CRM in the Inbox (part of the email evolution)

Email clients have grown much more feature rich.  Enterprise products such as Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes , both have a plugin component,which enables other applications to feed off and complement the standard portions of an email (address, subject & text).

However a reasonably recent development is the active integration of contact information sourced from a mass of consumer and professional networks.

I’ve not done a great deal of research on this but I think the main services that excel at this are :

GIST – available for Gmail, Outlook via multiple browsers and more…

I grabbed GIST while it was still available for Lotus Notes.

Gist as it appears in Lotus Notes:

GistinNotes

While the Lotus Notes plugin was only a beta [Lotus Notes withdrawn April 2010].  For me the drag and drop installation to the sidebar was very smooth, and the integration with smart links within the message text worked very well.  Chris Miller of (IdoNotes) fame – mentioned it as one of his favourite plugins here

Rapportive –  is only available for Gmail via multiple browsers

How do they stack up?

GIST is a very comprehensive contact management service, it pulls in data from other services and pushes back updates – in the plugin, via the web site or email notification.  However,  I have the following bug bears with GIST

  • It seems to need a “confirmation” of attributes for each contact
  • Contact data duplications also need a manual merger action

So GIST needs a lot of manual effort and input to sustain its value.  I would definitely is this as a must-have tool for those who are heavily occupied in CRM and sales cycles.  However, I would be concerned at the management overhead for those with a large contact roster.

Rapportive is about providing rich insight into your contacts, providing summaries of the contacts details from vast variety of social network, CRM management applications etc. 

  • It doesn’t always provide accurate data – but doesn’t mandate data verification before displaying it

Rapportive is a more rapid and is an in flight way of finding the latest news or updates from your contacts. It works very smoothly in Gmail, so is great news for those that use Gmail for business purposes, and it does support Google Apps domains.  (https://rapportive.com/help)  Also it appears in space used for Ads from Google in Gmail, therefore redeeming that browser space for something much more valuable.

Other points of note:

GIST has been acquired by RIM see : Gist is now part of RIM

  • This shows how much emphasis and value there is  CRM and mobility, and the consolidation of complementary services in the industry.

Summary:

I much prefer Rapportive  it is fast and provides that instantaneous insight into a contact. I hope they expand their support to other (non-web) mail clients.

GIST seems well positioned to support the Enterprise market, I hope they sort out manual overhead needed, and also bring back the Lotus Notes client.

I certainly recommend you check either or both of these out.  It will change the way you use and think about how you use email and contact information.

I would anticipate enterprise mail clients to pack more of these contact CRM features in near term releases.

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