Learning how to get more out of your CRM system every week

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Dave Monk is the CEO of the IT consulting firm ArcSource. His company’s CRM system has evolved over time. First being completely in his head, to a homegrown system for tracking clients’ technical needs, to a full-blown CRM solution for current and prospective clients.

Business: ArcSource is a 12-year-old IT support and consulting business. They act as the IT department for a couple of hundred companies that are too small to have their own IT department.

The challenge: For five years Monk’s firm failed at managing new project opportunities or tracking customers throughout their life cycle. All they had done was build some homegrown stuff to track certain client information, such as technical specs, that were necessary for doing their job. After that, they had nothing.

“When we started everything was being tracked in my head. Which soon proved to be a non-scalable system,” Monk admitted.

How discovered Zoho: Prior to 2007, Monk didn’t even know there were tools to track sales prospects or there was a term CRM – Customer Relationship Management.

He initially implemented Salesforce in 2008, but switched to Zoho at the beginning of 2011. Monk did an exhaustive comparison of the features between Salesforce and Zoho, and came to the conclusion that the two were matched in terms of features. What they didn’t match on was cost. It was the reason Monk left Salesforce. The super high costs were far too prohibitive for him to get his whole staff to use it. Zoho CRM was about 1/5th to 1/6th the cost of Salesforce.

Monk wishes he had gone to Zoho sooner because now he’s getting more people using the CRM system in an intimate way. Because of the high price of Salesforce, he simply couldn’t afford to get everyone in his company using the product.

It wasn’t too hard to exit Salesforce and bring data over thanks to some templates provided by Zoho. Ultimately, Monk thought Zoho’s performance was much faster than Salesforce especially in the ability to edit records. With Zoho you don’t actually go into the edit mode for the whole record if you just want to make a simple change.

Unique use case of Zoho CRM: Monk takes full advantage of Zoho’s Marketing Campaigns feature which gives him the ability to track results from a specific marketing effort, such as direct mail pieces and email campaigns. For example, in one case he saw that he brought in more than $120,000 from a specific $1,000 direct mail campaign. Prior to using the Marketing Campaigns feature, he had no way to determine ROI.

Advice for others: An analysis of your current sales and marketing process or lack thereof will make it very clear as to what’s missing, said Monk. Putting into place a CRM solution like Zoho has made our business more productive in terms of tracking information, opportunities, and learning, in every possible way.

It’s a learning process though. Take it a day at a time, or a chunk at a time. It’s very easy to use from the get go and to continually use it, Monk explained.

“Don’t let the end goal of a mature product be the barrier to get in the door. Cause you’ll reap benefits from day one,” Monk advises, “Every small business can benefit from a CRM solution no matter what. We’re seeing new opportunities to use the software every week.”

Listen to Dave Monk’s complete interview here.

Dashboard: US Economic Indicators

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Articles about the state of the economy in the media invariably feature one or more graphs. Say how the GDP has fared over the last few quarters or how the inflation has been over the last few years. Various government agencies are involved in publishing these indicators. Sites like http://www.data.govhttp://www.bea.govhttp://www.census.gov etc publish lots of such data regularly. The difficulty here is that you might get overwhelmed with loads of data. You can get lost in searching for what you want across multiple sites. So we thought of putting some of the important indicators all at one place, as a Zoho Reports dashboard.

You can mouse over/click a bar or a point to see the underlying data. Let us know if you would like any other metric to be included in the above dashboard. The whole reporting database is available here.

Zoho Creator and The Playwrights’ Center – The Plot Thickens

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The Playwrights’ Center focuses on both supporting playwrights and promoting new plays to theaters across the country. Significantly, they offer over $200,000 in fellowships to writers and theater artists each year. They also organize workshops where playwrights can get together with actors and directors to see their script at work, and manage several other programs that help playwrights get connected and build their careers. As they work closely with theaters, actors, directors, and writers, they have an advantage when it comes to advocating for artists and promoting them.




Way back in 1971, five playwrights were seeking professional assistance and support.

The Playwrights’ Center
 was founded by these five writers to help them secure productions of their plays, and later expanded to offer multiple forms of support and professional assistance. Since then, it has served as a launch-pad for numerous artists and currently serves over 1,100 member playwrights, making it one of the largest and most comprehensive play-writing centers in the country.




Tom Borger is the Communications Associate there, who is responsible for social media coverage, as well as print and electronic communications. He was the person who set

Zoho Creator
 up for the Playwrights’ Center. He spoke to us about why and how they got started.




The Playwrights’ Center wanted to track the careers of writers who had benefited from their programs. Knowing where each of their playwrights’ plays had been produced, as well as what honors and awards that playwright had received, would help them promote and advocate for the playwright. The Playwrights’ Center also wanted to measure their own effectiveness. This data would go to funders and donors interested in the impact of the Center’s work.

The extensive documentation
was gratifying to have; there were so many examples, and the message
boards were full of other people’s experiences.

The problem was that they had theaters, productions, awards, and past development to track, in addition to playwrights. Also, a play would often have more than one playwright. When a play was selected, all artists associated with that play needed to be populated in the respective fields, and vice versa. Handling these complex branches of data on spreadsheets was the last thing they wanted to do because it led to multiple versions of the same data. So, Tom decided to build a new database using Zoho Creator.


The very few times I ran into snags, I emailed support and heard back
really quickly. That was impressive because all that was for a user who
wasn’t even paying; I was doing all this on a free account.

Tom is now set for the next step; publicizing the applications on their website using a JSON feed. He also suggests that the number of specific scenarios addressed on our

 should keep growing in order to guide new users. That, we will do.  

(And, personally, I loved using

for editing the images for this post!)

Zoho Support’s Customer Portal – New Enhancements

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Zoho Support’s Customer Portal, the exclusive interface for your customers to submit and track their requests, just got better. A couple of weeks back, we introduced custom themes support for the customer portal. Today, we are happy to roll out a new set of enhancements to the customer portal, like allowing your customers to view their organization tickets, customizing the portal invitation and configuring the default language.

View Organization Requests in the Customer Portal

All this while, users logging into the customer portal could view and track only the requests submitted by themselves. Now, in the enhanced customer portal, they can also view the requests submitted by others in their organization. Apart from viewing, they can also post a reply and track the status of the requests. This would avoid duplicate requests about similar issues getting posted from an organization, which in turn will significantly reduce the overall number of incoming requests coming into your support portal.

You can enable this from



Customer Portal Settings


Customer Portal Access Settings


Customize Portal Invitation

Also, you can now customize the invitation email sent to your customers to join your organization’s self-service portal. You can select the From address, Reply to address, Subject and the Body of your invitation email. Best of all, you can preview the changes made to your invitation before you hit save. With this personalization, you can have all the content that you wish for in the invitation email that you send to your customers, providing them a seamless support experience.

To customize the portal invitation of your organization, goto



Customer Portal Settings


Customer Portal Invitation


Customer Portal – Language Setting

Till date, a user could access the portal in their chosen language only on signing-up with their login credentials. Otherwise, the portal would be displayed only in English as the default language. Now, an option has been provided to configure the default language for your portal. This ensures that your customers view the portal in the language set by you prior to their login.

To customize the language of your Customer Portal in Zoho Support, goto



Customer Portal Settings


Customer Portal Home


We hope you enjoy using these enhancements and deliver the best possible service for your customers. Feel free to provide us with your feedback on these enhancements at support@zohosupport.com.

Getting Organized – Google Tasks integration with Zoho CRM and Zoho Projects

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We’ve continuously been working on adding more enhancements to Zoho applications in

Google Apps marketplace
. Just last week we announced “Zoho CRM Contacts/Calendar sync with Google Apps” and got great feedback. Today, we’re very excited to announce Google Tasks integration with two of our top products in Google Apps marketplace,

Zoho CRM

Zoho Projects

This integration provides a unified platform for tracking all your tasks in one place. Usually, users tend to maintain sales related tasks in CRM application, projects related tasks in project management app and personal tasks in another application. The confusion arising out of such multiple platforms can now be avoided with this integration.

Here’s a quick run through on the technical details of the integration:

For most of us, emails are an integral part of our day-to-day activities. With this integration, users can now check their tasks in Zoho CRM or Zoho Projects, right from within their GMail Tasks tab.

In Zoho Projects, you can export task lists to your Google Tasks. Once it is exported you can manage your tasks in the Tasks tab in GMail. We’ve also provided an option to sync the tasks between Zoho Projects with Google tasks. With sync, the newly added/completed tasks will be updated from Zoho Projects to Google and vice-versa.

Similarly we’ve given an option to export the tasks in Zoho CRM to Google Tasks.

If you’re a Google App administrator you need to “Update data access requirements” in Google Apps dashboard page to start using the integration.

We believe the integration of Google Tasks with Zoho CRM/Projects will go a long way in helping you organize your work more efficiently and be a lot more productive. As always we’d love to hear your feedback. Do drop us a line on what you like about this integration and what more would you like to see.

To know more about our other Zoho products integration with Google Apps check


This integration wouldn’t have been possible without the help from Google team. Thanks to the Google team for inviting us to be a launch partner for 

Google Tasks APIs
and letting us 

showcase our pilot
during Google IO 2011.

Just In: Resource Utilization & Editable Gantt charts

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Employees are considered the most valuable assets of an organization. The ability to deploy employees effectively against projects enables organizations to utilize and maximize employee productivity. For this, project managers need an efficient system to place the appropriate employees in the right teams at the right time.

Project managers often face questions like how the work to be performed by a team is to be captured, who estimates the amount of effort required, where this information is to be stored and reviewed for accuracy etc. There are no magic shortcuts. You need the right tool that can capture and show the resources utilized within or across all projects of your organization.

The latest update of Zoho Projects offers this crucial feature called Resource Utilization chart, that accurately captures all of the above in a single place. With this chart, you can now get the most out of your valuable resources, i.e., Your Team,to accomplish critical tasks that are overdue by effectively realigning members based on their skills. You can also quickly gain insights into whether your resources are being under, over or optimally utilized in a matter of few minutes.

And…Refreshing new editable Gantt charts!

Before this update
: The Gantt chart in Zoho Projects has always been a challenge for us, since everyone used it in their own unique ways. Previously, it didn’t have enough room to capture more details about tasks. And printing the chart was a bit of a hassle when it was loaded with more data.

Here’s what we did:

We reworked the entire Gantt chart design to make it more appealing and useful for all. And of course, made it easier for printing too.

Best of all
, now you can simply drag the task bar in either direction and edit your Gantt chart. Isn’t that cool? But it doesn’t stop there. You can also export as PDF and send it across to your team.

We’ve also put together a step-by-step guide to get started – Gantt & Resource utilization.

User Access:

Resource Utilization view is accessible for portal owner, joint admins and project managers. While the editable Gantt is available for all user roles except for client users.

What editions are these features available?

Here’s the link to the latest revised Plans and Pricing.

a. Resource utilization / Edit Gantt charts are available for all Premium and Enterprise customers i.e., $299 & $599 annual plans and $35 and $80 monthly plans. It is also available for existing Valuepack 3 customers.

b. The Reports tab, which includes resource utilization and editable Gantt charts (across all projects) is available only for Enterprise customers i.e., $599 annual plan and $80 monthly plan.

Here’s short video explaining the new Gantt chart and Resource utilization features.

We hope this round of updates makes it more useful and a little easier on the eyes of everyone who uses Zoho Projects. Play around with the new reporting features available at http://www.zoho.com/projects/ and let us know your views at

Sync Zoho CRM Contacts & Calendar with Google Apps – Take 2

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Just last Friday we announced sync between Zoho CRM’s Contacts and Calendar with Google Apps.

Many of our Zoho for Google Apps customers had been asking us for this functionality, so we knew it was going to be well received.  However, we disappointed many happy customers when we included this only in our Enterprise edition.

Lots of people commented about this in our blogs, forums and directly to us on email. They were disappointed we didn’t include it on the Professional edition of CRM. 

Google Apps customers expect our integrations to work seamlessly. And we want to have the best and most used CRM in the Google Apps Marketplace. So today we’re enabling this functionality to both Enterprise and Professional customers. If you are a Zoho CRM for Google Apps customer and have the Professional Edition, you should be able to see this functionality in just a couple hours at the most.

From now on, our approach is going to be that any Google Apps integration feature we create will be made available across all of our paid editions.  We want to differentiate our paid editions on what you can do with them (i.e. Workflow, Data Administration, Security and many other benefits) and not on the depth of the Google Apps integration.

In addition, for those customers that already upgraded to Enterprise just to get this feature, we will gladly return you to your original plan and give you a refund. So if you want to take us upon the refund, please contact us at support@zohocrm.com and we’ll take care of you.

You asked, we listened. We thank you very much for your feedback. 


ps. If you like Zoho CRM for Google Apps (including the Contacts & Calendar sync part) please write a review in the Google Apps Marketplace