Act! CRM Review
Ideal for individuals, and small businesses, Act! contact management software has almost always stayed in the top ten CRMs, mainly because of its topnotch contact management capabilities. The latest version adds several new features such as creating, sending and tracking customizable email marketing campaigns, and integration with several third party apps, that make it even more useful.
On the flipside, Act! has been sold four times to different companies since its inception in late 1980s and is currently owned by Swiftpage. It has a rather steep learning curve especially for novices, its setup can be tedious, and since it’s often sold by independent agents instead of its developers, the tech support service is not always consistent.
- Our rating: 6.3/10
- Free Trial: Yes (for 30 days)
- Price: $10 – $35/user/month
- Ideal for: Freelancers, sales teams, and small businesses
- Training required: Yes
*$0 means there is a free version available
Getting started (6/10)
Signing up for Act! was pretty straight forward and hassle-free, you can quickly sign up for the 30-day trail and test drive the software. The cloud-based trial version, however, has several limitations, for instance we were unable to import or download data.
Act! trial version has several limitations
Work area (14/20)
The Act! work area is a mixed bag, and the interface looks somewhat similar to the earlier versions of MS Windows. We liked the way the main modules and quick buttons are laid out, but the windows-based interface looks a bit old-fashioned. While modern users want to perform most routine tasks with as few clicks as possible, Act! has several useful menus buried deep under drop down menus, though there are several handy keyboard shortcuts to add to your learning curve.
Upper half of the sign up dialog box which has two important tabs wasn’t visible
Another good thing about the work space is that it has a variety of very useful options, e.g. the look up option lets you quickly find almost everything from a record to a contact to an annual event, and so on.
Act! offers several powerful features, one of them is look up that lets you quickly find any type of record
The work area is totally customizable; you can even create groups of contacts depending on any criteria. In short, Act! offers many great features, but sometimes at the expense of simplicity.
We also noticed an interesting little bug. Whenever we switched to full screen mode (using Google Chrome), the CRM would take us back to the last contact we’d opened.
There are three different versions of Act! The pricing gets a little complicated when you purchase more emails or add-ons.
Integration with 3rd-party apps (6/10)
Act! offers a marketplace with a variety of sales, marketing, reporting, ecommerce, management, and mobility apps. A few of the apps are free, but you’ll have to pay for most of them.
Act! contact manager is highly customizable. From adding custom fields to adding custom groups to adding advanced queries to look up items, you can customize the CRM pretty much any way you like.
Mobile support (2/10)
Act! doesn’t have a mobile app, and when we opened the test drive on an Android smartphone, it was pretty unwieldy, to say the least. There are, however, several paid third party apps that allow you sync and access your important Act! data such as contacts, calendar, to-dos, emails with Outlook/Exchange, and more on to your smartphone.
Act! is fairly scalable, the vendor claims that they’ve tested their software with up to 300 users all sharing the data together. Since it’s pretty customizable, you can also tweak it if your business grows and you have to manage new processes through your CRM.
Customer support (5/10)
Act! offers customer support only via phone Monday to Friday (8:30-20:30) – unless you buy premium support for $5/user/month. Support is also available through their channel network of resellers and VAR’s.
Back up and security (8/10)
If you’ve installed on-premise Act! Premium, taking care of backup and security is up to you, but for Act! Premium Cloud, a nightly backup is taken via their high security standards. Their role based access control is also commendable. There are 3 different types of security levels in Act!: Database Level, User Level and Record Level. So, the users within your organization can access only that data which you want them to access.
Contact & Company Management
Offering contact as well as company management, Act! is good for both B2C and B2B models. Contact Management and Company Management modules are the strongest points of Act! They offer almost every conceivable option to manage your customers, from adding a new contact to creating an associated to-do or note, to sending email, and more, on a single page.
List view of all contacts in Act!
Contacts can be linked to different companies, but more importantly, contacts sharing similar attributes can be grouped and accessed easily or updated in bulk. You can even create custom groups. In short, Act!’s contact/company management is one of the best, if not the best.
Details of a contact; a lot of data on the same page, some panels are hardly viewable
Calendar & Activity Management
Act! features a simple, yet feature rich calendar and an extremely powerful to-do list.
The calendar can be synced with Google calendar, and not only offers a variety of views of your upcoming events, but the management can also view their employees’ calendars.
Act! calendar syncs with Google calendar, and offers several views such as monthly, weekly, work week
The to-do list allows you to create to-dos and reminders for a variety of tasks such as calls, meetings, appointments, and personal activities. You can also add details, set recurrence, add reminders, link contacts, assign tasks and do a lot more from the same page, with just a few clicks.
Another powerful feature that lets you store product and service details and prices, link contacts, groups or companies to opportunities, add background info and then view the results in the form of detailed reports.
The opportunity management module might seem a bit daunting initially with its plethora of features, but once you get a hang of it, it allows you to do many little functions without much hassle.
An opportunity in Act!
There are a couple of handy things missing, for example there is no sales workflow that would prompt the user about the next action, such as we see in OnePage CRM. Also, the CRM doesn’t have automatic lead routing or lead scoring.
- Notes & History
Another great thing about Act! is that it keeps a detailed time and date-stamped history of all your actions and interactions. Also, you can add notes and attach them to any contact, assign a manager to a note, attach files, and share with other users.
- Email Marketing & Social Integration
We were unable to test both e-marketing and social integration in the test drive mode. But some quick research divulged that you can create, send, and track email campaigns from within Act! You can also view your contact’s social updates from LinkedIn and Facebook, which is pretty limited as compared to what several other CRMs such as Nimble, Constant Contact, Zoho and Relenta, have to offer. Remember, you’ll have to pay additional price (up to $60 per user per month) if you want to reach out to more than 500 contacts through e-marketing.
- Reporting & Dashboards
There are a variety of default reports, plus you can create custom reports – but unfortunately customizing Act! reports is a proverbial pain in the neck. You can view, print or instantly email a report. The Act! reports are pretty static and it’s hard to adapt reports in response to your evolving business requirements. The default reports give you a lot of options, but grouping data in a logical way we found rather cumbersome.
The default dashboard in Act!
As for dashboards, they offer a quick view of important components such as activities, opportunities and other administrative data, which you can easily filter. In addition to the default dashboards, administrators and managers can also define custom dashboards.
- Marketplace Apps
Act! Marketplace is where you can purchase third party apps to integrate with your system. These apps include Fax, Help desk/Support, Sales Management, Queries/Quotes/Reports, Accounting, Address/Shipping, Import/Export, Utilities, Data Management, Document Management, Project Management, Telephony, QuickStudy Guide, Mobile Devices and Video eCommerce.
- Cloud-based as well as on premise solutions
- Functionality rich contact management system with integrated email marketing
- Highly customizable and versatile
- Most features work cohesively, e.g. all records, appointments notes etc. are available under each corresponding contact as well as each company
- Great look up feature and keyboard shortcuts
- In addition to several other third-party apps, it also integrates with MS Word, Excel, Google Mail and Contacts, and Outlook (32 bit only)
- Powerful dashboards and document sharing
- Steep learning curve
- Complex pricing if you buy additional modules
- Not very browser friendly because it’s basically a desktop app and feels lagging behind the modern cloud-first CRMs
- Only offers basic social integration i.e. doesn’t allow infusion of more social selling signals
- Many routine tasks present significant difficulties
- Incompatible systems or programs, such as 64–bit Microsoft Office or Outlook, can expose one to conflicts at this point.
September 8th, 2014