Microsoft created the Customer Manager application with the idea that small business owners probably had lots of useful customer information on their computers, but rarely used it to its fullest potential. Like Microsoft Small Business Financial Manager, the Customer Manager program helps users create a database of accounting and contact information that they can use to analyze business trends and opportunities. Financial Manager and Customer Manager share the same New Database Wizard, so a financial database created in one program is ready for work in the next.
When you first start the Customer Manager program, you're asked to pick an existing financial database to work with, or create a new one. Financial databases are saved in Microsoft Access format, and contain accounting data from third-party business programs (such as Microsoft Quicken) and, if you desire, contact information from Microsoft Outlook. In Customer Manager, you can use this database information to create useful datasheets or Hot Reports that show your top-selling customers, the order status from an individual account, the electronic mail that you have sent to a particular client, and so forth. In short, Customer Manager lets you analyze your customer and product relationships in detail— an activity that will help you spot important trends and leverage your success.
The small business tools are included in three versions of Microsoft Office 2000: Small Business, Professional, and Premium. However, you might not have installed these tools when you installed Office, because they're located on supplemental discs that are sometimes excluded to save hard disk space.
Try starting Customer Manager now to verify that it has been installed on your system:
Office starts the Customer Manager application and prompts you for the name of a financial database. (See Figure 34-1.)
Figure 34-1. You are asked to specify a database name (or create a new one) when you start Customer Manager.
If you don't see the Microsoft Small Business Customer Manager program, locate your Office 2000 Setup discs and insert the CD that includes Small Business Tools on the label. (If your version of Office is located on a network drive, locate the network folder containing the small business tools.) Run the Office Setup program and install all of the small business tools.
The Office 2000 Setup program is discussed in Chapter 4, "For Power Users: Installing and Maintaining Office 2000."
After you have specified the required information, Customer Manager opens your database and displays your customer information in a datasheet containing records (rows) and fields (columns).
To spot important trends in your customer data, you can use two powerful search tools to organize database records: Hot Reports and Business Rules. A Hot Report is a predefined database query that locates a subset of database records and displays them for your review. A Business Rule is a predefined sorting mechanism that displays your records in a particular order. Customer Manager offers you several Hot Reports and Business Rules to choose from on the Go menu. Each query builds a datasheet with information displayed in columns and rows; you can display individual customer records by clicking the records on this datasheet, or you can refine the search further by using predesigned filters (see below).
To run a Hot Report, follow these steps:
Customer Manager runs the query and displays your top customers in a datasheet.
To use a Business Rule, follow these steps:
Customer Manager displays a datasheet with records organized by your Business Rule.
Customer Manager can display several Hot Reports and Business Rules at once, so feel free to run a number of search queries to locate just the data you want. However, you're limited to having one customer database open at once.
If your customer list is extensive, you might find it useful to apply additional search criteria called filters to your datasheet. Filters can help you narrow the search for particular database records by helping you specify the unique characteristics of the customers you're looking for. For example, you might create a datasheet using the Top Customers Hot Report (which lists top-selling customers by gross sales), and then refine the search by using a region or product-type filter.
To use a filter to analyze a datasheet, follow these steps:
Customer Manager filters the list and redisplays the datasheet.
Alternatively, you can search the active datasheet for exactly the text you're looking for by using the Find command on the Edit menu. The Find command scans the datasheet quickly for the first instance of the name or word you're looking for and selects it (if it exists).
To find text, follow these steps:
The Customer Manager application is fully compatible with Office 2000, so you can select one or more records on a datasheet and send the corresponding customers electronic mail by using Outlook or a letter by using Microsoft Word. The commands used to perform these operations are located on the Actions menu, which automatically starts the required Office 2000 applications.
To create a letter for one or more customers using Word, follow these steps:
To send an electronic mail message to a customer, follow these steps:
Customer Manager starts Outlook and begins the message for you.
Customer Manager is handy not only for producing database reports and generating correspondence, but also because it can document each personal contact you make with your customers, giving you a detailed record of who you spend your time with and who you don't. For example, when you send an electronic message to a customer in your database using Outlook, Customer Manager records this activity and notes it in the database. When the customer replies to your message, Customer Manager records that also, giving you a complete record of the transaction, including both messages.
Activity Tracking Behind the Scenes
Customer Manager successfully tracks most activities that occur when you execute commands on the Actions menu (creating Word documents, sending electronic mail, scheduling meetings, and so forth). In addition, activity tracking is a separate feature from the Journal command in Outlook, which records the activities you perform but doesn't link them to a particular customer. However, comprehensive activity tracking requires considerable database activity, so if you find that Outlook runs significantly slower during your day-to-day activities, you might want to turn it off.
To turn the Customer Manager Activity Tracker on or off, follow these steps:
You can review the contact activities associated with any customer record in your database. Follow these steps:
If you find that you don't need the activity tracking records that you've generated, or that you no longer need the older items, you can delete the information you don't want. Cleaning out these records periodically is a good idea, because it frees up disk space and keeps your database as small as possible. An especially nice feature here is the option to delete items older than a specified number of months.
To remove some or all activity tracking records, follow these steps:
The Purge Old Audit Trail Entries dialog box appears.
Customer Manager removes the activity tracking data from your database and frees up the corresponding amount of disk space.
Customer Manager is a helpful tool if you have extensive accounting data and Outlook contact information on your system. The activity-tracking feature is especially useful if you need an exact record of the correspondence between customers and business contacts.