Zoho Outage on Monday, June 11th

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On Monday June 11th all of our services experienced an outage that lasted slightly over half an hour. As of 2:13 pm Pacific all of our services are back up and running. If you are still having any issues, please hit refresh in your browser.

As always, you can get the latest status of our services, get help and contact us at twitter.com/zoho and at facebook.com/zoho.

We apologize for this outage. We know it’s Monday and you just want to get your week up and running. For the technically-inclined, we’ll follow-up soon with an update about the causes of this service interruption.

### 6/14 Update
After doing some digging around, and then some more digging, our operations team gave us an update about the service interruption. It was due to a flood of abnormal traffic directed at one of our services. As a (planned) reaction to this, our firewalls performed as expected and dropped this traffic from getting into our data center. This abnormal traffic saturated our links, which resulted in users experiencing delays and interruptions during this half-hour period. Everything was restored to normal after we were able to stop the traffic flood. We are still investigating the origin of this traffic spike in order to prevent it from happening in the future.

Rodrigo

Just In: Engage and Support your Customers in Twitter and Facebook with Zoho

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We are excited to share with you the newest update to Zoho Support. We have just enabled social media integration with Facebook and Twitter so you can engage and support customers through those channels, seamlessly integrating Tweets and Facebook posts into your existing operation to increase your social reputation while improving your overall customer experience. Today’s connected customers expect a high level of support – and customers are increasingly taking to social media to get their problems fixed. You need to make sure you’re listening and have the right tools to face this new reality. Zoho Support helps you do exactly that.

Listen to your customers, wherever they are

For your business, hearing directly from customers is the most valuable aspect of social media and with Zoho Support you can tap into this resource and listen to what your customers are saying about you. Whether they direct their tweet specifically at you or if they are discussing your service with colleagues, you can monitor the conversation and then engage with your customers without ever having to leave Zoho Support.

We make it simple to automatically convert customer’s requests or questions from both Facebook and Twitter into tickets. In Zoho Support you can easily define the hashtags or keywords you want to monitor, and manage an effective and organized support effort.

Route and Respond: Build meaningful connections above the chatter

The process you have for handling a question on Twitter or a complaint on Facebook needs to be different than how you handle an incoming e-mail, and that is where the flexibility of Zoho Support comes in handy.  Now you can set a faster SLA and escalation path for tickets created through a Tweet, because you know customers active in social media expect a snappier response and are eager to tweet again if they don’t get it.

Have multiple products and teams but a unified social media presence? Define specific triggers that smoothly send the ticket to the correct agent. For us at Zoho this is huge, now when someone comments on our Facebook page and mentions CRM we can send it to the correct support agent. And when you tweet @Zoho asking a question with the word “invoice,” again it gets assigned correctly.

Your support agents can now reply to tweets or comments on Facebook without ever leaving their Zoho Support workflow, increasing their productivity and safe-guarding your social media presence.

Escalate: Put out fires before they start

Your site or server goes down and all of a sudden you are trending world wide on Twitter. Not exactly your optimal social media strategy.

Now with Zoho Support you can set a trouble-sensing filter that automatically alerts you and others in your company when a certain Tweets-per-minute threshold is met. With immediate notification that the conditions for a social media tsunami are about to hit, you can take the proper steps to fix the problem sooner and leverage the increased energy into positive social interactions emphasizing your stellar customer support.

All of this is now live inside Zoho Support and is available for all of our Professional and Enterprise edition subscribers at no additional cost.

This is not the first -or the last!- social integration we add. In the recent past we also announced that Zoho CRM users can stay in contact with their customers through social media. We also recently integrated our applicant tracking system, Zoho Recruit with LinkedIn. It’s only going to get more social from here!

Let us know what you think at @Zoho or at facebook.com/Zoho - we’re listening!

Rodrigo

Zoho Mail Intermittent Access on 4/25

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Yesterday, Wednesday, April 25th, we experienced some technical issues with one of our Zoho Mail application servers. As a result, less than one thousand users experienced intermittent access to Zoho Mail from 2:00pm until 3:00pm Pacific Time.

Although Zoho Mail was inaccessible through the web interface, customers were able to access their email, and send/receive email through our mobile UI.

To those users that were affected, we apologize for this issue. Although this affected a very small percentage of our user base, we strive to provide great service to all of our users.

Rodrigo

Cold Calling: 5 Tips from a “target”

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There’s cold calling, and then there’s Cold Calling. If you don’t know the difference (hint: it’s not the capital C’s), then you’re probably not doing it right. Here are 5 tips from a cold calling “target” you can use to increase the effectiveness of your prospecting and sales.

In technology companies, there are two people that get the most cold calls: the IT/Data Center guy and the Marketing guy. In addition to pitch emails, I get about 3-5 cold calls every day from different vendors trying to pitch me some new service, product, ad network, etc.

Being in Marketing, I’m certainly sympathetic to what sales guys are trying to accomplish every single day: fill out their pipeline, and keep deals moving. As a professional courtesy, I try to take most of their calls, and I reply to their emails – even if it’s just to tell them I’m not interested (the exception to that rule are email list “companies”).

I also take the calls for a selfish reason: I want to see myself what makes a good sales guy sell. It’s highly educative to see a great sales professional go about their job. Particularly on a cold call – that’s a very hard thing to do.

Some people say that cold calling doesn’t work. Well, I’ll tell you – it does work, sometimes, but you need to do it right. While we don’t do Cold Calling at Zoho (we’re way too busy handling incoming calls), I have spent marketing dollars with more than one company that came to me through Cold Calling. Why? Well, they got something I needed.

So here are 5 tips you can use during your Cold Calling. While these are directly related to phone sales, most of them also apply for emails/LinkedIn. Sure, there’s a lot more that you need to do, but you also need to make sure you get the following five areas down to a science.

1. Find a target
When I say “find a target”, I don’t mean to say “get a phone number”.  But that’s how vendors come to me. They call our main line – they ask for whoever runs Marketing (sometimes our receptionists don’t screen well enough!) and voilá, they end-up in my phone. That’s how you do cold calling. And it doesn’t work – I’ll usually be ending the call within 15 seconds. Cold Calling, on the other hand, means that you’ll use social media, LinkedIn, or just plain Google (it takes 2 seconds to find my LinkedIn profile) to find out who you want to talk to. So when you hit that phone, you ask for that peson, by name. When he answers the phone, you greet him by name. And please, please, pretty please, don’t ask stupid questions like “would you be the person responsible for Marketing?” as an opener! If you did your research right, you know I am. Get to the point.

2. Research
You’ve got your prospect, alright. You know their name, you know their title, you can find a phone number to start hunting them. But hold your horses! Don’t touch that phone just yet. First do a little bit of research about your target company.

For example, just today I got a lady on the phone. She was very courteous and professional. She wanted to invite me to some event for “Technology Resellers”. WTF? If you spent even 5 seconds on our website, our LinkedIn page, our Facebook page or our Twitter profile, you would know that we are not a “technology reseller”. We sell online software.

Some other times it is not as obvious. Some time ago I got a call from a company whose name I’ll omit. This company is in the business of enabling through-the-web trials for companies that sell old-school (installable) software. It’s a very neat thing. And if we sold installable software, I would want to talk to them. But we don’t sell installable software. We sell online software. That company is totally irrelevant in the world of SaaS.

3. Speak at their level
So you’ve got a name, a number, a title – you’ve done a bit of research. Next thing, you need to be able to speak at your target’s level to make sure you are pressing the buttons that are important for him/her. This is just sales 101 yet still most salespeople fail miserably at this.

This includes not only talking about the right topics – but also talking about them in the right context, and in the right wording. Yes, this stuff matters a lot.

I just had, not 10 minutes ago, someone call me pitching me SEM/PCC services. It was going ok… then I asked some question and the person on the other side started reciting to me the differences between the “organic results” and the “sponsored results” on Google.

Listen,  if I’m the owner of a local small business, maybe you should check first what’s my level of expertise in the arena. But… I mean, really? We’re a technology company. We’re an online company. We spend a LOT of money with Google every month (there’s multiple ways you can check for that), and you give me that pitch? I can tell you that call didn’t end up well.

4. Know your pitch – but not too well
In a previous life I had the opportunity to work with a very efficient, mature outbound sales team. When we were preparing an outbound campaign, the sales manager told me: “Just do me a favor, don’t give our guys a call script. Instead give them some pointers”. What she meant was that sales reps needed to apply their own creativity, wording and style to the campaign.

So if you’re a sales rep and someone gives you a script, reject it. Come up with your own version that makes you feel comfortable. And please, please don’t memorize it. It’ll make you sound less sincere.

Likewise, you need to be prepared to adjust your pitch on the fly. If you are doing Cold Calling right, you’ll be asking some questions. You’ll need to adjust your pitch depending on the answers to those questions. Maybe you see your prospect already knows about the topic – engage him with a more advanced conversation.

5. Be prepared for the next steps, and be prepared to discuss ballpark prices
The goal of Cold Calling (at least for most B2B product/services) is not to do an outright sell, but rather to just take the conversation forward to the next step. Yet, many sales people don’t know this, and they shoot themselves in the foot by rambling and not going for a strong close.

The very best sales people I’ve gotten are very smart about this. Once they sense some interest, instead of keep expanding on the topic, they’ll suggest a follow-up conversation, or an online meeting, or something of that sort.

It amazes me how some sales people won’t discuss pricing on the first call. I just don’t do business with them. Listen guys, discussing pricing (ballpark, of course!) is a very good thing for both buyer and seller – it helps you check that neither one of you is going to loose your time with a deal that is out of range. So be prepared to give some estimates or ballpark numbers about what you’re selling.
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Right, I know what you’re thinking: these points are so basicYet, about 95% of the cold calls I get did not do their homework on the points above. Sure, it saved them a couple of minutes of research, but it also meant they lost a valuable prospect within the first few seconds of the call. Likewise, if you did your homework, you’ll be able to qualify your prospect faster – and then you can move on to the next one on the list.

 

 

 

Zoho on Lifetime Television’s The Balancing Act

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BalancingAct-SM

We were recently invited to The Balancing Act, a morning talk show on Lifetime Television, to discuss how online software helps people run their small businesses. Sometimes those of us in the SaaS industry forget how new and daunting running applications on the cloud can appear to those that are new to it. But of course, it isn’t. Zoho makes it easy for freelancers and small businesses to focus on their business while we take care of the rest.

Rodrigo

Zoho in Website Magazine’s Top 50 List

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In its February 2012 issue, Website Magazine prints the list of the Top 50 Software Solutions to Explore in 2012. Guess who holds the #3 spot? Zoho. Well, I guess that’s where we disagree with Website Magazine – we think we should be at the top. But, who’s counting?

Website Magazine notes (emphasis mine)

Web workers used to (and many continue to) struggle with the wide variety of software that was necessary to gather intelligence, engage in all manners of Web marketing and online advertising management, and communicate digitally. That’s a lot of responsibility, but thankfully it’s getting simpler. If there is one trend that will define 2012 and beyond, it is that of a more unified platform. 

A unified platform – that’s exactly what has been driving us at Zoho since we started in 2005! We believe there’s a lot of value in having everything work together, seamlessly, to having everything under one roof. And that’s what you’ll find here at Zoho.

You can find Website Magazine’s 50 Top Software Solutions to Explore in 2012 in their February 2012 issue and you can also find it online.

Less CRMing and More Selling with Zoho CRM: New UI plus Exciting Features

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A few months ago we started rolling out a preview of our new, totally-rebuilt Zoho CRM UI. We took a close, hard look at how users were interacting with our app, and how we could make it easier for them to achieve their daily goals. Our goal was to make users spend less time  inside the Zoho CRM app, so they can spend more time selling.
So we re-designed many workflows and screens inside our app. A small example: we realized that everybody wants to add notes to their contacts/prospects. So, we made it very simple for them to add more notes. We streamlined how we show contact information. We made it easier for a sales rep to check availability for scheduling a follow-up call with a prospect right from the contact screen. We made several other changes - big and smallThe feedback we got from users has been overwhelmingly positive, and we’re pretty thrilled about that.

But that’s not all we have been working on. We have also been busy building a lot of new things we know you will love. We kept this as a surprise for all of our users – and here it is.

Stay on top of what’s happening on your sales pipeline with Pulse
Just like you can follow people on Twitter, now you can follow a particular lead, deal, contact or account in Zoho CRM. Sure, you can always run a report, but Pulse takes sales tracking to the next level by allowing you to follow what’s really important for you. But that’s pretty much where the Twitter analogy ends, because we’ve taken it a couple steps further. How? First, you can create rules that will automatically “Follow” a deal for you when some conditions are met. But my favorite part is this: you can also follow what’s NOT happening in your business.



Let me explain. When you follow a deal, it’s because you’re interested in seeing what happens with it. But what happens if a week goes by and you haven’t heard anything? How will you remember? Pulse takes care of that for you. In the Pulse tab inside Zoho CRM, you can view what is happening and what is NOT happening, and you can also set different time intervals for keeping track of your deals.

Build Custom Apps based on your CRM Data

With this latest Zoho CRM update, you can now build custom apps that access data inside your CRM system easier than ever before. For example, if you want to build a Travel Expense app, you can have one field ask what account or deal this travel was related to – and display a list of deals right from Zoho CRM. Of course, you have always been able to build this with an our API, but this update makes it easier for you to build apps with Zoho Creator – so there’s no coding required, just drag-and-drop. In addition, you are able to add these custom apps as tabs inside Zoho CRM.

Connect with your Customers on Social Media

Zoho CRM now allows you to link a CRM contact with their LinkedIn profile. So you can not only very easily get their position, company, city and more – but now you will also be able to keep up to date with their business and professional activity. You can even see their picture directly in your Zoho CRM contact. You can even send a note to your contact through LinkedIn right from Zoho CRM.
Webhooks make Zoho CRM even easier to integrate


We’ve had a pretty good and liberal API program for a while. But say for example, you want to update your inventory system every time you close a deal. How can you alert the external system that something just changed inside Zoho CRM? That’s what webhooks are for. Without getting too technical, every time some condition is met, Zoho CRM will send a quick message to your external system (your inventory system in this example) to give it a “heads up”. After that, more complex processing might take place through the API.

This is a major release and a major milestone for us, and hopefully you will find it exciting and useful!

Rodrigo