Article | 6 min read

What is a contact management system?

Last updated August 11, 2021

Keeping on top of your contacts is essential for any business, and contact management software can save you time, money and effort. Whether you’re considering enterprise contact management software, or you’re a start-up or small business wondering how it could work for you, there are benefits for every type of company.

What exactly is a contact management tool?

Whether it’s called a contact management system, tool, or software, it all offers the same function. Put simply, it’s a way to record your customer or contact details and track each interaction they have with your business.

Back in the day, a contact management system might have consisted of a Filofax, or a filing cabinet bursting at the seams with customer information, and maybe you still use an address book or an Excel sheet with entries for all of your contacts. That is a contact management system in its most basic form.

However, most businesses find that it’s more beneficial to use software, in the form of a specialist contact management tool. This makes it much easier when you have several customer contacts that you need to keep data on, as well as several members of a sales team or your customer support team who need easy access to the information – and ease of access has become even more important with so many staff working from home these days.

What are the benefits of a contact management system?

If you have a business that has any sort of contact with customers, then a contact management system (CMS) can be beneficial.

Save time

Having all of your customer details stored in one central location is hugely valuable for your sales managers and customer service teams, saving endless amounts of time by having everything they need in one place.

Keep data up to date

A CMS tool makes it easier to keep your contact information up to date, and everyone in the sales and marketing teams has confidence that they’re using the right data – and what’s more, because it’s all stored on a central tool, there’s no risk of former colleagues taking half of your leads with them.

Keep tabs on your sales pipeline

A CMS makes it less likely for leads to fall through the cracks, and can even help you to improve your sales processes as you can add information about each contact, taking notes on what has worked well – and what they haven’t responded to.

Who needs to use a CMS?

Businesses of all sizes, and in every industry, can benefit from a contact management system. All businesses have contacts – and if you want to ensure that your contact information is stored efficiently and safely, you need a tool like a CMS that keeps everything organised.

What features should you look out for in a CMS?

Every contact management system is different, but you should look for the following gestures as standard:

  • Contact database: This allows you to store all of your contact information such as name, address, email, phone number, and so on.
  • Data analysis: You should be able to add tags to each content (such as industry, location or age) which will help you to segment your customers and target specific people for sales and marketing activity.
  • Lead management: Look for a tool that helps you to capture, track and rate leads.
  • Prospecting tools: A good CMS should also support with tasks like finding contact details, booking meetings and qualifying prospects.
  • Integrations: A handy feature, this ensures that your chosen CMS will connect to other apps for everyday business processes such as your email, calendar or social media tools. 

It’s also a good idea to look for a CMS that offers automation for basic tasks like customer profile generation, which is sure to save your sales managers a lot of time and effort, leaving them to focus on the things that really require a human touch.

You’ll also want to look for a cloud-based tool. This makes it easier for everyone to get access to the CMS when they need it, whether they’re working from home or travelling to a meeting – without, of course, sacrificing speed or security.

And it goes without saying that security should be a top priority when you’re looking for a CMS. You need one that complies with GDPR, keeping all of your customer and prospect data safe and secure, whilst also giving easy access to everyone that needs it.

Are there any CMS limitations?

Contact management systems are great for organising your contacts, as well as the features mentioned above, but that’s as far as their functionality goes. They’re only designed for one purpose: the management and organisation of contact details. So if you’re only looking for this feature, enterprise content management (ECM) is a great choice for your business. Otherwise, you may want to consider a CRM instead.

What’s the difference between a CMS and a CRM?

It’s easy to get confused between contact management systems and customer relationship management, sometimes called a CRM tool. They are related, in that they both help you to manage customer contacts – but a CRM system is typically broader in scope than a CMS, offering more functionalities. Most CRM software offers a CMS as part of your paid plan – but not all contact management systems include CRM capabilities.

A customer relationship management (CRM) system not only gives you all the benefits of a CMS, but it offers many other benefits. 

Improve customer relationships

A CRM can improve your customer retention, allow you to personalise interactions with customers and quickly and easily resolve complaints. That’s because CRM software will track every customer interaction so you’re one step ahead, allowing you to send a check-in email in anticipation of an issue, reward a customer for their loyalty, or improve profitability by cross- and up-selling products you already know they’ll love. 

Improve your sales processes

As well as managing customer interactions, a sales CRM will help you to keep on top of leads, manage the sales funnel and reduce bottlenecks with in-depth reporting. And with access to cloud-based CRMs and mobile apps, you can access data from anywhere – even if you’re heading to a crucial sales meeting.

Improve team interaction 

When everyone is on the same page using the up-to-date information from your CRM dashboard, teams can easily collaborate. Customer support agents, marketers and salespeople use the same data to craft consistent messaging, so no one is confused about who is making what promises.

Curious to see how a CMS or CRM could work for your business? Zendesk offers free trials, so whether you’re looking to improve your customer relationships or boost your sales processes, you can see how we can support your goals.