As much as any major software company around, financial mainstay Intuit is in the ongoing process of reinventing itself for the Web. So it makes sense that its newest small-business offering is debuting as a Web service; Customer Manager is a little-company version of what big companies call Customer Response Management (CRM): A suite of tools for keeping track of your relationships with the companies who do business with you. It’s a browser-based, customizable, shared database of customer information that syncs with Intuit’s QuickBooks–you can see recent financial transactions, for instance–and can import and export information from Outlook and Exchange.
Customer Manager also has a shared calendar and to-do list; there’s also a BlackBerry version, with editions for other smartphones on the way.
Judging from the demo Intuit gave me, the whole shebang aims for basic features and simplicity rather super-sophisicated stuff. Which may make sense for the target customers: Small businesses who are still juggling data about customers using Excel, if they’re doing it at all. The price is right, too: $9.95 a month for up to five users.
So much of small-business America’s customer info is already stored in QuickBooks that Customer Manager feels more like a logical extension of what Intuit’s already up to than a brave new frontier. I asked Product Manager John Flora if we’d see the company branch out more with additional services for Web-savvy smaller companies. Yup, he said, we would. The world of QuickBooks is still fairly desktop-centric–the online version doesn’t try to replicate the desktop ones–and it’ll be interesting to see if it follows Quicken’s current fast-forward move to the Web.