Highrise CRM Review – Should you be using it?

Highrise is one of the CRM products that is often discussed from a small business perspective. There was no way I would miss on all that CRM goodness. So, off I went to experiment with the trial version. Find out whether Highrise really raises high in CRM.

You can also see this from a helpful site that gives you a grand choice of CRM products based on your budget.

About Highrise CRM

Highrise CRM is from 37Signals, the same people who bring you the very popular Basecamp project planning software. As of Aug ’14, 37Signals renamed themselves as Basecamp, and decided to focus on Basecamp product alone. Rest of the products are being sold off, or shelved.

Not so for Highrise CRM. Highrise has been spun off as an independent company, and will decide its own destiny.

Highrise enjoys some fan following in the small business segment. There are plenty of users who have migrated over to Highrise from Basecamp, and the tight integration between the two systems helps.

Highrise CRM is a web based customer information management product. There is no software to install, and there are no specific skills required to get started. You just create a login account, subscribe to a plan, and get started. The CRM data is shared across the company.

Highrise is free for two users. So, you can get started on Highrise CRM for free and do some research before you go ahead with any payment plan.

Using Highrise CRM

Select a pricing plan and register an account on Highrise CRM. I selected the basic free version for my evaluation. 

Once you sign in to Highrise, you can see the Latest Activity page to know what was happening when you were away. THe main Contact screen will show you the below page.

Highrise CRM home page review

There are a couple of deductions to make here –

  • Highrise can manage both accounts and contacts, but it is primarily a contact-driven system
  • Supports tasks, cases and deals – most of small businesses focus around this, so no issues there
  • The application screen is pretty simple, and self-explanatory
  • All the required tasks for a typical CRM users is on front page, and easily accessible
  • You get a unified (and fast) search for all entities except Notes. You get an additional Notes search for free (Must be a technical constraint not to include Notes in the main search?)

And, there is nothing really more to it. 

Highrise is *really* simple CRM. There is this bewildering lack of features, and that probably is one of the reasons they stand out. What you see on the above pic is what you are going to get in the final product.

Let’s get started with the actual usage scenario.

Working with Contacts

Just click the big blue button at the very top to create a contact. 

create contact with contextual information in Highrise CRM

You will appreciate the fact that you can create Contact or a task from any screen. These are the most important activities that any CRM user will do, and providing easy access will drive better adoption.

Whenever you navigate to a screen, if you just start typing the search box is going to get the focus and search for information. This is a nifty feature since a lot of times you will search for information before you start creating a contact record. You may also search for a case, or a deal in this way.

The initial contact screen is laid out in one column – you can enter only the contact information while creating the contact. After you have saved this contact, you can drill down on the contact name to view or edit more information.

edit and view contact details in Highrise CRM

You can add or edit notes, add documents or other attachments, view emails, view or create deals, view or create cases in this screen. You can also see the Twitter stream if you have provided a valid Twitter id for the contact. A Google map will show the address of contact in case the address is provided.

The right hand side panel shows quick information and contextual tasks. 

Apart from the option to manually add contacts, you can also import them from a variety of sources – CSV/Excel file, VCARD file or Outlook. Import from Basecamp is expected, and works nice. But, import from ACT! is a surprise. Probably added there as an after thought for people migrating from that system.

Tagging Contacts

Tagging contact (or a company, deal) has become one of the expected features of a CRM application. Tagging allow the user to create her own mini-views of the customer data, and work with them more effectively.

In Highrise, you can tag Contacts, Companies, Deals, and Cases. You can specify anything you want in those tags to align the application to your way of working.

Specifying Visibility Rules

A feature in Contact management that stands out is the group visibility. Typically small CRM applications ignore this invaluable function. Highrise knows that sales reps may not want to share all contacts, or the organization may want only certain contacts to be available to specific groups. This can be easily achieved in Highrise.

To specify special visibility, navigate to the Contact screen, select one or more contacts and hit the button to specify visibility. This brings you to the below screen. You can specify whether the contact is viewable by everyone in the company, just you, or a specific group.

You can create additional groups in the “Settings” page of your Highrise CRM application.

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Working with Company

You can enter a company name when you are creating a contact. That company also gets created as a separate record in the Contact screen. This has an added advantage since a person can be viewed as a person, or as a company. But it is confusing since you may not really deal with companies as individuals. Overall, this works well with the simplicity of the system.

Drilling down on the company from Contacts screen will show a screen similar to Contact details.

Highrise CRM view and edit details of company

Working with Companies is similar to working with Contacts, because they are basically the same thing. More than one contact can be tagged against a single company.

I really liked the way contextual tasks show popups so that you can create a task without loosing the context.

working with Company records in Highrise CRM

Working with Cases and Deals

Cases have been created as a very simple page in Highrise. All you can do is “Add a Case”, and “Close s

2014-09-21_20-15-50

Adding a case is disappointing to say the least. One field for the entire case while creating the case? Even the simplest of applications should at least have a date, and some description?

Having a limit of 3 open cases in the free version of application is a big fail. Either provide the free version or not, but providing something with ridiculous value is more harmful.

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Creating the deal is a bit more sophisticated. You can enter the company/contact, name of the deal, description, along with the revenue.

2014-09-21_20-07-48

Revenue can be either one-time or recurring, which is a nice addition to deal information. Not that this is going to automate anything, this is just for information capture.

Other Features

Some of the other interesting features in Highrise CRM.

Emails

You can use cryptic email addresses that allow you to –

  • Attach email to a contact by forwarding/BCCing an email
  • Create a new task or deal against a contact, and attach the email
  • Tag email to an existing case or deal

 

create task or deal from email in Highrise crm

These are your own email addresses – be careful not to disclose them to others.

 

Customization of Highrise

You can change the colors of your Highrise amongst a set of predefined themes. You can choose your own logo to appear in the login screen. You would have noticed that you will be using your own defined domain while using Highrise CRM (e.g. crmcog.highrisehq.com).

You can also add custom fields to Contacts, and that is not saying much – all of them are text fields without any functionality tagged to them. You will see these additional fields while creating new contacts, or while editing them.

adding custom fields for contacts in highrise crm

Extras

There are a bunch of products that work with Highrise – you can see a big list at https://highrisehq.com/extras.

Pricing

You can start with Highrise CRM for free, but that is a severely constrained plan to be of any use to real businesses. A solo plan (1 user / 5 GB storage, 20k contacts) costs $29.

Rest of the options are below.

Highrise crm pricing

 

Highrise CRM costs are high for the feature set it offers.

The pricing based on number of contacts does not make sense in this age of cheap computing, fast databases, and cheap storage space (SaaS products need to be innovative here). I would have loved to see lower costs, and simple licensing based on number of users, or a feature set. 

 

 

 

In Conclusion

Highrise CRM is too simple for my taste. Yes, it does its stated work and you will be satisfied with it if all you need to do is create/view contacts, deals, cases, and deals. 

The customization features are non-existent. If you have even a simple deviation from what Highrise provided out-of-the-box, you are on your own.

Integrations are provided by third parties, and cost you more money. 

I suspect people migrated over from Basecamp, and the name of Basecamp drew a few more followers. Either that, or the users do not know of any other CRM product. Though the costs for Highrise CRM are cheaper as compared to products like Zoho CRM (far more powerful), or Insight.ly, the features are severely limiting in what a business can do.

If you are willing to stretch your budget have a look at Zoho CRM, or Insight.ly. If you have someone in the camp (or in your friends circle) who knows a bit of technology, just host Sugar CRM community edition for free on your existing website infrastructure.

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