Intuit Plunges Into CRM for SMBs

For the first time Intuit is branching out beyond its wildly popular financial products to unveil QuickBooks Customer Manager, a CRM solution. Aimed at small businesses with fewer than 20 employees, the product focuses on simplifying the way users track customers and related projects, manage customer information, and provide customer service, rather than on gaining visibility into the sales pipeline and prospecting. "This is an opportunity to service small businesses beyond accounting," Charles Var, Inuit's communications manager for the QuickBooks Group, says. "This product is providing critical things that small business owners need and QuickBooks doesn't have." QuickBooks Customer Manager, due out in September, is priced at $79.95 and will offer tight integration with QuickBooks. Var expects that the majority of customers will also be users of QuickBooks, which has an installed base of 2.6 million customers. "This isn't the traditional CRM," says Sheryl Kingstone, an analyst with the Yankee Group. "This product is not built around team selling or giving multiple users a single view of the customer. It is aimed at the SOHO market, which doesn't need things like traditional sales methodology and the ability to look into the sales pipeline. This is perfect for the small business that is all managing customers and related projects." Var says that according to Intuit's research, businesses with fewer than 20 workers comprise 90 percent of all businesses. Software spending is low, and CRM software is only in 13 percent of small business, despite the fact that 35 percent have tried it. The rest of small business users are using office applications to manage customers. Ninety percent of those without CRM software are using Microsoft Word to track customers, while others are using Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Excel, personal information managers, and even QuickBooks, Var says. Intuit homed in on the customer service features because most small businesses claim that referrals and word-of-mouth are what drive sales. They are also more interested in establishing long-term relations with customers, not just having a single transaction, according to Var. Most of the potential users are also computer unsavvy. That's why everything is displayed on a single screen and all files link to each other for synchronization and updating. Kingstone notes that the interface is "beautiful" and Var claims it takes less than 30 minutes to set up. Judy Sandage, vice president of Sandco Plumbing and Heating, an 11 person company in Loveland, CO, has been beta testing the product for a couple of weeks, and has been a QuickBooks user since 1991. "This is really cool," she says. "I am better organized. Everything is in one place. I can have documents and emails attached to a customer's information and when I click on the email it opens up. I can sort customers by whatever criteria I want. If there is a group of customers I have to remember to contact I can group them all together." Kingstone claims that Intuit is going to have to educate the market on the benefits of the product. "Most of the target users aren't doing this right now, but once they start using the product they will see how much it pays off," Kingstone says.
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