How to Manage Support Cases using Act! CRM Custom Tables
Act! custom tables are an impressive product addition enabling users to manage more processes and entities.
Act! has always been great at managing contact relationships, as well as tracking activities and sales opportunities, but it has been less flexible for organisations that wanted to customise the system to manage the other processes that matter to them.
Depending on the industry and type of business this could include a need to manage property, software licenses, vehicles, hardware and applications.
Two frequent requirements are for Act! to manage support tickets and support agreements.
In previous Act! versions this level of customisation wasn't possible which forced users to attempt a compromise solution using default functions which weren't designed to handle these processes, or look at another system.
With the arrival of custom tables for Act! Premium Plus, it is a different story!
Customers can now create additional Act! sections for these entities, each with their own data tables, fields and layout, using inbuilt functions that don't require specialist development skills.
To demonstrate these new capabilities we'll firstly look at how Act! can now be adapted to manage support tickets.
For this example we've added a new 'Cases' entity to the Act! navbar using a new custom table.
In Act! Premium Plus, custom tables are managed through a new menu option that includes controls for managers and admin users to:
- Create, edit and delete tables / entities
- Create, edit and delete fields for each custom table
- Design layouts for these entities
- Edit the default columns
A further control includes the option to import one of the templates that are included with Act! Premium Plus. These cover various industries and offer a short cut in building a new custom table with predefined fields and a suggested layout. Once imported, these elements can fine tuned to precisely fit specific needs.
Creating an Act! Custom Table
In the first instance, a new custom table will need to be created.
For this example, we've named the new table 'Cases' and uploaded the icon that appears in the navbar. This table has been set to appear on the contact record tab alongside other items including activities, opportunities and groups. A separate setting has been applied to link Cases to Contacts.
If you are importing an industry template this will pre-populate the field list but if you are creating a new custom table from scratch you'll need to define some fields.
It is important to note these fields are unique to the custom table. As a result, these won't appear in the usual Act! 'define fields' section.
The field picker area is broadly consistent with usual field definitions with options for field types including date, character, currency, URLs, yes / no, images, memo and time.
Further options include mandatory field controls, drop-down lists, generate history on change and default value.
For this example, the fields associated with the Cases entity include: incident date, status, data closed and category:
Once the fields have been defined, a layout for the Cases custom table can be designed.
If an industry template has been imported this screen will be pre-populated but in all other instances, or unless this has been cloned from another layout, the Act! admin user will need to drag in the appropriate fields from the properties pop-up.
In this scenario, a dozen or so fields have been dropped in to create the Cases entity layout that will enable end users to track customer service issues. Similar to the usual Act! layout designer, precise settings can applied to define the appearance of individual fields:
When this table was created, Cases were associated with the Contacts entity so as a result the 'Record Details' tab for this entity will pull through Contact data.
One of the best features of custom tables is the ability to use cascading drop-downs (also known as dependent drop-downs) to personalize each layout whereby drop-down options depend on the value of another field.
In our example we have used a Category field to profile the different types of support request. This can be linked with the Priority field which also appears on the same layout to control which of these drop-down options appear.
The Priority field has three possible options: Critical, High & Standard.
Within the cascading control the Act! admin has defined if all, some or just one of these 3 priorities should appear for each category. For one of these items, 'System Down' the only priority that will appear is Tier 1 - Critical reflecting the urgency of this issue:
This functionality can guide agents and improve data quality by showing or hiding a longer series of drop-down options details based on the specific detail entered in another drop-down about a Case. In another example, an 'Importing' entry could feed into an issue drop-down field that will capture more detail about this specific problem showing contextual options that could include: Excel, Outlook and CSV.
Accessing Custom Table Entities
On the contact record tab, the new Cases entity appears so for this record we'll create a new service case:
Clicking the Add Cases button opens the Cases custom table layout which will be used to enter information about the new support issue.
In this instance a new case has been created about a customisation issue which has been assigned a regular priority level and will be assigned to the current user:
Once saved, this item will now appear on the Cases tab for the Contact...
...and it will also be listed on the main Cases nav screen which lists all Case record created for contacts in the database.
Firstly, we have applied some conditional formatting with a simple rule to highlight cases logged with 'Critical' importance so that these appear more prominent in red:
By default, this view shows all cases and can be sorted by any of these columns. It will also be helpful to group these to more easily understand which items are outstanding by splitting these between resolved and unresolved cases.
To do this, we've toggled the 'Group' option and dragged in the column Status to apply this as a filter:
To segment this further, a sub-filter can also be applied.
In this case, the Priority column has been attached to further segment these records.
Now, at a glance Act! users can instantly see what cases are outstanding - and which ones are most urgent:
To run a basic search on custom tables, toggle the Quick Filter control.
For this search, we want to find out how many cases have been logged for training issues.
This reveals that one contact has logged three issues which have been categorised as training issues so we might want to ask their account manager to recommend some tuition...
More advanced searches can be run on custom tables / entities within the Lookup menu and selecting the appropriate custom table to open the query control to include AND / OR controls.
Custom Tables were first introducted in Act! v20.1 for Act! Premium Plus.