Why do Companies create Self-Service Customer Portals?


Chantelle Fraser

CEO LeadSquared Africa

I am constantly blown away at how many times companies waste money because they don’t know enough to make an informed decision about what CRM software they should deploy in their business.

    • It ends up in an endless money-pit
    • It ends up in failed implementations
    • It does not add the value that was expected
    • It becomes just another system that can’t communicate with other core business systems

I know this because I have experienced all the above and paid the school fees, so hopefully I you don’t have too.

Coming from corporate, I had already worked on all the “big” CRM platforms like Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, SAP, and Oracle that had been setup for different businesses in financial services and I literally remember it being anything but a painful exercise.

In my own business going this route was not even an option because if I did not enjoy using the CRM how would I convince my sales team to do use it and the price tag that comes with the #1 CRM does not warrant usage for a start-up. 

Implementations feel endless and come with massive price tags. They have implementation partners that you need to work with to rely on for customization and being a start-up that is constantly evolving our processes need to be tweaked every month and it made more sense for us to opt for a drag and drop low code platform than having to pay R6000 an hour for further help.

I had also worked on Microsoft Dynamics and had even sold it to clients before. Never again! Its way to complex and customization is endless. Just when you get to grips with what you have its time for another update which you need to pay for. You pay for everything.

So, what did I do (face in hands), I built my own.

Why did I want a CRM?

I absolutely dislike micro-management and I wanted a CRM so I could get access to my Sales Pipeline in real-time so I could identify red flags and resolve issues before it was too late. You heard of lead and lag indicators. I wanted to see lead indicators so I could do something about it.

I ended up with a CRM that was basically a glorified excel sheet that relied on my Sales Team to update, and did they update it? No….

You can read more about Building Your Own Here. I highly DO NOT RECOMMEND IT.

Ok so then I heard an ad on the radio on the way to the office one day. I remembered the company name, called them when I got to the office and had a meeting setup for later that week. I was super excited because these guys seemed to get it and they said they had the perfect solution. So, we had the meeting and chatted through our requirements and waited anxiously for the quotation.

We got the quotation a few days later.

Another dead-end. The setup fee was crazy high. Great features but very low limits which means we were going to be upsizing monthly. We had 5 users and our setup fee quoted by a marketing agency was R250 000 and a monthly fee of R80000 for them to maintain our account. This excluded any ad spend. It was an obvious no go for us. The free account serves no purpose except to store a few contacts. You can do that on excel. So HubSpot was an absolute no-go because it was right out of our ballpark.

Then a few months later, a friend told me about a friend of hers that I should absolutely meet. He was a reseller for Infusionsoft before they became Keap.

After we had used a few other CRMs, we were beyond exhausted from having to integrate software after software to get to a solution that would work for us. Their pricing was also very expensive for us but the only reason we subscribed to keap was because we got a massive discount and got our once off setup fees waived through the partner. We ended up wasting another 6 months using keap and had to cancel our subscription because as our contact base grew the pricing became completely unreasonable for a start-up.

Keap was our second choice if budget is not an issue for you, but CRMs are fast evolving and at the time, the reporting was not detailed, no social media integration and no landing page builder. It seemed that most of the functionality was available to US based clients with little available for South Africa clients.

After using Infusionsoft for about 6 months we were still not able to get our DNS and CNAME records sorted out so could not send out any emailers from our CRM. Pointless.

That was the end of that expensive exercise and with no local support the feeling of helplessness just stayed and worsened.

Then we looked at Bitrix 24. Wow I was blown away but what I saw online. When you look at the pricing one can’t help but think, ‘this is what I bene looking for’ but Storage based pricing with very rigid plan limits are the catch. At least we knew what to look out for, so we were not fooled again. Lots of ongoing costs if you want to build a custom-made solution for your business

We then looked at Sugar CRM. Again, without any customization its just another place you can keep your contacts.

We then experimented with a range of tools to try and achieve what we wanted all centred around Zapier connecting these tools together. Everyday I tell you, one or other ZAP would fail, and everything would fall over. I had an IT team and a Marketing Team but they were stretched to capacity doing work for our clients so they could just not give me the time I needed to get this sorted out or even maintain it.

When it worked it worked well and better than any of the CRMs we had used up until then. 

We also tried solutions like Pipedrive, Fresh Sales and Zoho but with no local support it makes it very difficult to get anything off the ground. It put me in countless bad moods. The worst feedback I remember getting is, “This is what the product does so you need to work with that”.

I very quickly found them lacking in the depth I needed when it came to automations, and you only come to know this when you want to build out your sales process.

Luckily, we had experimented with a range of tools before this so we were crystal clear on what we were looking for and could quickly identify if it as a miss. Again drop a few thousand rands and start over.

Then in 2014, I was doing research for one of the new products we were developing for our Insurance Broker and Real Estate clients here locally and I came across LeadSquared. I was very pleased to see that from what they were doing, it seemed we were developing our product in the right direction.

I followed their progress and after a few months I reached out to LeadSquared, and it just so happened that they had a representative in Johannesburg. Imagine that. It was great speaking to someone who understand the local business lingo.

We had already at this stage developed 3 of our own industry specific CRM products that we had spent millions of rands on and we had many years of CRM evaluations under our belts, so we asked to implement our own account.

Now its important to note that I am not a coder or a graphic designer, but I do have the ability to draw out a sales process or any process that we used in our business.

So, the Project Team was me, the CEO of the business and my Marketing Guy.

I started off by writing down why I wanted a CRM all over again.

These were my reasons at the time.

  1. I had to get my product to market fast and at the lowest possible price point.
  2. I did not want to hire a big sales team because we were selling a low-ticket subscription.
  3. I did not want to be driving around selling a product for R495 per month.
  4. I wanted to get my messaging right so that when a prospective client came across my content, they would know what problems we solved.
  5. If they showed interested, I wanted a system that would help me qualify the leads so that my very smalls sales team (me and another colleague) would literally just have to send the client an application form.
  6. If they were interested but not ready to buy yet, I wanted to keep nurturing these leads so that I could move them down my lead funnel an ultimately to closure.
  7. Not long after that, our application form was also turned into a self-service application service so all we had to do was a raise an invoice and do a welcome call to our new client.
  8. We sold and we sold and from launching in January 2017 to December 2019 we had 6000 subscribers.

I was also clear in my requirements that I was looking for a system that could manage all areas of my business. Why because Sales does not just involve Sales Reps. There is an entire Sales Fulfilment Process that happens the moment you onboard a new client. 

For example, you have a team that vets the application forms to confirm there is no missing information and you have the right supporting documents.

There is a finance team that must raise invoices.

There is a team that has to setup the new client and give them system access.

There is a team that does client training for new clients and there is a team that handles support tickets from existing customers.

So, what does my CRM cost me?

LeadSquared is a SaaS product which means its hosted in the cloud so there are no servers you need to worry about and much more, but it costs me R22934 per month. So that is almost R270 000 per annum. That is for 16 people using the platform.

What else does it cost me?

Commitment to ongoing assessing of my processes and tweaking them to get the best results which years later takes a few clicks because I made the investment and continue to learn to stay ahead 

How much money did we make?

One of the CRM products, we developed sold for R495 per month, and we were invoicing just over R10m per annum. 

Here are the prices available online today (November 2021) converted back into ZAR.

Here are the rates I would pay for 1 user and to host 10 000 contacts in my CRM across the CRMs I have used. You can check it out yourself.

These are all great solutions, but you must find the right solution to solve your requirement. 

Also note if you use the hyperlinks provided you will see that I am only comparing enterprise plans because that is what I need to solve my requirement.

CRM Product

Cost Per User Per Month

User Count

Contact Limit




10 000




10 000

Zoho (limited to sales CRM so marketing is an extra subscription)



10 000




10 000




10 000




50 000

If you need help evaluating CRM solutions for your business reach out to us. We are always happy to help.