vTiger CRM is an open source Customer Relationship Management system offering a host of features that more than satisfies the requirements of most small to medium sized businesses. It compares favorably in features, ease of use, accessibility and rapid learning with industry leader, SalesForce.com. But where SalesForces.com costs upwards of $65 per user per month for the professional edition, vTiger CRM is free. All you have to do is host it.
The vTiger feature list is more than extensive. It does everything a modern professional CRM system could be expected to do. It works ‘in the cloud’ so the user only requires a browser and an Internet connection. It is multi-user with a comprehensive security and role management system. It has plugins for Outlook, Thunderbird, MS Office as well as ‘Apps’ for Android and iPhone.
So how can systems like SalesForce.com charge so much money every month to its users when a substantially the same product is available for free?
The simple answer is support. Many companies just want easy access to data, easy setup and customer support constantly available. It is very easy to open a new SalesForce.com account and start working; however as you add new users, you also add to the cost.
Before long you can be spending well over $500 per month to manage less than 10 users. vTiger CRM on the other hand is scalable and free (for the open source edition) or $12 per user per month if you choose the hosted edition from vTiger themselves.
Many web hosting companies now offer a free vTiger installation service and low cost hosting. Hostgator.com, Bluehost.com and Siteground.com are just a few but you can also use a service like SimpleScripts.com to install vTiger to your current plan. If you currently host your website with a major hosting company then you should be able to host vTiger too with no additional hosting fees. You can also download vTiger and install it yourself.
Once installed, vTiger offers a clean and intuitive interface that will be familiar to any CRM user. Once you have your vTiger system up and running, the follow tips should help in getting everything operating smoothly.
Tip 1. Outgoing Server:
vTiger offers a full email system that covers all aspects of email communication including Mass Email, Individual Emails. Email Notifications, Wordflow Emails, Email/PDF Invoices and more. To send email however, you must setup the Outgoing Server from the Settings/Other Settings menu. The most common settings are for Gmail:
- Server Name: ssl://smtp.gmail.com:465
- Username: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Password: your_gmail_password
- From Email:email@example.com (or your gmail account)
- Requires Authentication: Yes
You can also use your regular SMTP settings:
- Server Name: mail.yourdomain.com
- Username: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Password: your_email_password
- From Email: email@example.com
- Requires Authentication: Yes
vTiger – Version 5.4 has an issue with some SMTP server configurations. If you find that your outgoing server settings are being rejected, you should make a small change to a PHP file. You will require FTP access to vTiger to make this change:
Using any text editor like Notepad (never use Word for editing HTML or PHP files), open the file:
Find the following line:
$this->Mailer = “smtp”;
Change “smtp” to “sendmail”
Note: This should be around line 247 if you’re using a PHP/HTML editor.
Save the file and your Outgoing Server settings should now work.
Tip 2. How you view your data:
If you’re used to seeing related modules displayed in a single page, for example having Company/Organization record being displayed on same page a Contact Records, Potentials, Emails etc., then you may be frustrated with the default view presented by vTiger CRM; which has a ‘More Info’ tab for the related modules. However, with a single check box you can switch to the Single Pane View. Just go to: Settings/Other Settings/ Default Module View/ Enable Singlepane View.
Tips 3. Importing data to vTiger CRM:
vTiger features and excellent import facility for most modules. You can import directly into Leads, Organizations, Contacts, Opportunities and more. When doing so you should ensure that the data is saved in CSV format with dates formatted to yyyy-mm-dd. Microsoft Excel has a nasty habit of converting telephone numbers (and other large numbers) to scientific notation when saving to a CSV file. Open Office spreadsheet doesn’t do this so you might consider using Open Office for converting data.
Most database and CRM systems feature an export facility that outputs to the CSV or Excel file format. Some systems export from the specific module (companies, contacts etc) whereas others (like SalesForce) require a custom report to be created and export directed to Excel or CSV format.
Tip 4. Workflows:
Workflows automate the scheduled tasks to streamline your business processes. You can assign a workflow to any module and to any record or field update. A workflow can be triggered when a record is created, updated, saved, reassigned or just about any update at a field level. Once a condition is set to trigger the workflow, a task is assigned. The task can send an email, create a todo or event, update a field, send a text message, invoke a custom function and more. So for automating regular processes, Workflows are key!
Once you have created your conditions and tasks, the automated processes will run quietly in the background.
One of the key workflow tasks is to send email but you will notice when creating the email task that a note is displayed, ‘NOTE: You should have Workflow cron script configured’.
Cron definition from Wikipedia:
Cron is the time-based job scheduler in Unix-like computer operating systems. cron enables users to schedule jobs (commands or shell scripts) to run periodically at certain times or dates. It is commonly used to automate system maintenance or administration, though its general-purpose nature means that it can be used for other purposes, such as connecting to the Internet and downloading email.
Many vTiger systems are hosted on Linux based servers and the CronJobs feature is often disabled. Rather than getting involved in enabling the scripts which can be a very time consuming business for the non-programmer, you can subscribe (for next to nothing) to a CronJob service. I use www.setcronjob.com which manages multiple sites and provides feedback and reporting all for just $10 per year.
Tip 5. Webforms:
One of the frustrations for many websites is the duplication of effort required to process a feedback/contact form. Most forms send an email which includes all the relevant data but that data has to then be manually entered into a database or just printed and filed. vTiger CRM features a webform facility which created a custom form directly linked to fields within the Leads module. Once you have selected the required fields, the form creator provides HTML code to embed into your website.
At the time of writing, the webform is pretty basic in format but this can easily be enhanced simply by editing the code in an HTML editor like Dreamweaver or a free open source alternative like NVU (http://net2.com/nvu/).
Tip 6. New User Setup:
As previously mentioned, vTiger is a multi-user system. When a new user is added, vTiger automatically sends an email to that new user with their username, password and link to login. The email itself however is very basic and not particularly polite. You can however easily change the message by a simple edit to the PHP file. You will need FTP access to the file and a text based editor to edit it. Do not use Word as your editor!
The file is located at: Modules/Users/Save.php
The relevant section starts with:
// send email on Create user only if NOTIFY_OWNER_EMAILS is set to true
You’ll notice the detail subject heading:
‘$subject = $mod_strings['User Login Details'];’ which could be changed to
$subject = “Your Company User Login Details”;
By default the new user message just addresses the new user by their last name: ‘Dear Smith’ but you can update the line by including their first name or firstname and lastname. The line in question is:
$email_body = $app_strings['MSG_DEAR'].” “. $focus->column_fields['last_name'] .”,<br><br>”;
The whole message can be completely customized by editing this section but only attempt it if you know what you are doing; otherwise seek assistance.
Grow with it:
vTiger CRM is a huge product but highly effective immediately by using its basic features. As your experience grows, you can utilize more and more of its extensive features and integrate further with your other systems… and unlike many of its competitors, being ‘open source’ you can total customize it to your own specification.