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2012-04-09 21:43:52

E-mail History in Your CRM

There is no one Customer Relationship Manager (CRM), AKA Contact Manager that is the best for everyone. There is only the one that is best for you, given your aptitude for software, your current needs, and your future goals. The following is just one more example of different CRMs having different ways of accomplishing a similar function. This should help you in your decision when choosing a CRM.

Because our primary method of communication throughout a transaction is with e-mail, it is vital that those e-mails be retained for future reference for many reasons. Many brokers are now mandating that their agents retain a copy of all communications, including e-mail, and deliver them to the broker at the conclusion of the transaction for retention with the transaction file. Therefore, it is more important than ever to be organized with respect to e-mail.\

E-mail has always been available in the agent's e-mail software such as Outlook, Gmail, and Ymail for future reference and documentation. What has changed is that more and more agents have also been using a CRM to allow them to be more efficient with marketing, prospecting, follow-up, and transaction management. Until relatively recently, most agents who have been using a CRM that is not an Outlook add-on have had their detailed contact information and notes in a CRM and their e-mail in a separate e-mail program. This has necessitated the inefficient task of essentially maintaining two different databases, one in the e-mail software and one in the CRM. This has meant not only redundant data entry, but having to bounce back and forth between the e-mail software and the CRM when working with a contact or on a transaction. That is the case, because until recently, the vast majority of CRMs have not been capable of automatically storing both outgoing and incoming e-mail with the contact record in the CRM. Many CRMs allow the user to send an e-mail from within the CRM and automatically store it with the contact record, but historically very few have allowed the same for incoming e-mail. The most desirable scenario has always been that all e-mails would be automatically stored with the client's contact record in the CRM, allowing the agent to have a complete history of all communications stored in one place. Optimally, that whole history could then be printed or saved to a file.

Now that agents are becoming aware that it is possible to have that best case scenario, they are looking for CRMs that provide it. There are two ways in which the CRMs are providing this function.


  • The CRM has its own e-mail software integrated into it. This means that instead of using Outlook or Gmail or any other external e-mail software, the software provided in the CRM is used to replace them. This is the most efficient method which is why several CRMs now provide this capability. This method enables the user to automatically store the e-mails with the contact record without having to take any extra steps such as copying and pasting them into the notes.
  • The CRM uses what is most often referred to as a drop box. The way it works is that the user continues to use whatever e-mail software they are currently using, and can use literally any e-mail software. Instead of the e-mail being automatically stored with the contact record, it must be Forwarded or CC'd to the CRM by using a special e-mail address. When that e-mail is sent, the CRM receives it, looks for the contact's e-mail address, and stores it with that contact record. This is not as efficient, but does enable a consolidated history with the contact much more easily than copying and pasting.

There are two different ways the CRMs store e-mails:

  • They are stored as actionable e-mails, meaning that if the e-mail is opened from where it is stored in the contact record, it can be forwarded or replied to.
  • The e-mail is stored as a time-stamped and dated note.

There are pros and cons to both methods:

  • If it is stored as an actionable e-mail, the upside is that it is easy to reply or forward, retaining the original message in the body of the e-mail for the recipient's reference. The downside is that the e-mail history can not be exported to be imported by another CRM program if at some time there is a decision to switch to another one.
  • If it is stored as a note, the downside is that a new e-mail must be created without having the previous content of the e-mail being referenced in the body of the message. The upside is that if the CRM can export notes, then it is likely that they can be exported so that the next CRM may be able to import that history.

Clearly, there are significant pros and cons to both, so once again it comes down to a personal choice of which is best for you. When choosing a CRM it would be best to have one that does provide one of these features and can be prioritized by which is your favorite. You may prefer one over the other, but when looking, you'll want to balance that preference with what other features are provided by the CRM you like most overall. Happy hunting!


More Articles by Gary David Hall:
Web based versus Desktop Contact Manager/CRM Solutions
A Brief History of CRM & Who Will Survive? (Part 1)
A Brief History of CRM & Who Will Survive? (Part 2)



Gary David Hall became a Real Estate Agent in 1987, and has been in the industry ever since. Gary has been "in the trenches", and speaks your language. Gary's clients often qualify him as being able to teach so that they understand, without a lot of technical jargon. He knows exactly what it's like to sell Real Estate, and that is why his training is so much more relevant and insightful, than someone that was never a top producing agent. Just ask his clients. His last 4 years in Real Estate Sales, Gary closed 147 transaction sides. Having just come from a background as a computer technician, and then a computer operations manager, he was able to put many automated systems into practice. When it became evident that the industry needed the technological efficiency he used in his personal business, he decided to share that knowledge with other real estate professionals. So he founded RE-ACT (Real Estate Automation, Consultation and Training) in 1999.

Gary's primary focus is helping agents improve their transaction management, lead generation and follow-up efficiency and techniques, by using Contact Management/CRM software.
He travels the country conducting seminars comprised of the many topics of which agents have a need for more clarity, such as Choosing and Using a Contact Manager or CRM.

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