How To Use Outlook as a CRM

Whatever the size of your business, building and maintaining strong relationships with customers is essential for success. To achieve that, you may use the help of a customer relationship management (CRM) tool.

While many dedicated solutions are available out there, some individuals might seek a more accessible and cost-effective CRM software solution, such as Microsoft Outlook. Despite having the primary function as an email client, Outlook also has the basic features of a CRM tool.

So, if you want to learn how to use Outlook as a CRM, keep reading. In this article, we’ll go through how Outlook can help you build stronger customer relationships without needing a separate CRM platform.

Using Outlook as a Basic CRM Tool

CRM

Microsoft Outlook has excellent potential to function as a CRM tool. It may not have the extensive features of specialised CRM tools. However, its simple user interface and accessibility make it an appealing option for those who want to manage customer interactions efficiently.

Here’s how to use Outlook features to function as a CRM in your business.

1. Contact Management

One of the most important features of Outlook is contact management. After all, those contacts are the customers you need to connect with. So, keeping their information organised is the first step toward seamless communication.

In general, Outlook enables you to:

  • Add contacts easily by inputting their name, email, and phone number.
  • Organise your contacts by grouping them into categories, such as customers, business partners, suppliers, etc.
  • Update contact information when changed.
  • Search and filter contacts through a handy search bar.
  • Export and backup contact info whenever you change devices.

2. Task Management

As for Outlook’s task management feature, it can help simplify the interactions with your customers. Here’s how:

  • Creating Tasks: Through Outlook, you can create tasks related to specific customers. For example, you can set up tasks for client follow-ups, meeting scheduling, etc. This feature helps your team stay attentive to the needs of potential customers.
  • Setting Task Priorities: Because not all tasks are equally important, Outlook allows you to set priorities for them. This feature helps highlight which action is more urgent than the other.
  • Setting Reminders: In order not to forget a task or miss an appointment, you can set a reminder or assign a due date for it.
  • Categorising Tasks: Just like contacts, you can categorise tasks through Outlook too. It helps in separating different customer-related activities. For example, you may have categories for sales phone calls, customer meetings, etc.
  • Tracking Task Progress: Outlook allows you to mark tasks as complete, making it easy for you to track what you accomplished and what still needs attention.

3. Email Management

Emails Management

With email communication being used often, your inbox becomes a valuable place that needs efficient management. Here are some of Outlook’s features that can elevate your customer communications.

  • Folder Organisation: Outlook allows you to create folders to categorise and store your email messages. This way, you can keep your inbox tidy and locate needed communications easily.
  • Email Categorising: Just like you do with contacts and tasks, you can also colour-code your emails. Such categorization makes it simpler to prioritise emails and respond to them efficiently.
  • Rules and Filters: With this feature, your inbox can organise itself automatically. You just need to set up rules to sort incoming emails based on criteria like sender, subject, or keywords.
  • Email Flagging: Outlook’s flagging feature allows you to mark emails as important or set reminders for responding to them.
  • Email Templates: For recurring communications, Outlook enables you to create email templates. Such a feature is useful for standard replies, ensuring consistency of response and saving time on repetitive tasks.

4. Calendar Integration

calendar app

Another fantastic feature of Outlook that helps it do great as a CRM tool is its calendar integration. So, Outlook calendar isn’t just a date-keeping tool.

Here’s how the calendar integration feature can be useful for your CRM efforts:

    • Scheduling Tasks: Outlook’s task manager allows seamless integration with its calendar, enabling you to view customer tasks with set due dates. Whether it’s a meeting or a follow-up call, you can mark it in your calendar.
    • Visualising Your Schedule: By allowing you to see when you’re free and when you have customer engagements, Outlook provides a visual representation of your schedule. This helps you in better future planning.
  • Setting up Recurring Events: Using Outlook, you get to set up recurring events, making it easier to handle regular follow-ups with clients. This ensures you always stay in touch with them.
  • Providing Meeting Insights: Due to being integrated with your emails, the calendar can show you a quick context of interactions with a specific contact before your engagement.

5. Categories and Labels

Categorising in Outlook isn’t feature-specific. It’s an interconnected and consistent option across all features. By default, a category assigned to a contact carries through to tasks and calendar events. Such a fantastic system ensures uniformity in your CRM efforts.

On top of that, the filtering and searching tool allows you to find the piece of information you need as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

Integrating Outlook With Microsoft Dynamics 365

Dynamics 365 is a suite of integrated business applications designed to streamline CRM functions with tools to help finance, customer service, sales teams, etc.

While Outlook itself is an efficient tool for managing customer interactions, you can significantly expand its capabilities by integrating it with Dynamic 365.

Take a look at the features that can help improve your customer management efforts.

  1. Unified Customer View: Integrating Dynamics 365 with Outlook helps create a unified customer view that allows you to see all the relevant details when you open an email sent by that customer. This includes insights into their position in the sales pipeline.
  2. Synced Contacts and Calendars: That integration also ensures seamless synchronisation of Outlook contacts and calendars with Dynamics 365. Any addition or update you make on either platform reflects on the other, eliminating the need for duplicate data entry.
  3. Task and Opportunity Management: Tasks related to customer interactions also integrate with Dynamics 365. This means actions like setting up tasks or identifying sales opportunities flow seamlessly through your CRM system for an organised workflow.
  4. Email Engagement Analytics: Dynamics 365 provides advanced analytics of email engagement. Through it, you can track who opened your emails and what link they clicked on. Such data allows you to track the effectiveness of your applied business strategies.
  5. Automated Lead Capture: When a customer reaches out to your business through an email, Dynamics 365 can automatically capture this interaction as a lead. Such automation streamlines the lead generation process, making sure no opportunity goes overlooked.
  6. Mobile Accessibility: The integration extends to mobile platforms, allowing you to access data on the go. Whether responding to emails, checking the calendar, or reviewing customer details, such accessibility ensures flexibility in managing customer relationships for sales teams.

Essential Tips on Using Outlook as a CRM

Using Outlook as a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool can be highly effective. Utilising a few smart strategies, you can make the most out of it.

Here are some tips and best practices to help you out.

  • Make sure to regularly update contact information to maintain an accurate and reliable customer database.
  • Use categories and labels wisely to organise your contacts, tasks, and emails (Utilising colour coding can make it quite easy to distinguish the different types of customer interactions).
  • Learn the keyboard shortcuts in Outlook to help you streamline your workflow and save valuable time.
  • Set clear follow-up tasks using the task management feature to ensure no important action goes forgotten.
  • Leverage calendar reminders for customer-related events and follow-ups to stay on top of your schedule.
  • Use email notifications selectively to focus on what matters most to your business.
  • Share your Outlook calendar with your team to avoid unuseful conversations about availability.
  • Save time on repetitive email replies by creating email templates for common communications to ensure consistency and efficiency.
  • Keep your inbox organised by regularly reviewing and cleaning it.
  • Use email folders, rules, and filters to manage incoming emails efficiently.
  • Integrate Outlook CRM features with your mobile devices to manage customer interactions portably.
  • Explore third-party integrations (Outlook add-ins) that can enhance its CRM capabilities, such as HubSpot, Zoho, and Capsule.
  • Consider backing up your Outlook data regularly to ensure you don’t lose important customer information and communications.
  • Take time to learn about the wide array of advanced features offered by Outlook to enhance your CRM efforts.

Final Thoughts

Microsoft Outlook can be a handy tool for managing customer relationships for businesses. It may not have all the advanced features of other solutions, but it still is worth trying.

By learning how to use Outlook as a CRM, you can make the most out of it. Whether for task management, email organisation, or calendar integration, Microsoft Outlook can help simplify your business interactions.

That said, if you’re looking to step up your CRM game, you can always consider integrating Outlook with solutions such as Microsoft Dynamics 365.

In all cases, remember that taking the time to explore a software’s features pays off. So, experiment with Outlook and try to find the options that work best for your business.