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Really Simple Systems review

CRM and beauty don't always go together. Does an aesthetically pleasing UI count for much?

A man looks at his tablet with a happy expression
Price
Free to £35 per user per month (ex VAT)
  • Excellent pricing structure; Flexible reporting; API access
  • Limited built-in features and reporting

As its name suggests, Really Simple Systems' (RSS) customer relationship management addresses a near-universal weaknesses of rival cloud CRMs: complexity. Low price and simplicity is a tempting calling card for smaller businesses that might lack the resources to support more complicated systems.

Certainly, it ticks the inexpensive box. Its three versions include an entirely free and workmanlike two-user system, though only the Enterprise version offers most of its high-end features.

The app’s design is one of the clearest we've seen. A stretch to call it beautiful, maybe, but it's logically presented and, unusually, fully responsive, adjusting automatically to the size of screen you're viewing it on.

The app comprises three modules: Sales, Marketing and Service and Support, and you switch between them from a toolbar menu. The default home screen – it’s customisable – summarises live tasks and opportunities and shows a sales funnel illustrating how leads are being converted to sales.

Like most CRM systems, RSS principally track the movement of opportunities from first lead to sale, though there is a notable simplicity – or put more negatively, linearity – to its approach. Details of prospects and customers are stored in an Accounts section, accessible from the left-hand menu above Contacts and Opportunities sections. But you can't create a contact outside the Accounts section (as you can in SageCRM) nor create opportunities from the Opportunities view. Instead, you have to go back to the Accounts window and add them to tables there.

But when it comes to keeping tabs on opportunities, RSS has a lot going for it. For tracking email, it uses a syncing feature, MailSync. When we turned on this option, we were startled to receive an email helpfully asking for account details. We ignored this and set it all up ourselves easily enough: you set up a mailbox, and then set your mail server – or Google Mail or Hotmail account – to forward email to this. Email sent from RSS is automatically tracked, while external email can be copied to your RSS mailbox. When it arrives, it's tracked if it matches contacts' email addresses, otherwise it’s ignored.

RSS’s pre-built reports, held in a single, searchable list, are limited in number but easily extensible. We built our own in a minute or two by selecting, from a setup page, the fields to include, selection criteria and sort order, though a series of drop-down menus. This flexible approach to customisation is replicated elsewhere, such as when adding your own fields to any element in the app.

RSS also offers a powerful campaign management tool in its Marketing module. You can set up different types of campaign – from advert to bulk email, assign accounts and opportunities to them. Tracking works well at the email stage – RSS can track click-throughs from the built-in, easily editable HTML newsletters that can be sent from the app.

The product is unusual in that it offers integration with external accounting systems. Granted, it's limited to KashFlow and Sage One. We’d have liked to have seen more. But if you do use either of these, it's supremely easy to set up links to allow sharing of customer information or turn RSS opportunities into a quote or invoice in KashFlow.

The clear downside to RSS is the shallow feature list compared to the market-leading competitors. Noticeably, there are no sharing features. There's neither the built-in social chat features to match those provided by Salesforce's Chatter plug-in, nor even the chance to embed social media feeds as you can with Sage CRM. Neither is there a third-party plug-in market.

But the Enterprise version compensates with access to an application programming interface (API) to connect to other cloud services. It’s a bargain - a similar feature in Salesforce is only available to subscribers paying significantly more. And as the API is built using an open format and gives read and write access to almost all app elements, your only limitation is how willing you are to get your hands dirty with a bit of coding.

More simply, a WebTransactions function – which allows forms on your website to, for example, automatically create opportunities in RSS for named users to follow up, can all be constructed using a relatively simple drop-down menu.

We also appreciate the easy way you can get data in and out of the app. It took us seconds to download all our hosted data to our desktop; a reassuring lack of lock-in.

The product is cloud hosted - there's no on-premise option as there is with SugarCRM – but RSS reports 99.999% uptime and we found the service very responsive. The same praise can be applied to the support team, which responded to questions within the hour.

RSS isn't a complete option for larger businesses, but given its cost, flexibility and ease of use it’s the one a small business should check out first.

Verdict 

It’s not the most feature-rich CRM, but it’s a recommended starting point for small outfits.

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