Managing contacts - anyone have efficient approaches?

My organization (10-ish folks) is having problems buying into the value of more diligently managing contacts in Airtable. Airtable has been made the primary technology in the org, along with the Google ecosystem. However, it’s highly likely that a good % of the org is not updating info in a timely manner nor adding new contacts.

I’m interested in discussing any good hacks that might allow the team to more easily initiate contact data updates in the flow of the vast majority of tools they use (gmail, gdocs & zoom).

I had one idea to set up an automation involving Make and Airtable, where a team member can bcc an internal gmail address when communicating with a person (contact) they want to add/update info for. Make could parse the info from the email header fields and add a record in an Airtable base. This record would kick off an automation that would look for a contact matching the email in the contacts table, and then do something to begin the process of collecting updated/new info.

Any other ideas out there? Thanks for sharing!!!

Hey @augmented!

As someone who has implemented Airtable for a few teams of varying sizes, I empathize with the struggle of driving user adoption.

This might be a bit dense, but faced with what you’ve described, I think of two things:


First: Integration

I would also leverage a tool like Make to create data channels from your team’s existing tools into Airtable.

You want Airtable to be your single source of truth.
A fundamental principle in maintaining clean data is avoiding what I call cross-talk.

You want to prevent systems from talking to one another.
It would help if you had them route to your source of truth, where their data can then be routed to other systems.

There is a myriad of reasons why this is beneficial, but the diagram below gives you an idea of how messy it can become when everything talks between each other.

Cleaning it up can bring you into a structure like this:

While Gmail, Zoom, and your other Google apps might have native integrations, the data they’re working with is always in your source of truth.

Make can coordinate and automate getting that data into Airtable, but it will always end up in the same place.

Now, in terms of actual implementation, from what I’ve seen, @ScottWorld loves Make. Scott can probably provide a bit of insight on that front.

Depending on your level of comfortability with scripting/JS, it is also possible to have emails forwarded via Make (or your email client, depending on the client) hit a webhook in Airtable, have a script evaluate the payload, and then run through a Find → Update → Create setup to handle the bulk CRM automation.


Secondly: Break Down The Cost-Benefit Analysis

This can be the tough love approach.
Anytime you introduce a new tool or make a process change, there will be people that inevitably don’t like it.

The key is to have people understand the ways that a change benefits them.
Sure, it’s a change in where they click or what apps they have open, but what does that change allow them to do now that they couldn’t do before.

Is that valuable to them?

Answering that question is critical to driving adoption.

It’s also vital from a business perspective.

:no_entry: What’s below is a bit more in the line of thinking behind product management and business operations than anything else. :no_entry:

Depending on your relationship with your users and stakeholders, it would be beneficial to consider how you can build user engagement by highlighting the business value of the change or product.

I like to think about actual metrics.

Let’s say it takes 10 minutes to work through a customer task and finish a workflow.
An IC spends 1 minute working on each sub-task, but they lose 25 seconds doing duplicate data entry and hopping between systems.

Take that math, and you realize that they’re losing over 4 minutes doing what should be a 6-minute task.

Scale that to 45 customers in a single 7.5-hour workday.

  • 10 minutes per customer = 7.5 hours (450 minutes).
  • Total Time Lost = 3 hours (180 minutes).
    - Actual Productivity Time = 4.5 hours.

So… in a week, you expect 37.5 productive hours from an IC, but the actual number is only 22.5 hours.

In a 250-day work year, you expect 1950 productive hours, but the actual number is only 1170 hours.


Of course, those are numbers in a perfect vacuum, and nobody spends their entire day doing the same task, but it’s a great way to get a sense of the impact something might have when implemented.

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Thanks for the comprehensive contribution! I agree re: SSoT and Airtable is it. Still, I know there are contacts I want in Airtable that are living in a gmail cache somewhere. Hence, I need to make it easy to get them out and then let Airtable and the contact itself do the necessary work (ping with a form or something).

I’ve used Gmail + Make + Airtable to allow the director to label an email that kicks off a process of getting a record of the convo into Airtable, for which her assistant can schedule a meeting. I like the process but want to make the contact update/create process even more streamlined if I can. Maybe get a person (besides the contact) out of the loop entirely.

Here’s what I’m thinking, and it probably differs quite a bit from your current base design, but it’s just my thought process.

If I had to build this, I would first run a search(s) of the Contacts table that looks for the name of the contact or the email address.

If it returns a record, it creates a new Activity record.
This table contains an individual record for every email, logged phone call, interaction, etc., that you have with a contact or customer.

The scenario would then link the new activity record to the Contact.


If the search for a contact record returns false, then it will:

  1. Create a new Contact record and fill in the critical fields, then…
  2. Create a new Activity record that fills in the information and links the Activity record to the associated Contact.

I would choose to host the two tables for a few reasons:

  1. You can directly keep track of every logged email, phone call, meeting, etc.
    • You can keep notes for each interaction and map the email body/content to a field for direct reference.
    • This bolsters your source of truth.
  2. You can easily report on which contacts you interact with the most, and you can build a comprehensive contact history that enables you to automate things like:
    • Follow-up Emails
    • Scheduling Calendar Events
    • Notifications to your team, etc.

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Thanks for the shoutout, @Ben.Young! :cowboy_hat_face:

Yes, I love Make and I use it almost everyday with my clients! I have actually designed some extremely advanced Make scenarios for my clients that work very similarly to the diagram/flowchart that you outlined above!!

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