete list of contacts – some of which may fade into oblivion otherwise -- can be invaluable for harried networkers and sales staffers. This list can also be scheduled to be emailed out every morning.
CRM Integration, Team Capabilities
Users who work from Gmail will be happy to know that Contactually integrates with it using a Chrome plug-in. When active, this creates a new icon beside the “Settings” icon in Gmail. Clicking on it opens up a panel where a range of Contactually tasks can be completed from within the same browser window. Contactually also integrates with a number of popular CRM platforms, including Salesforce, Highrise, Google Apps and SugarCRM, while contact details can be shared with traditional systems by downloading them as a vCard.
Other powerful facets of Contactually are exposed when using it in a team environment. Creating team buckets allows contact details to be automatically shared with team members by simply slotting them into a team bucket. In addition, the follow-up history is tagged and accessible by other team members, eliminating the risk of unknowingly harassing customers with multiple follow-ups by different team members.
This also saves time by eliminating the need for team members to scour through an endless list of CC’ed emails to determine the most recent date of contact. According to Contactually, the team offering is suitable for teams of two to 20,000 members.
Overall Impression of Contactually CRM
Though I encountered some initial hiccups when attempting to link to my Office 365 account using IMAP, everything worked fine when I subsequently connected via native Exchange mode. My overall experience with the Contactually service was a positive one. What became evident were the substantial efforts made by the Contactually team in a hundred and one minor tweaks that help make it an intuitive and user-friendly service.
Contactually is a constantly evolving product that offers no-hassle capabilities that integrate with an increasing number of CRM systems out there. I signed up in late March when it was still in closed beta. Contactually is now in open beta and could see new capabilities being added along the way.
The service is available as a free 30-day trial for users who want to give it a spin. After the trial, users can continue using it for free with limited features, or sign up for a premium plan at $15 per month for a single-user “Freelancer” plan or “45” for a five-user Team plan. Details about additional plans are available here.
Paul Mah covers technology for Enterprise Apps Today, Small Business Computing and IT Business Edge. He also shares his passion for and knowledge of everything from networking to operating systems as an instructor at Republic Polytechnic in Singapore, and is a contributor to a number of technology sites including Ars Technica and TechRepublic.