Businesses need customers and clients. Where else is the money going to come from? Hopefully, your company will have a fine surplus of regular customers. For the overwhelming majority of businesses, knowing who your regular customers are and being familiar with some important details about them, can be very beneficial for the progress of the enterprise; although some businesses rely on one-off customers who happen to be passing, most companies need to help ensure that the reliable clients keep coming back again and again.

So, it would be wise to maintain records of these customer's details. With such records, you can tailor your service to suit the individual customer, as well as having a ready audience for direct marketing campaigns to boost your turnover. You can ensure that, if previous encounters with a particular client have let you to greater understand their needs, you will in future always provide for those needs without the client having to ask; it places your organisation in a particularly positive light if clients come to you and find a set-up that fulfils their requirements right from the word go.

In order to have easy and rapid access to these records whenever you need it and to ensure you can always find just what you need, you need a database. Microsoft Access is the market leading database and, of course, is part of (and completely compatible with) the whole Microsoft Office suite of applications. Access is a very powerful and flexible piece of software, capable of producing a wide variety of databases and also providing a great range of tools with which to get the most from your data. Does this mean, however, that you need a substantial IT department to even get such a database up and running? For surely, it must be very complicated and time-consuming - and you and your staff have much more important things to do. In short, no it doesn't mean that at all.

Access not only offers a range of instruments to analyse your data - it also gives you a selection of simple and effective tools for setting up the database in the first place, allowing you access to a database that is just what you need, without any need for complex programming or coding. To start off with, Access Prebuilt Solutions offer a range of databases already set up for dealing with common situations and a range of straightforward tools for tweaking them so they provide just what you need. With a short training course to augment your skills, there's no limit to what you can do.

Let's take a simple example, the kind of situation faced by countless small and medium-sized businesses. A garage has developed a reputation for good service, and has seen more custom through its gates in the last twelve months than ever before. But consumers are fickle, and can be drawn away for many reasons - cheaper offers elsewhere, convenience or a desire to take a new car back to its original dealer. Gordon, who runs the garage and is proud of his little enterprise, wants to try and ensure that he and his team of mechanics are at the forefront of customers' minds when the time comes to have some work done on the car..

Starting a new database in Access, he has the option right away to pick a solution that fits his needs. He selects a 'contacts' database, which gives him room for names and as many or as few customisable fields as he wants. In addition to names, addresses, and phone numbers, Gordon also wants some details about his customers' needs. Creating fields for date of MOT, type of car, previous requests or anything else he chooses to add requires just a touch of a button. Access can even recognise what kind of information he is entering - money, dates etc. - and format the data accordingly. Even if he already has (as is very common) the basic details entered into an Excel spreadsheet, he doesn't have to worry about spending extra time on re-entering the information; data from Excel can simply be copy and pasted into Access and the software will organise it accordingly.

Having put the database together from ready-made building blocks, he can also put it to work with similarly straightforward tools. A quick search can give him details of all customers who have an MOT due in the next couple of months or he can choose to sort all records by soonest MOT first. He can combine his search - perhaps looking at MOT customers who also had their last test at his garage (or those who did not and need to be encouraged to return). It's easy to keep records updated. Rather than having to open up the entire database every time an individual's details change, Gordon can create simple forms to enter the new information on to. Even if it's just a new phone number, just the changed data needs to be entered onto the form and Access will put it into the correct field. What's more, Gordon can create these forms automatically through a very simple wizard.

Not only does this save Gordon money, needing no IT expert to be brought in from outside, but it also saves him a good deal of time - both in setting up the database and also in getting the relevant data out of it when needed. This same process can be used for any number of purposes and situations. A nationwide supermarket can maintain a loyalty card system for a vast number of customers, keeping tabs on the kind of products they buy - or a conscientious gift-giver can keep tabs on who would like what for Christmas.

Microsoft Access can bring a great deal of benefit to a vast array of different circumstances and without the need for IT expertise. Why not see if it can help you?