How To Improve Customer Service With Act!

Act! CRM v20Keeping a customer engaged with your business is one of the best ways to keep your business in good health. Once your company grows beyond a few people, consistent customer service becomes more difficult. One person may consistently go the extra mile with customers while others neglect the basics. Find out how to use Act! to improve your customer service and keep customers coming back for more.

Customer Service In The News: Complaints, Competition and Attention

In a world where low prices grab our attention, does customer service matter? The answer is yes. A brief review of the press highlights the consequences of customer service.

  • Avoid negative word of mouth. A quick look through your Facebook news feed, Yelp or Twitter will turn out at least a few complaints about companies. In our era, disappointed customers tend to vent their feelings quickly. A British study found: “One in four social media users in the UK has used platforms to complain within the last three months.” Preventing such complaints by improving your service standards is well worth the effort.
  • Easier To Do Repeat Business. If a customer has a good experience, they are more likely to do business with you again. Take note of this example from the hotel industry: “When Leslie Ciminello arrives at the Hotel 1000 in Seattle, she knows milk and cereal will be waiting in her room’s refrigerator. Lactose-free milk and gluten-free cereal that is. It is one of the small but significant ways the hotel has kept her coming back.” (Hotels Go to Extra Lengths for the Repeat Customer). If you neglect customer service, you may be left behind by competitors eager to grow.
  • Earn positive attention. Would you like your company profiled in The Sydney Morning Herald? That was a benefit American Express earned by providing top customer service. The best part? The customer service in question was delivered to someone who cancelled their service. Gaining good press even when a customer leaves you – that is a significant benefit.

It is clear that excellent customer service makes a difference. How exactly can you improve customer service? Just asking your staff to impress is one approach. What should you tell them to do? You can use Act! to devise the details of your customer service program and continue improving.

Improving Customer Service With Act!

Use the following techniques to improve customer service with Act!. Tailor these methods to the value of your customer. In the Hotel 1000 example above, they are looking for business travellers who spend significant time in hotels. Such customers deserve extra attention.

1) Identify your top customers for extra care

Your employees have limited time so you cannot afford to treat all customers in the same way. Establish a few criteria (e.g. easy to work with and highly profitable) and then make a list. These are the customers who will garner extra time and attention.

Act! Application: Add an ID/Status, Favourite check or other field for your top customer records indicating “Gold Customer” (or whichever term you prefer), so you can find those customers easily with a search.

2) Set up recurring processes to review customer feedback

McKinsey & Co is one of the world’s most successful consulting firms. Client feedback is a core component of the firm’s success. According to Herbert Henzler’s book “Pushing the boundaries: Recollections of a McKinsey consultant”, the firm’s engagement performance review is varied out every three months and includes:

What was the quality of the analyses? Did you make good use of McKinsey resources? What was the client feedback? What was the team members feedback? Which improvements were necessary and how could these be implemented?

By using this process, individual consultants and their management never go long without taking customer feedback into account. For managers, records in Act! will give you additional input to consider in assessing your staff. If your team know you will review Act! as part of your management process, they will be more likely to use it.

Act! Application: Write short Notes or History after each customer service interaction in Act!. That way, you will have the opportunity to provide feedback to your staff.

3) Design long-term customer service improvements

Some customer service issues are trying to improve in an ad hoc fashion. For instance, you may have to use a new vendor to enhance the quality of your packaging. With limited resources, how do you decide where to focus your quality improvement efforts? Take a closer look at Act! for customer service failings and opportunities.

Act! Application: Create a method to list any unresolved customer complaints or those that required management involvement to obtain a solution. Use this information to look for systemic improvement opportunities.

4) Understand why customers leave

All good things come to an end, and that includes customer relationships. When customers leave, ask your staff to find out why they left. Once you collect data for a few months, schedule a meeting to review the findings. Look for ways that improved customer service could make a difference. As a starting point, consider the most common customer service complaints according to Business Queensland:

  • Faulty product. It is not enough to understand that the product broke – seek for more information so that you can make improvements.
  • Incorrect descriptions of the product. If customers cannot trust you on the basics such as size and weight, how long will they keep doing business with you?
  • Poor client service. This can be reduced by implementing a rotation program.
  • Slow delivery. Fast delivery service from companies like Amazon have increased customer expectations.
  • Inadequate response to information requests. This factor covers inquiries about account status, delivery status and beyond.
  • Rude staff. Even if your product is perfect, rude or rough treatment may be all your customers remember.

Your next step:

Meet with your sales team this month to review customer service levels. Use the four points outlined in this article to prepare examples for the discussion. If you find insufficient information in your customer files or disorganised information, implementing Act! may be the solution. Contact an Act! Certified Consultant to help you implement it.

Act! Version 20 – What You Need To Know

Act! v20 - Evolved

This month, Act! Version 20 comes to the market. If you are an existing user, should you upgrade to the new version? It all depends on your technical needs. Here are some reasons why the new version will make your business life more comfortable. It is a combination of improving reliability, enabling mobile work and bringing marketing and sales closer together.

Tip: Most of these improvements are only applicable to Premium Subscription users.

1) Track Your Business Results Easily With Act! Insight

Act! v20 Insight SalesAct! v20 Insight Key

Producing complex business reports each month is a huge pain for many in the sales. What if you could quickly check on the status of your sales pipeline each day? That’s what you can accomplish using Act! Insight. At a glance, this new feature offers the ability to see reports on sales by product, forecasted sales and won vs lost sales.

Tip: If you manage a sales team or own a business, Act! Insight is especially useful. The “Business Health” summary gives you precise data on your company’s operations and health. Make it a daily habit to check on these metrics, and you will avoid nasty surprises at month end.

Tip: Many of the Insight graphs are improvements on the current Dashboard function. However, at this time I have been using both Views of data as I have built some Dashboards that I have not yet been able to replicate with Insight.

2) Speak Your Notes and Listen for Answers By using Amazon Alexa

Survey after survey tells us that entering data into your CRM is a chore. That problem will start to come to an end because Act! will now support Amazon Alexa.

You might recall the scene in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, where they spend some time in 1986 San Francisco. Scotty, the chief engineer, has to use a PC and he picks up the mouse and tries speaking into it – “Hello Computer.”

Having picked up flip-phones, tablets and other devices from this program, it does seem natural for us to continue to realise the best ideas of their writing team.

Introduced in 2014, the Amazon Echo device is the primary to interact with Alexa, a voice-activated assistant. While you may not have an Amazon Echo in your office yet, the device offers exciting potential – the ability to ask for reports and add data by speaking will save you plenty of time. It’s true there are some limitations with voice recognition (e.g. ensuring control over confidential client data). However, the technology is likely to be a godsend for those who hate to type or merely prefer to speak. If you were already interested in voice recognition, now you will have an opportunity to use the technology for business.

Tip: A current list of commands available can be accessed at this Knowledgebase Article:
What commands are available for use with the Act! Premium skill for Amazon Alexa?

Tip: At this time, this function is not supported in Australia / New Zealand. I am still trying to determine the reason for this and an estimate of when it will be.

Tip: If you decide to invest in Amazon Alexa, you can use it for much more than Act!. You can use it to play music, check bank account balances (depends on whether you have a bank).

3) Improved Mobile Experience – Act! Mobile Companion

Act! Companion - MapsAct! Companion - InsightIn the past, mobile apps were not that powerful. You had to open up your computer to do real work. Act!’s improved mobile app, Act! Companion, is available for Android and iOS, is starting to address that problem. You can quickly schedule follow up appointments with prospects and log your calls easier.

You can now call and email contacts directly through the Act! Companion. That means no more time copying and pasting phone numbers from emails on your phone. Even better, Act! Companion gives you your recent history directly on the mobile app. That means you can prepare better for sales meetings faster and stay coordinated with others in your company. Act! Companion also has map support so you can get to your appointments on time.

Note: Act! Companion is included with the subscription version of the product. If you are on the fence about whether to sign up for the subscription version, it’s worth it to get Act! Companion.

4) Improved E-commerce Integration

Does your company run an e-commerce store? If so, many of the operational processes are likely automated such as shipping and generating invoices. In the midst of that automation, there are three reasons why integrating Act! with your e-commerce provider is a smart idea. First, this integration gives your sales staff the ability to lavish extra attention on high-value customers. Second, you can use e-commerce data such as a customer’s purchase history to inform your Act! marketing campaigns. Third, you can use that data to carry out analyse your business operations (e.g. avoid running out of popular items and better understand your margins).

Act! supports integration with a variety of the most popular e-commerce platforms: BigCommerce, Ecwid, Etsy, Shopify, Volusion, and WooCommerce. Additionally, it can also bring in sales history from many common accounts products.

5) Improving Act!’s Subscription Product

As with other software products, the subscription version of Act! continues to improve. For example, the mobile app – Act! Companion – is included in the subscription, as is Act! Insight. If you have not already switched to a subscription license, the improvements offered through version 20 are an excellent reason to switch now. If you use the subscription version of Act! in conjunction with a cloud offering, you do not have to worry about losing your data due to a computer failure – it is all stored on secure servers.

Tip: Switching to a subscription license means that you will receive a steady stream of updates

6) Improved Microsoft Outlook integration

Microsoft Outlook remains one of the world’s most popular email applications. If you are comfortable using Outlook, rest assured that Act! continues to improve its Outlook integration. For you, that means a more stable experience and reduced issues. You can focus on selling instead of keeping your software operational. Whether you use Microsoft Office 2010, 2013 or 2016, Act! is compatible with each version.

I have personally found that the Outlook integration in v20 is more stable than it has been for some time. Swiftpage has also stated that some Outlook integration improvements are being worked on and scheduled to be included in v20.1.

What if your company uses G Suite, Google’s professional set of services for calendar, email and other applications? Don’t worry. Act! integrates with Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Contacts. For more information on the Google integration, see this article:
How to set preferences for Google and Gmail Integration in Act!

7) Optimised Emarketing Workflow

Act! v20 EmarketingAct! v20 Emarketing Call List

Act! users who are leveraging the power of Act! Emarketing can now manage campaigns through an intuitive, optimised workflow within Act!. Users can quickly and easily execute campaigns and track results from five newly designed views – Overview, Options, Create, Send and Track with full-screen Call Lists – all fully integrated within Act!

8) Better working experience for Apple users

Apple users are used to a seamless user experience. Act! version 20 delivers on that expectation by adding support for the Chrome for Mac web browser. As a result, you now have more flexibility to use Act! on your Apple computer. Apple users also have the option to use the Act! Companion on iOS devices like the iPhone. Version 20 also delivers a better Act! / Office for Mac integration.

Note: This still requires a local or cloud-based Window server

9) Dozens of “under the hood” quality improvements

Any piece of complex software accumulates bugs over time. The important question is what efforts are carried out to solve those problems. Mail merge, reports, company views and errors with contacts are just a few of the fixes that will make Act! version 20 easier to use. All told, these improvements save you time. To receive a steady stream of updates, make sure you sign up for the subscription version of Act!.

Resource: Curious to know more about all the technical fixed that went into Act! version 20? Read What's new in Act! v20 for further details.

Planning Your Next Move With Act!

The latest version of Act! brings a variety of new analytics and automation features to the table. Like any piece of software, you may not use every feature every day. Instead, ask yourself a different question: what if I could make my week 5% more productive by using this software? For your field staff, the improved Act! Companion app may mean the difference between staying late at the office on a Friday and getting home on time.

To find out if Act! version 20 is right for your business, contact me to request a free assessment. We will go through a few short questions and find out if it will add value to your business.

Click here to get in touch with me – Or post a comment to this article

CRM Benefits for Your Sales Professionals

Act! CRM for Sales ProfessionalsFor company owners and managers, an effective CRM program works wonders in helping you to measure and improve your business.

What about your sales staff? What benefit does it have for them? That is the question we will explore here. After all, if management fails to “sell” CRM to the staff, you will not get much benefit from using the CRM. To make that “internal sale,” here are the key CRM benefits for sales professionals.

1. More repeat orders and business from past customers

Asking a previous customer to buy again is much easier than attracting a new one. We all know that. However, most of us lack a systematic process to maintain relationships with past customers which means repeat sales are less likely. Adopting a CRM program makes it easier to manage customer relationships by providing you with notes, order activity and reminders to get in touch with past customers.

Tip: Use Act!’s Smart Task feature to remind you to get in touch with customers. Let’s take real estate as a quick example, Set a “time delay” on the Smart Task for 3-6 months after the sale. At that point, you will be reminded to get in contact with your customer. If they are satisfied, this is an excellent time to ask for a referral or surprise them with a gift.

2. Improve sales results on complex deals

Selling to a bank or another large company is often a long and drawn out process. I have seen cases where the buying process can take months or even more than a year. With millions of dollars in revenue at stake, staying involved is well worth the effort. Just think about how complicated the process can become! Each month, you may meet new people at your target company whom all have different interests and concerns. If you fail to keep those concerns straight, you are likely to ruffle feathers and lose the order.

Keep all your data, notes and observations in the CRM makes everything much easier in a complex sale. This same process also applies to high-value professional sales such as investment management, law and accounting. Attempting to keep all of that information clear in your head is asking for failure.

3. Spend more time with customers

Every month, your managers will probably ask you for reports and other data about your sales activities. Compiling these reports is a headache that nobody wants. You may not be able to eliminate reporting entirely, but you can cut it down substantially by using Act! once you have your desired reports in place.

Tip: If you save an hour per week from administration, that time savings will not automatically translate into higher income. To achieve that benefit, use that new time on high-value activities like prospecting for your dream clients.

4. Get better leads from the marketing department

Remember the classic sales movie “Glengarry Glen Ross?”

In the scene with Alec Baldwin’s characters, underperforming salesmen complain that “the leads are weak.” Baldwin’s character tears them apart for complaining about the leads. It may be one of the most iconic depictions of sales in pop culture. Too bad it is misleading!

In reality, the value of your leads may be weak! By keeping notes on your leads in Act!, you will be able to notice patterns. You may find that inbound leads who download a white paper are much more interested in hearing from you than any other type of lead. Once you understand that point, meet with your marketing colleagues to share your experiences, so they know what to continue.

Why do better leads matter? A higher quality lead is more likely to buy and become a long-term customer. Even better, you will reduce the pain and frustration of rejection dramatically. All of these benefits are possible by thoroughly using a CRM.

5. A full CRM keeps the sales manager away

Let’s face it: nobody likes to be nagged at the office or at home. If you are disciplined in keeping your deals up to date in the CRM, you will never hear another complaint from your manager again. That means less awkward conversations at the office for you. Isn’t that peace of mind alone worth 15 minutes a day to keep your CRM notes up to date?

Tip: If your company uses a “balanced scorecard” approach to performance reviews, check to see if consistent CRM use fits with that process.

6. You can make a better case for a pay increase

How can using your company CRM consistently help you to win a raise? Your manager may want to reward good performance. However, she needs to show a business case for that decision. Revenue numbers alone may be enough in some cases. Your request will be even more compelling if you can demonstrate that you are also keeping reliable records on your customers. Keeping those records demonstrates that you are committed to the CRM program. Showing you have a repeatable process to bring in new business – as documented by your actions in Act! – helps your manager understand that you can continue to develop stellar results.

Keep Growing: Our Two Recommended Sales Books

By the way, you do not have to stop with a CRM when it comes to helping your sales staff to improve. The following two books are industry classics for a reason – you can read them multiple times and profit each time. Each book is available in print, digital or audio format so even your field reps can access the books.

SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham.

Relying on a large scale research study into effective sales practices in B2B sales, this book explains a simple process you can use to make sales over and over again. By navigating the sales conversation through the “SPIN” process, your staff will be able to make more sales. What if your team does not have enough prospects? That is where our next title comes into the picture.

The Ultimate Selling Machine by Chet Holmes.

While much of the book is aimed at company owners and managers, your sales staff can also profit from reading this book. Holmes advocates focus in the prospecting process such as creating a list of your “Dream 20” clients and then pursuing them systematically. Holmes also shows how education based marketing plays a key role in attracting prospects to your organisation.

The Path To Low Stress Sales: 6 Reasons To Use a CRM like Act! In Your Business

Act-propel-productivityThink back to the start of your business. You may have been the only one generating sales, serving customers and keeping the books. Once your business achieves some growth, you will start to add a few sales staff. Now you have a problem. As a manager, you are a few steps removed from the sales process. How can you be sure your sales team are spending their time productively?

Whether you own the company or manage the sales department, you need high quality, timely information about the sales group. In my experience, using a CRM (customer relationship management) tool like Act! is critical to improving productivity, reliability and sales effectiveness in a growing business. Let’s start with the benefits for sales managers and company owners.

1. Never miss another customer opportunity

Following up with customer questions and inquiries is critical to close sales. If your sales staff are “managing” customer follow up from their inbox, you are likely losing sales opportunities. By using Act! to monitor and manage interactions with clients and prospects, you can keep your staff focused on the opportunities that matter. For example, you can track when a prospect’s contract with a competitor is set to expire. That tracking allows you to focus your resources on higher value sales opportunities. At a minimum, you should strive to follow up on leads within two business days to keep up with other companies:

Insight: According to – Kayak Online Marketing:
“The average company takes 44 hours to respond to leads.”

Applying Act! To Your Business: Finding the “hot leads” for your business makes the sales process much easier. I recommend using Act’s Intelligent Call Lists feature to identify these leads. Calling a lead who has opened your weekly email newsletter for the past three weeks within minutes of receiving it may be a great fit for your business.

2. Detect high-performance sales activities and stars

Almost every sales team has one or two stars – the professional who significantly outperforms everyone else. They could be the person who never seems to have a “bad month” or who brings in the most profitable deals. Detecting the patterns behind these issues is difficult if you lack a system to organise the information. By using Act!, you can more quickly identify the indicators associated with top performance. For example, you may find that top performers routinely hit an individual activity metric each day (e.g. ten outbound messages to prospects attracted through inbound marketing). You can detect some of these patterns by using Act! to supplement your observations. With these insights, you can improve the productivity of your current sales staff and improve training for new hires.

Management Tip: Create a top performers report in Act! That shows your most productive sales staff and related metrics (e.g. number of deals, days elapsed to close the deal, new vs existing account and other measures).

Act! v19 Dashboard

3. Reduce sales administration time

Let’s say that your sales staff spend 4-8 hours per week on administration today. That covers everything from keeping up with email, filing orders and interacting with others parts of your company. While necessary, those efforts take time away generating new sales opportunities. By using Act!, you can cut that administration time significantly. For example, you can integrate email to Act! so that lead files are updated more quickly. Every automation measure means more time is available to deepen client relationships and start new ones.

Save Time Using Act! – With the “Smart Tasks” feature, you can make sure that your sales staff never miss another follow up with a potential customer. That is critical because larger value sales require you to build trust over time.

4. Deepen relationships at larger firms

It is easier to sell more to existing customers than attract new customers. Despite that truth, many companies do not have a systematic approach to their sales. Let’s say you were doing business with a division of BHP or IBM. There’s a good chance that other parts of the organisation could benefit from your products. However, selling more to a large firm often involves extensive research to discover the decision makers, subject matter experts and political situation. Asking your sales staff to keep track of this data without Act! is asking for trouble.

If you serve large, complex customers (or if you want to expand to that segment), a fully implemented CRM solution is critical.

5. Save time on accounting and customer service

Closing a sale on the phone or in a meeting is exciting for sales professionals. To maintain an excellent customer experience, the subsequent steps of your business process need to function smoothly. For example, issuing an accurate, complete quote or invoice to the client makes a positive impression. By integrating Act! with your accounting system, your sales staff save time in producing invoices and quotes and your accounting team has less paperwork to process.

Tip: If your company uses Quickbooks, Xero, or MYOB, you can easily integrate Act! into your accounting systems.

6. Start using email marketing to improve the bottom line

“A June 2016 survey of US marketers conducted by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and Demand Metric found that email had a median ROI of 122%—more than four times higher than other marketing formats examined, including social media, direct mail and paid search.” - eMarketer

Email marketing remains one of the most effective marketing methods on the market. Why? It all comes back to permission. If your prospects and clients have signed up to receive marketing email, you have direct access to your customers. If you are new to email marketing, there is a learning curve to get started. However, it is well worth the effort because of the high ROI email marketing delivers.

Act! makes it easy to get started with email marketing by providing an easy to use editor and templates. That means you can get started without paying for expensive graphic design services.

How do you “sell” your sales staff on adopting Act! in their daily work? We will cover that question in our next article.

Working with Act! again


It has been a few months since I last posted on the status of where I am with Swiftpage and the direction of the product. In that time, I have received numerous requests for an update.

After a call back in March from John Oechsle, Swiftpage's CEO, and Rowan Koons, SVP and GM, followed by four months of detail discussions on how to continually improve the product and user experience, we have reached an agreement for how I can best continue to serve Act! and the broader Act! Community.

Swiftpage has recognised my expertise and passion, and as part of this working together, Swiftpage has endorsed me as an “Act! Certified Expert, sanctioned by Swiftpage” as at 1 August 2017.

I have also been fortunate, during these conversations, to have had a look at the future direction of roadmap for Act!. This has made me more excited to be working with them to try and bring these to market for you.

My Current Focus

It does have elements of the position of "P.O.P.E" as originally suggested as a comment in this LinkedIn thread from four years ago - by Paul Marentette, of Uptime Solutions in Canada, and seconded by many others including Bob Ogdon, Chairman and Founder of Swiftpage.

We have highlighted the following ways to work together:

1. Initially examining areas of the current build (19.2 Update 3), with a focus on MS-Office integration and other areas that users might suggest.

2. Become active again in the Act! Community Site and my Linkedin Act! Fanatics Group. Not just in supporting users, as I have done for many years, but also creating an analysis of the posts to identify the areas that users have the most issues with (usability or flaws).

3. Assist Swiftpage in updating and enhancing Act! Knowledgebase articles.

4. Alpha and Beta testing v20 as soon as it is available.

After this, I hope to assist Swiftpage in improving Act! eMarketing, WebAPI, Mobile Companion, and other areas. I also intend to help them enhance their relationships with the Act! Certified Consultants and other resellers channel.

Help Me To Help You

I have some requests for you, the Act! Fanatic community (users and the resale channel alike):

1. I would like to examine any systems where Act! v19 is having issues with Outlook integration. At this time, I would be happy to take on about three sites per week.
NOTE: This is a NO CHARGE offer - No charge to the user or reseller.

2. Could you please post, as a comment to this blog article, or in the LinkedIn Group, or via private communication to me, any bugs or areas where you think I should allocate additional time. If I do not understand your point, I may contact you to see it remotely on your system.

3. Please also comment in the forums above with any subjects that I could generate a blog article that you think could improve your use of Act!. I do have some ideas that I have not seen done before, but I would still value your opinions.

The Future

This agreement is a great opportunity for me, for the product and for the community of users who have been behind the product for up to 30 years.

Those of you who know me know that I will throw everything I have into testing every function I can - as a user. I will work with other users in the forums, via email or phone, to find the issues that matter most in keeping you productive. Then I will work to try and replicate the issues so that I can report them accurately to QA and Development so they can work on fixing them.

Once this is underway, I hope to also have a small say in helping them prioritise their resources so that they can deliver the best possible solution for us all and make Act! as great a product as we all know it can be.

About four years ago, a user asked me what I would do if the vendor put me in charge of the product. At that time, I described a roadmap over two-three years that I thought would be necessary without the funds of an Apple or Google. I still believe that, over a similar time-frame, we can have a leading solution again.

Please feel free to post any questions or comments you have on this.


Mike Lazarus
Act! Evangelist