Why I Stopped Using Zero BS CRM Before Even Starting
I’ve been looking for a WordPress CRM (customer relationship management) for like forever!
After trying a bunch of WP CRM wannabees without finding the one, I stepped by chance into Zero BS CRM in a Kinsta blog article depicting WordPress based CRM options with Zero BS CRM as the top of the list!
It’s pretty hard to not give it a shot.
The following is what I experienced using Zero BS CRM and why I wouldn’t recommend it if you are looking for a CRM.
First impressions: you’ll be charmed by the Zero BS CRM
From the outside, it looks perfect.
I loved the concept! Having a CRM with the bare minimum felt straightforward and efficient to me. And using it as part of my WordPress environment is even better!
I did a quick check of the features and everything looked good on paper.
It has the kind of features you would expect from an entry-level CRM. Maybe a bit more using the paid extensions.
So, I decided to move forward and install the free version of the plugin on my website to see how things look like in real-world.
Pros and Cons of the free version
I wasn’t expecting much when I dived into Zero BS CRM. But I was kinda hoping to have something decent to help me find a permanent fix to my CRM needs.
I will spare the chatter and give a quick overview of what makes and breaks this CRM:
- The layout looks great
- The basic functions seem to be solid
- The developers behind it are very responsive
- It’s very limited for average needs
- Buggy at times
- Some features need a serious rework to be functional (will talk about a couple of these later)
- There is no uniformed emailing system which makes you look inconsistent on your customers’ eyes (not all emails sent through ZBSCRM look the same way)
When I started to dive deeply into it, I faced a couple of major bugs. I reported some and had to wait a couple of days to see them fixed, and I took care of other fine-tuning myself when I could:
- Settings couldn’t be saved on new installs (reported and fixed)
- Some dashboard related styling didn’t look as they should (fixed them myself)
- Test invoices can’t be sent (reported, said to be fixed in a future update)
- You lose the WP options panel (the one at the top right) no matter what arrangement you do on ZBSCRM (didn’t report that one)
- WP notification can be very messy when browsing the CRM pages/features
The plugin’s authors, Mike and Woody, looked very responsive, so I decided to move forward and buy the Entrepreneur pack ($200).
Zero BS CRM features and extensions review
I didn’t try them all thoroughly. I just checked the ones that I needed at the time and bailed on the rest when I felt like Zero BS CRM wasn’t for me (yes, it didn’t take me long to make up my mind about it).
I’ll describe my interaction with a couple of core features and paid plugins.
What it does: create quotes and send them to your prospects.
Probably the worst feature of this CRM.
I felt like the workflow was very complicated for something supposed to be a vital feature for any CRM.
You need to create a written quote with all the details you need to share on your proposal. But you can only send a notification or share a direct link to it.
The prospect or customer will have to click the link, and “log in to the CRM” to see the actual quote.
Plus, you can’t attach an itemized estimate, like you would do for an invoice for example. If needed, you need to add them using a regular table.
Using it as it is didn’t make sense for me, so, I switched it off.
What it does: edit and send invoices to your customers
What I like the most is the itemized table to build your invoice. You can:
- Assign it to a documented customer on the CRM or to a non-documented name/email address
- There are different statuses going from draft to paid
- You can include discounts and taxes if needed
- Things look good on the backend
The following items didn’t work out great for me:
- The email/pdf templates don’t look great. You can still code the styling yourself, but for now, any personalization can’t be stored, so, your custom styling will go away with each CRM update
- Some business information fields don’t look great when put in their respective places on the web/PDF invoice, like multi-line addresses will look entangled for example
- You can’t add notes on invoices (this one is critical to my workflow)
Overall, the invoicing system needs to be a bit refined to be functional.
Invoices PRO extension
What it does: adds Paypal/Stripe payments to invoices and track transactions
This extension was the reason why I moved forward and paid for the Entrepreneur pack.
I needed a way to edit invoices and keep track and log payments.
Zero BS CRM was the closest thing I could find on the market doing that. But the real-world application proved to be not-so-production-ready for me.
The major throwback for me was the following:
- Customers need to be logged in in order to use the “Pay button”
The payment button is added as a form with the payment information (hidden fields).
This is similar to the limitation I experienced with the quoting system.
Not everyone wants to use a login and password in order to pay an invoice. And I honestly don’t want people to even know that I have a self-hosted CRM somewhere (hackers will be tempted to get in to steal information).
What it does: imports your transaction/contacts history and syncs feature transactions with the right invoices
Before relying on it for production, I decided to run an import for a 3-months worth of transactions and see how things look like.
The importation worked, and all the contacts and transactions were adding to the CRM.
The next step was importing everything since 2015 so I can have all contacts/transactions on my reach.
That particular feature is not implemented yet on the dashboard. So, I had to ask the support service for a fix.
They gave me a long SQL code to execute on the database to reset the Paypal extension and redo the import.
The code worked as intended but a CRM user still needs to have the skillset to use SQL codes to get the job done.
What it does: imports your transaction/contacts history and syncs feature transactions with the right invoices
Gave it a shot. Worked as intended.
Sales Dashboard extension (reports your activity)
What it does: supposed to give you a quick insight about your sales.
I would consider it a good start for a better reporting system. Not as thorough as other CRMs and it’s not personalizable.
I saw a couple of other customers claiming it reports wrong data too. But I guess this is not something hard to fix.
Awesome Support extension
What it does: Integrates the Awesome Support SaaS with the CRM
Crashed. Didn’t dig in as I didn’t really need it.
The import/export tool
What it does: export/import different sets of data as CSV format.
I tried to move contacts from one CRM install to another, but the import didn’t work well.
I didn’t spend too much time on it since I was just testing and had only a couple of entries so far.
I assume this should be fixed if reported to the support service.
My overall feeling about Zero BS CRM
For me, the limitations related to the invoicing system was the deal breaker. But I feel like the whole thing is not yet ready for production.
From what I’ve seen, Zero BS CRM needs a lot of attention and hacking to get going.
Don’t get me wrong. The support service does whatever they can to address any needs customers express.
But it still needs to be reported, be a major issue or a very demanded feature, and wait till they have time to investigate and confirm, and get a temporary fix or wait till the next update to see it happen.
The team has their own roadmap and priorities which is understandable.
They can’t fix everything when asked or add a personalized feature for individual customers.
When addressing critical code or extensions-related issues, having to wait few days to get something I needed to use right away is unacceptable for a productivity tool.
And the need to manually use SQL or edit PHP files might not be suited to someone without the proper knowledge to carry safely whatever hack needed to be done.
I would say that Zero BS CRM is your best bet if you can’t afford to pay for a real CRM and you need to be tech-savvy to maintain it.
But you’ve got to live with its limits.
There is no trial for paid extensions and no refunds if they don’t fit your needs
Zero BS CRM has a 14 days refund policy on paper. But they leave it to their own discretion to grant the refund.
So, it’s not a guaranteed refund, no question asked, or a guilt-free thing.
If Zero BS CRM didn’t work out for you, or you don’t feel confident to trust it and use it for production, you won’t get a refund!
In my case, for example, I asked for a refund after 10 days of buying the Entrepreneur pack.
It was denied. When I asked why, I got the following response:
- Zero BS CRM “sold me the product to use as it is”
- And “I used the support service for a couple of days!”
So, when I complained about the couple of points I mentioned on the cons earlier, getting a refund wasn’t justified because I was supposed to know how things worked before purchasing.
The problem is you can’t know how a paid plugin can be used unless you purchase it and try it. Unless you are some kind of a nerd-psychic
I later found a blog post on their blog about why Zero BS CRM doesn’t have a live demo for paid extensions without giving an actual reason. So, the idea is to know if their extensions fit your needs with watching an 18 minutes video…
I didn’t want to argue much. I left them with the $200, which actually cost me $240 due to a surcharge on my end.
Now I’m stuck with a product that I don’t trust for production.
What’s the alternative?
After the huge deception I had with Zero BS CRM, I resolved that running a CRM on WordPress was simply not an option for the time being.
The current CRM lineup is very limited. And there is always the risk that a set WP CRM looks great from the concept and on paper but doesn’t ultimately deliver the expected outcome.
So, I turned to the SaaS realm to see if there is anything that fits my needs. And I luckily found it!
It’s called Plutio.
It has the same annual rate as Zero BS CRM, but this time around:
- with a functional, bugs free CRM,
- lots of great and smart features already in place,
- a gorgeous proposal and invoicing systems that include Stripe and Paypal,
- a great project management feature,
- mobile apps for Android and iOS,
- they added white labeling recently where you can use your own domain name,
- a fully functional documents management system
- an upcoming Zapier integration,
- an upcoming Automation feature,
- and more importantly, this one comes with a 14-days full functionalities trial with no credit card required
I wished I had found Plutio before trying Zero BS CRM.
But I guess it was meant to be that way.
I wouldn’t have looked for something outside WordPress if I wasn’t tired of giving WordPress CRMs a shot, and if my last attempt with Zero BS CRM didn’t fail!
The funny part is I had an LTD (Lifetime Deal) on Plutio that I’ve voluntary switched to a yearly charge to support the developers team.
Yeah, Plutio is that good!
What will I do with my “Entrepreneur bundle” I paid and couldn’t return?
Well, I’m kinda stuck with it.
As I said, there is no way I’ll be using it for production.
I was considering one of the following two options:
- I can run a contest and give it to the winner
- or I can run a testing node on Digital Ocean so people can experience the paid extensions in real-world before paying for them
But honestly, and after using Plutio for production for a couple of months, Zero BS CRM looks now more like a “Total BS CRM”
I just tossed it on the bin and totally forgot about it.
How to never fall for something similar
My entry point to Zero BS CRM was the post on Kinsta’s blog. Which I was a regular to check and trust.
With Zero BS CRM epic fail, I kinda started questioning any post praising a product.
But I found a fix:
Simply ignore ANYTHING that was reviewed “just for testing” and not for production.
Because testing a tool will never match depending on it to help you make things happen.
This misadventure with Zero BS CRM made me understand a couple of things:
- Never trust reviews until you test the product yourself.
- Never buy a product you can’t try.
- Always check the refund policy and confirm with the author that you might return the item if it doesn’t work as you need it to.
- Always pay with Paypal. Their buyer protection is top notch in case you feel you are entitled to a refund and you couldn’t get it.
- Answers to our needs are not always within WP’s premise.
A lesson that did cost me $240, though.