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Capsule CRM User Review 2015

Back in 2012, in this blog post I compared Capsule CRM with Sugar, Salesforce and Zoho for my own business and for a contemporary art gallery client.  This is a detailed post about why I chose Capsule and what you might want to watch out for when making your decision.

This is an updated Capsule CRM review – as at November 2015 after three years use for my own business, and several implementations for clients.

Advantages of Capsule CRM

  • It’s extremely cost effective – just £8 per use per month as at November 2015 (a free edition is also available for up to 250 contacts)
  • Far and away the biggest benefit of Capsule is its ease of use – it has a beautiful, simple design that users find intuitive.  Little things like being able to customise your colours, immediately make the system more welcoming for new organisations
  • As per other cloud based systems, it’s fully hosted with access via a secure web link which makes it perfect for accessing from any laptop, computer or mobile device (it has an iphone app too which is perfect for small business like mine on the road to see clients)
  • I love the import process – one of the simplest I’ve come across, which makes it an easy system to implement for clients.  It also means you can recommend that the client still carries on with their favourite ecommerce or emarketing software in the knowledge that new contacts can easily be imported into Capsule as the ‘main CRM’ system on a weekly or monthly basis
  • Fantastic duplicate management tools – the import tells you immediately if there are any potential dupes and gives you the opportunity not to import them.  The individual ‘merge’ processes are also very user friendly
  • Tags can be automatically created on import – perfect if the imported field doesn’t require a Custom Field approach.  Users can also create their own bespoke tags as they use the system, without accessing settings to do so.  There is a fantastic ‘clean up’ tool to delete any unused tags.  You can also add a tag automatically to anyone on your list in a matter of seconds – perfect!
  • With an import, it cleverly picks up ‘Organisation Name‘ on someone’s record and creates the organisation automatically so you’ll find the Organisation record with all the employees linked to it after import
  • In this day and age, integration with an emarketing system is essential but not all CRM systems have it – Capsule CRM integrates with Mailchimp offering a perfect solution
  • The security can be adjusted so that only some users can use the bulk export option – ideal if you’re an arts organisation reliant on volunteers to add new records to your database
  • Creating custom fields is very easy – essential for Data Protection settings, and ideal for keeping similar ‘tags’ together
  • Fantastic integration with Google Apps so an email can easily be stored against the customer record.  If you don’t have Google Apps, you’re given a special ‘dropbox’ email address which you can bcc into any communication so that the email is added to the customer record.  The ability to add notes and attachments makes it ideal for arts organisations looking to keep track of funding applications and correspondence with artists, board, VIPs etc.
  • New tags can now be imported automatically onto existing records (sometimes called ‘Upsert’).  So if you have sent an Excel data file off to a mailing house or consultancy and they’ve come back with Gone Aways or Segments identified, you can append this information back onto the existing Capsule records.  To do this, select the ‘Import and Update Duplicates’ option on import (see this Capsule CRM help article for more information).

Disadvantages of Capsule CRM

  • The List functionality is very intuitive, but it doesn’t allow you to pick multiple fields or utilise OR relationships other than for Tags.  If you’re creating a List using Tags you can select ‘is any of’ from the drop down menu to allow you to multi-select options.  However, if you want to do this with a Custom Field – for example, if you have set up a Region custom field and you want to pick customers in three or four regions, there isn’t an ‘is any of’ option in the List builder for that Custom Field which is frustrating.  There is a work around – you can create your first list for Region A, and add a tag to that (e.g. ‘December Email’), then create a second list for Region B and add the same tag and so on – your final mailing can be picked up using the ‘December Email’ tag.  It’s not ideal but it’s a work around if you need it.  If you’re likely to need complex exports using multiple tags and custom fields, an alternative CRM system such as Salesforce may be more suitable
  • Support is only via email (no telephone support), but I’ve found Capsule to be very quick and helpful with email responses.  If you’re in the US, the UK hours of the email support might be a consideration for you – support isn’t 24/7, but that said, you shouldn’t need support that often for this system
  • Backing up a full data set (including Contacts, Cases and Opportunities) is via the Account Settings / Export tab.  Although it is very straight forward (one button “export to zip file”), there is a question mark over data security as the system emails you a full data set to your email address with no encryption.  In addition to this, the back up is not customisable in terms of fields and the output file can be messy to work with (e.g. records interspersed with email correspondence)

Summary

Capsule CRM is a very user friendly system, with a lot of brilliant functionality.  It’s extremely cost effective and the process of migration is very easy – within around three business days I can migrate most small businesses (consolidating a few different existing databases) onto the system.  I personally love the fact the business is based in the UK – being a UK based company myself, it’s great to support a ‘local’ software supplier when so many of my other software suppliers are based in the US.

For my own marketing consultancy business, I’ve been happy with the system and love the integration with Google Apps so that important emails and proposals can be very easily stored against customer records.  Ensure you’re familiar with the limitations of the system listed above, and if those don’t pose a problem for your business I’d recommend migrating onto Capsule – leave those address books and Excel spreadsheets behind you!

SurveyGizmo User Review 2014

As a managing director of a market research company, I’m naturally very interested in survey software and selecting the best for my clients and the business. I’ve been using SurveyGizmo for four years and I’m very happy with the system.

This is my user review as at August 2014:

Pro’s

  • Cloud based.  Some of my clients are still using desktop installations of Snap Survey Software which means they have to export data for me to analyse on a regular basis – it doesn’t take a huge amount of time but does add an unnecessary step.  I love the fact that SurveyGizmo is accessed via a web browser, it means I can check survey responses on a regular basis from my mobile, as well as allowing me to add new users who can access reporting or data as they need to.
  • Good value. SurveyGizmo have recently revised their pricing and now have an entry level membership at $15 per month.  I tend to use the Professional Account at $75 a month as it provides a very comprehensive product including full survey branding which is very important for some of my clients.  Many of my clients are registered UK charities and SurveyGizmo offers 25% off any annual plan to non-profits which makes it very good value for them.  On a non-charity account, it’s possible to downgrade your account, so you can opt for the higher level of accounts for particular projects, then downgrade for some of the year which allows you to save on the annual budget.
  • Easy to Use.  Many of my clients prefer to have their own SurveyGizmo accounts to maintain control of the data and create their own in-house surveys from time to time.  SurveyGizmo is ideal as it’s complex enough for my needs and yet easy to use for clients who may be new to survey software or have used SurveyMonkey in the past.  Building a survey is simple and logical and the routing options are very intuitive – I’ve recently used SurveyMonkey for a client project (as this was their preferred software) and I find SurveyMonkey logic in comparison much more tricky.
  • Range of Question Types.  SurveyGizmo offers a much richer range of question types than SurveyMonkey.  Of course, it has all the usual question types like open questions (which they call ‘Textbox or Essay answers), radio buttons, checkboxes, dropdown menu’s, ratings etc.  But it also has more complex question types – one I use frequently is the Continuous Sum – for example, we ask respondents visiting a venue what they have spent on Travel, Food & Drink and Retail during their visit and use a continuous sum question which shows them each as a currency and adds up the total spend.  There are also lots of options for ranking or rating questions like grids, drag & drop, image choice, star rating etc.  If you’re even more advanced, the Pro product allows you to do Max Differential and Conjoint analysis (currently in beta testing).
  • Routing and Piping.  Even the simplest survey will benefit from routing – i.e. asking a different set of questions to a particular respondent group.  For example, people who have bought a product before will be asked a deeper set of questions for those who haven’t.  SurveyGizmo routing/skipping was always fairly easy to use but it has got more and more intuitive in the last few years.  If you’re fairly new to surveys, you might not have considered ‘piping’ before but the ability to use this functionality is invaluable – for example, we might ask respondents if they visited the restaurant, shop or exhibition during their visit.  For those people that have we may want to rate their experience at each – this is where piping comes in – it allows you to ‘pipe’ answers that were (or were not) ticked at a previous question, I use this functionality all the time.  Using routing and piping on surveys will streamline the survey for the respondent, reducing the completion time and increasing response rates.
  • Style and Branding.  Being able to add the client logo and tailor the look and feel of the survey to client branding makes it much more professional for respondents – and I believe it has an impact on response rates.
  • Test Data.  SurveyGizmo allows you to generate test responses to your survey so you can test the reporting.  Historically this test data didn’t always seem to follow the survey logic which was a source of frustration, but recent testing seems to indicate the test data is following routing and piping – it’s not a replacement for thorough survey testing but a very useful tool.  It allows you to pick up on basic things like improving the quality of data – your test data report will immediately show you if your spend question allows you to put in unrealistic values (e.g. £1m being spent on drinks in one evening is unlikely to be correct!) and then you can revise the questionnaire settings to control these.
  • Bulk Editing.  In a typical survey I want all the questions to be Required (with a Prefer not to Say option for sensitive ones, and a ‘Don’t Know’ for trickier questions), except for open ended questions where forcing answer reduces rather than enhances the quality of response.  The bulk edit tool allows me to create the survey in full, then ‘Require All’, and individually edit the questions that I remove the requirement from such as spend, or open ended likes and dislikes.
  • Printable Survey with Logic and Piping.  This is a fairly new addition to the system and one I love – you can export your survey to a pdf and print it with the Logic/Routing and Piping options displaying, this is very handy as a last check before despatching your survey and also useful for your client to circulate for sign off.Screenshot of a question with 'hidden unless' logic wording
  • Test Stats.  SurveyGizmo has a lovely tool of estimating survey length, fatigue and accessibility:
  • Screenshot with 9 minutes estimated length and green vs. amber vs. red for fatigue & accessibility

  • Link Creation.  It’s possible to create new survey links for each send out of your survey – that way you keep all the data in one project but can track differences (e.g. Jan vs. Feb vs. March).  One of the most common mistakes made by time poor in-house researchers is that they copy a survey each time they want to use it – then at the end of a season, they need to use Excel or a calculator to work out total scores.  By using Links, you can keep everything in one survey and filter reporting according to your needs.
  • Edit Responses.  SurveyGizmo allows you to edit responses – this is particularly important for business to business research where you might ask the client to fill in a survey but also have follow up telephone calls and desk research to fill in missing answers.
  • Coding open ended questions.  It is possible to code open ended questions within SurveyGizmo so that you can create categories and assign them to open responses and then cross-tab the results – this can be very useful for clients wishing to show the importance of a particular product attribute.
  • Reporting.  SurveyGizmo reporting is very good – and much more advanced than SurveyMonkey.  The Summary Report is automatically generated and allows you to get a very quick overview of your survey results.  For tracking projects, you can also schedule these reports to be emailed to you automatically.
  • SPSS Export.  An SPSS export is very simply an export of the survey data – with the handy addition that it contains both the question and answer codes and the meaning of those codes (e.g. Q1 and ‘Have you ever….’ are both within the file under different views).  Even if you’re not familiar with SPSS or SPSS files, if you might do any analysis outside your survey system, or subcontract the reporting to a researcher it’s important to choose a system which can produce a good quality export.  The reporting I do tends to be more advanced than online software tools, so I really appreciate the SPSS Export function in SurveyGizmo – it provides a very easy to use SPSS file that is efficiently generated.  I work with SPSS files from a variety of other systems including Snap and SurveyMonkey and the SurveyGizmo SPSS Export is always easier to work with.  The SPSS export allows me to create an input file for MarketSight which I use to create full cross tabulations, join waves of data together, and export my work to PowerPoint presentations.  When I’ve tried to use the SPSS export function from SurveyMonkey in the past it often creates unnecessarily large files and occasionally these files appear corrupted or difficult to work with.
  • CSV/Excel Export.  Most survey software offers this option, but the SurveyGizmo file is particularly easy to use and I use this option regularly for open ended question analysis – for example, copying and pasting answers into Wordle to create word clouds.

Cons

Here are a few areas I think SurveyGizmo could improve on:

  • Show all pages.  When you are building and editing your survey, the software defaults to only showing you the first 10 pages of the survey – I find this a little frustrating when I want to get a sense of the whole thing
  • Test data.  Historically the Test data didn’t follow the questionnaire logic/routing – although now it seems to in most instances, I would love this to be completely in line with routing and reassure you of that fact.  One of the most valuable aspects of test data is being able to thoroughly check routing.
  • Coding Open Responses.  I would love to be able to provide a specific ‘coding access’ link to my admin assistants for them to code a single open ended question without having access to the rest of the system, or the questionnaire for that matter.  I don’t think this is possible currently but it would be a great addition.  It would mean I can delegate the coding of certain questions to individuals – or to a coding company, and retain all the responses within SurveyGizmo
  • Cross Tab Reports are quite limited and slow to run.  My idea for cross tab reports in market research comes from a fairly traditional training in the market research industry more than fifteen years ago – I like the option of a full ‘Demographic’ cross tab with significance testing so you can scan for interesting patterns.  Although SurveyGizmo has cross-tab functionality the formatting is a little clunky and they don’t offer significance testing as standard.  The other important restriction of cross-tabbing is that you can’t cross-tab by survey link – if you are using your survey link for a different event or a monthly survey, you’ll naturally want to cross-tab by the survey links so this omission is frustrating.  The way around it is to filter the report using the link (see the Filter Tab and Campaign) – or to export to SPSS or Excel and conduct analysis outside the system.
  • Downtime.  There was one instance of the system going down in March 2014 due to a Denial of Service attack.  The company reacted very quickly and honestly and immediately set about resolving the issue but it did make me slightly wary of the fact that you are in a suppliers hands when your survey goes out, you just have to hope the link always stays Live.  There has been continuous service since then – and before it, but for a few weeks it did make me worry about sending out surveys via the system.

Overview

SurveyGizmo is a highly sophisticated cloud-based survey system which is excellent value for money and easy to use.  If you can afford to choose this system over SurveyMonkey I would suggest the switch.  If you are using more expensive systems, it is well worth evaluating whether SurveyGizmo can meet your needs.

Kashflow User Review 2014

I moved from QuickBooks to Kashflow in April 2012 and more than two years on I haven’t looked back.  I felt driven to find a cloud based accounting system in order to provide the freedom to work on multiple devices and manage my accounts where ever I was.  At the time I looked at two other systems – Freshbooks and Xero.  I took out a trial for all three, and conducted day to day tasks such as Invoice creation, Purchases and Reporting with all of them, I quickly established that Kashflow was the most user friendly and best suited to my needs.

Here’s a quick summary of the pros and cons of Kashflow as at August 2014 – this is based on my small to medium sized Market Research & Consultancy business which is set up on a Self Employed / Sole Trader basis but is VAT registered requiring quarterly VAT returns.

Pros

    • Great value.  All Kashflow tiers are excellent value for money. Kashflow pricing starts at £5 + VAT per month (for up to 10 invoices per month).  I have the £10 + VAT per month account and I’m very happy with it.  The one above, £15 + VAT includes additional features such as RTI compliant Payroll, Automatic RTI Submissions, Payslip Generation, Bookkeeping integration and Employee absence calendar
    • Cloud-based.  As a small to medium sized business, I see no reason to move to anything but a cloud-based accounting system.  When I used QuickBooks (2010 – 2012) I always felt so tied down to my one laptop, software upgrades etc. and it felt a very insecure way of holding the most important information on a business.  I’ve never regretted the move to a cloud-based system – I love being able to access my bookkeeping where ever I am, to add receipts via the app or raise an invoice on my laptop while I’m travelling for work.
    • Easy to Use.  Out of the three systems I trialed a couple of years ago, Kashflow was definitely the most user friendly – the quickest to create an attractive invoice on and the most intuitive to find my way around.  Once the decision was made, I switched systems at the beginning of a financial year to ease the change.   Transitioning your accounts to a new system is never going to be pain free, and it did feel like a lot of effort in those first few months to set up the various accounts, check Profit & Loss reporting was working in the way you expect, create repeat payments etc., but I always found Kashflow to be intuitive and easy to use.
    • Quick & Easy Invoicing.  I love the invoicing function in Kashflow – it didn’t take me very long to create an attractive invoice with my logo, details etc. and once that’s done creating an invoice literally takes a matter of minutes.  You can choose to auto-remind the client to pay – or in my case, I opt to receive email notification from Kashflow myself when an invoice is overdue and then decide how to proceed.  For some clients, I might just leave it another week to see if they get around to paying without prompting, for others, I call their accounts team and for some I call the client directly – all depending on how the client works.  What’s great is the little prompt from Kashflow via email – and if you prefer not to have that, you can turn the notifications off and simply filter your invoices by ‘Overdue’ or ‘Unpaid’.
    • Dashboard: The Kashflow Dashboard really helps you see where you are with money – what’s in the bank, what’s owed to you, your VAT liability and projects you will invoice for soon (see ‘Quotes’ below).  I use it all the time – particularly for my VAT liability.  Outside Kashflow I have a simple Excel spreadsheet which I use to work out how much I can pay myself, it takes into account likely Self Assessment tax, any large bills that haven’t come in yet etc.
      Kashflow Dashboard
  • Quote function.  I prepare bespoke proposals for my clients so wasn’t particularly interested in the Quote function initially.  However, I found it to be incredibly useful – when a client commissions a project I create the quote for the work on Kashflow, just for my own tracking.  That quote can be given a category – for example, I have mine set as: ‘Proposal Sent’, ‘Won’, ‘Won & Work in Progress’ and the most frustrating one which thankfully doesn’t happen that often …  ‘Project gone silent’.  The Kashflow dashboard then cleverly shows you the sum of your quotes depending on your settings – for example, I have mine set to ‘Won’ and ‘Won & Work in Progress’ so I know how much work I will invoice in the near future.  The great thing about creating quotes is that you never forget to invoice a project, ideal for day rate work as you can just pop on the extra few hours / day charges when they happen.  They are also extremely easy to convert into an invoice when you’re ready to do that.
  • Reports.  There are a myriad of really useful reports in Kashflow all available at the click of a button.  You can create your own set of ‘Favourite’ reports which are really handy – my favourite reports include: Balance Sheet; Expenditure by Supplier; Income by Sales Code; Profit & Loss; Self Assessment; VAT Management & Reports and various ones I use at the end of a financial year as a disaster recovery tool (e.g. Activity Report, Trial Balance etc.)Kashflow Reports
  • Customer Stats.  For each of your customers you can quickly check statistics on when you first invoiced them, last invoiced, the total invoiced, the amount due (and overdue) and their average time to pay.  You can also look at similar statistics for your Suppliers.
    Screenshot of first invoiced, last, amount due etc.
  • Repeat Purchases.  We all have monthly costs that pretty much remain unchanged month to month and I love this tool in Kashflow, you set up the repeat purchase, frequency, amount, payment and type of purchase and then it creates it automatically each time.  It also allows me to do a quick review of my monthly costs and try to cut them down – for example, cancelling software subscriptions that I no longer use
  • VAT Submissions.  I do quarterly VAT submissions to HMRC and I find Kashflow much easier to use than Quickbooks in this regard.  You can click from the dashboard through to your VAT liability and proceed to HMRC submission once your accounts are linked.  You just need to remember to actually pay HMRC (e.g. via BillPay) and record the VAT payment – everything else is handled by Kashflow
  • Bank Reconciliation.  Ok so I’m a little sad but I love this part of the system.  You can simply click Reconcile on a particular bank account and tick off the purchases and invoices according to your statements – when it balances you get a nice ‘success’ message and can hit reconcile, then lock the transactions and you’re done.  It’s easy to click in and out of purchases to make sure they match – for example, many software products I have on a monthly basis are in dollars so although my Repeat Purchase handles them in principle, the amount and payment might need tweaking by a few pence as exchange rates vary month on month.  Using a browser with separate tabs allows you to have the reconciliation screen in one tab and another fixing the purchases to exactly match.
  • Projects.  I’ve only started using the Project functionality recently but I like the idea of being able to look at a project in isolation and check the Income and Expenditure.

 

Cons / Frustrations

It’s worth saying that this software is cloud based so many tiny niggles over the years have been resolved which is fantastic – there is a sense of a constantly evolving system, however… these are the cons/frustrations with Kashflow as I see them:

  • One contact per customer.  This is my biggest bugbear with the system and one I can’t quite believe hasn’t been resolved yet.  I quite often have one client company or organisation but with several client contacts.  At the moment Kashflow limits you to one contact per organisation and I can see for some businesses that this would simply not be feasible.  As it stands, I switch the customer name each time I raise an invoice for a different individual – frustrating!  But it does provide a quick fix to the issue.  This is a planned improvement according to the Kashflow Suggestion Centre
  • Reports.  I used to love the Quickbooks reporting functionality of ‘This Quarter’ / ‘Last Quarter’ / ‘This Year’ / ‘Last Year’ etc.  You can do this in Kashflow, but you have to manually set the dates which I find a little annoying each time – I lose track of the number of times I have to change the date to 1 April to get my latest P & L for the current year!
  • Top Customers & Suppliers.  We all have customers and suppliers we work with all the time, and I think it would be lovely to click into Customers / Suppliers on Kashflow and see your top accessed ones right there.  Instead they are listed and you either need to scroll or search for their name.
  • VAT Checking.  Although I really like the VAT functionality I would like a way of seeing the individual transactions that make up a VAT return on screen and ‘ticking them off’ in the way you would with the reconciliation.  At the moment I do this by downloading a report and checking that in Excel, but it’s not quite the same.  Everything should be correct but it’s nice to look at individual transactions and check for any glaring errors before submission.
  • Forecasting.  To forecast cash flow and earnings I use a simple Excel spreadsheet and take a few key numbers from Kashflow to insert into the spreadsheet – it would be nice to have this type of feature integrated into the system.  According to the Kashflow Suggestion Centre this is being investigated.

Recommendations

Before selecting Kashflow for your business, I’d recommend taking out a trial of the system and conducting every day tasks such as Invoices, Purchases, Reporting and Reconciliation.   Free trials of cloud based software makes it very quick and easy to compare systems to each other.  That said, I’d highly recommend the system, especially if you’re currently using a legacy system such as a desktop installation.  If you’re currently doing all your accounts in Excel, I think Kashflow will be a fairly easy transition although you may need to spend a little time on set up to get your accounts and reports working correctly.