One of the major projects that took place in Gretur Viajes was the development of a comprehensive customer relationship management system (CRM), which also allowed internal business processes management and complete travel bookings administration, wich also includes bonds and other documentation management, billing and administration of all different products and services offered on the corporate web site. That is, a system both CRM, ERP and Content Management System (CMS) was needed. It must also be accessible via web from any geographical location, easy to use and reliable, especially robust and reliable.
Proprietary applications: high cost and limited flexibility
After an arduous search among different products available on the market I realized that most proprietary solutions had an excessive cost for a small business starting up, and they did not offer the desired degree of flexibility to fit all our needs. So I came to the conclusion that we should make our own custom development, but it should not start from scratch because it would have required an immense effort and long development time. Finally I chose a mixed solution, one that would allow us to start in a short period of time and at the same time flexible enough to incorporate gradually the necessary changes to suit our present and future requirements.
SugarCRM, a highly adaptable software solution
This mixed solution was based on the SugarCRM application, an open source software product that offers a number of features that every business need, such as account management (customers, suppliers, partners, etc..), contacts, calendar, tasks and meetings sheduling, sales and marketing campaigns management, etc. But in addition to providing these basic features, SugarCRM is designed to be fully customizable and adaptable to the needs of every client, as well as fully extensible, so that with sufficient programming skills it is possible to add all kinds of features and workflows that allow complete automation of business processes for any small or medium business. And best of all, this software is available both free of charge or in any of its various paid versions that offer full support and more advanced features. In any case, the application source code is always available to be adapted to the needs of your company with the only limit to your imagination.
The specific case of Gretur Viajes
What follows is an overview of some of the features developed specifically for the case of Gretur Viajes, which are a good example of the potencial provided by SugarCRM to automate and manage any business in a more efficient way.
Quote requests and booking management
An extension for SugarCRM and Joomla was developed to automatically insert into SugarCRM data entered by customers through the web site quoting form. A security mechanism was also implemented in order to save requests when a communication failure event between web site and SugarCRM occurs, so requests are queued that way on a website’s database table. Once re-established communication, queued requests are automatically incorporated to the normal flow of requests inside the CRM.
The requests are then processed by assigned travel agents. If the request results in purchase, it automatically becomes a reservation, which happens to be managed through a separate workflow. These flows are established using an automated states machine wich triggers different actions when inquiries or bookings are changing from one state to another, which greatly facilitates their management and greatly reduces human errors across the whole process.
SugarCRM < -> Joomla synchronization
One of the most powerful features of this customized system is the total synchronization between SugarCRM and corporate web site based on Joomla. Thus, products and services marketed by Gretur Viajes can be administered entirely from SugarCRM. For example, all products applicable prices and fees published on corporate web site are loaded from SugarCRM and can be associated to any request or reservation. All this information can be published in whole or in part on the web site automatically and in real time. That is, if we change the description of an excursion or price of a hotel in SugarCRM, these changes appear instantly on the web site with no additional user intervention.
As can be seen in various screenshots, numerous custom fields were created, many of them not in the original version of SugarCRM, but succesfully implemented thanks to the facilities provided by the SugarCRM framework in order to create new types of fields and process information in different ways.
Many times it is not possible to control if users enter the information correctly. Validation of data entered in a form is not enough, as in a complex system with many related modules and components, information wich is valid at any given time may cease to be due to changes in other modules states or information. To avoid such situations and ensure the quality of the information present in SugarCRM, an alerting system was implemented wich alerts the user if information in such a reservation, a hotel or charge, as well as records of associated modules, becomes invalid.
Thus, if a client did not make a payment and the date of his trip gets closer, an alert will be activated for the user to know that he has to claim such payment to the customer. Alerts are defined using PHP code, so they are extremely powerful, allowing all kinds of queries to the database and take different actions to prevent CRM information degrades.
Finally, several auxiliary modules were implemented for the CRM and corporate web site operation, such as a module to manage the Photo Gallery about Gretur’s travel destinations or master modules with information about all countries, regions, cities and Sites of Interest displayed in corporate web site.