Big Improvements to Google & Exchange Contact Import

26-Jul 2012

Two of the most popular address books in use today are Google Contacts and Microsoft's Exchange/Outlook/Office365 Contacts. Unfortunately, what these address books and contact databases gain in ease of use and simplicity, they lack in features to make them useful as a sales. Want to share your contact list with your colleagues? No luck. Want to group contacts together by the business the people work for? No, can't have that either.

CRM products like Accelo however have powerful, central, shareable contact databases, but it is almost always less convenient to add someone quickly to a sales than it is to add them to your smartphone's address book, or click on the "save to contacts" link from the email window.

Today, however, we're excited to announce a solution to this problem.

Now you can create contacts in your Google or Exchange address book, quick and dirty as you normally do, and then have them import into Accelo and have the benefits of things like central access across your team, address book sync with colleagues and automatic email capture.

How does it work?

From today, if you've connected your Accelo account with Google or Microsoft Exchange/Office365, you'll be able to use our new contact import wizard.

A few times an hour, Accelo will connect to your Google or Exchange address book and look for new contacts. It is now part of our automated sync process (which keeps contacts you've already imported into Accelo up to date), but now if we see a new contact we'll load them up into the wizard for you to review when you have time.

By following the link in the yellow notification area, or by going to "Administration" and then "Import" and choosing Google or Exchange, you'll be able to review a list of new contacts that we've discovered and decide if you want to import them into your Accelo account. If they're a personal contact you don't want to import into Accelo, you can simply hit the red "x" and they'll be ignored forever more.

However, if they're someone you do want to import, you simply need to confirm a couple of details - most noteably the business/company name of the client - and when you hit save they'll automatically be imported into Accelo.

As a bonus, if you've set up shared address book syncing with any of your colleagues, the contact will automatically push into their address book(s) too.

1. Create the contact as a Google/Exchange Contact

Firstly, you'll want to create your contact in Google or Outlook/Exchange/Office365. The screenshot below shows us creating a contact in Google Contacts.

You'll notice the contact is in the "My Contacts" group (the default); because of the way Google Contacts works, we only import contacts who are in at least one group (Google puts a lot of rubbish, basically anything you reply to including mailing lists and Facebook notification addresses in your address book but they aren't categorized).

Once you've saved the contact, we'll pick it up on the next sync sweep of your address book.

2. Wait for the import notification

When we've done the sweep and pulled the contact information into the import queue, we'll load a notification for you in Accelo.

If you click on the link, you'll be bought to the start of the import wizard/process.

3. If you can't wait, go to the Import link from the Administration area

If you're impatient, you can jump directly into the import process by going to "Administration" (clicking on the wrench/spanner icon in the top navigation), and then scrolling down to the Import section. Choose either Google or Exchange (and use Exchange for Office365 too).

The next screen will show you whether you have any contacts ready to import.

4. See if there are any contacts waiting (and choose groups to import from if from Google)

From this screen, you'll be able to see the last time Accelo sync'ed with your address book, as well as whether you have any contacts waiting for an import.

If you're using Google Contacts as your import source, you'll also need to choose which groups you want to import from. From here, you click on "Confirm contacts to import" to review the contacts and choose which ones to bring into Accelo.

5. Review the contacts - IMPORTANT!

This is the most important part of the whole process for two reasons:

  1. This review process makes sure Accelo doesn't import contacts who you'd rather keep private, and
  2. This review process is where you can choose to group contacts around company/client records

If you don't want to import a contact into Accelo from your address book, hit the red X icon. We will then ignore this contact in your address book into the future and not bother you about them again!

If you do want to import a contact, you're going to need to double-check them. One of the biggest limitations of address books is that entering "company" or "business name" details is not required, is often hidden, and is thus rarely done. Unfortunately, for a business focused sales, this is a big problem.

This is why we require you to select/enter a company name when you're running your import. We try and find an existing company in Accelo and we also group contacts with the same email domain together so it is easy for you to group contacts together under a common company record.

  • If we have made an incorrect guess and grouped contacts together who shouldn't be against the same company, you can just click "Unlink", and then we'll separate them.
  • If we haven't made the group connection the way we should, just enter the business/company name exactly the same way across each contact you want to see grouped, and we'll link them together on import.

(In our example, Ritchie Valens didn't have a company name set in Google Contacts, so we have manually entered his record label, Del-Fi Records as part of the import process).

For the curious, we group in the following way:

  1. We try and match any company name records that are actually set in your address book to companies already in Accelo. We do this:
    1. by looking at the name of the business and matching it directly first of all, and then
    2. by looking at the email domain of the users you're importing to and trying to find any existing clients you have who's email matches the same domain. We also use an extensive exclusion list that we've refined through our email capture processes to make sure we don't accidentally group together ISP and webmail domains like gmail.com.

6. Companies & Contacts will then be created

When you process the import on a page, we'll create the company and contact (or update them if you've chosen to merge the information with an existing contact we matched). This takes effect immediately, and happens every time you save a page of the wizard.

Handy tip: if you've got a big address book and not a lot of time, you can process a page on the import and then and later return to pick up where you left off - you don't need to import all your contacts at once.

7. Updated/improved contact details will be pushed back to Google/Exchange

If you've turned on auto-sync for contacts, the newly imported contact will be synchronized right back with your Google or Exchange contact list. This is often necessary because we'll have updated the company details and possibly also updated other fields on the import. When the push back to Google or Exchange is complete, you'll get a notification.

Note, this also works for the situation where you choose to sync with the address books of your colleagues.

8. Any changes in Google/Exchange will be imported back into Accelo

When you go back to your Google/Exchange contacts list, you'll now see your address book updated too!

(Note in this example that Ritchie Valens now has a company record of Del-Fi records, which is what we set the company name to be in the import wizard)

9. Your smartphone will also be sync'ed in real time too!

If you've got your smartphone synchronized with your Google Contacts or your Exchange/Office365 Contacts, you'll also see the contact appear and synchronize with your phone in no time at all!

We hope you like this new feature, and we'd love to know what you think - share your thoughts in the comments below, or by emailing support@accelo.com

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