Customer Spotlight: Business Thrives Thanks to the “Perfect Pair of Jeans”

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Hillbay

For nearly twenty-two years, Alexander Loffeld was a successful businessman working initially as a sales agent for shoe company Lisa Tucci, before joining another designer shoe company as a top sales manager.  On the outside, things seemed to be going well.

Loffeld however was fed up.  Corporate bureaucracy and the grind of long hours and constant deadlines were finally wearing him down.  In 2009, Loffeld decided “enough is enough.”

“I basically had a breakdown, and in one week I sold nearly all of my possessions.  For the next two years, I basically lived a very relaxing life and let the previous twenty-two years of work stress evaporate from my body.”

After two years however, Loffeld was ready to return to the game.  This time however, he was going to start his own business, Hillbay Consultancy Ltd.  All he needed was a few tools to help him get started…

The Business

Hillbay is a consultancy for the shoe industry.  In addition to selling shoes under their own label, Hillbay provides design, production, and distribution for a variety of companies across Europe.

Hillbay Consultancy has an extensive network of shoe manufacturers operating around Italy and works with a variety of customers at various levels of shoe production.

The Challenge: A Company Rapidly Gaining Contacts Seeking a Simple CRM Solution

alex loffeld

Loffeld knew immediately after starting Hillbay Consulting that he needed a CRM solution.

He was rapidly making new contacts and had an existing large database of leads for which he needed a customizable and easy-to-use CRM solution.  As a startup company, Loffeld was also very price sensitive and could not afford to try out an expensive CRM solution only to find it unsuitable for his needs.

Loffeld’s primary challenge then was quickly finding a long term CRM solution that matched his rigid criteria.

Competitive Analysis of CRM Solutions

Loffeld had several years of experience with CRM prior to starting Hillbay Consultancy, and was thus very particular about two “must have” features:

Easy to Use – Because of the high volume of clients and Loffeld’s need to keep everything neatly organized, he did not want to waste time navigating through a complicated CRM solution.  Ease of use was essential.

Low Cost – As a startup, Loffeld was concerned with keeping costs low when selecting business software to integrate into his company.

Prior to using Zoho CRM, Loffeld had extensive experience with Exact Synergy’s CRM solution however he was less than satisfied.

Exact was quite difficult to use.  It needed a lot of hardware, was very difficult to learn, and was not very precise!  I needed something EASY!”

Discovering and Implementing Zoho CRM

Prior to Loffeld discovering Zoho CRM, he was already a user of Zoho Mail, so he was familiar with the company.  During his research into CRM solutions, he stumbled upon an article entitled “5 CRM Companies for You”

“I found an interesting article in a Dutch magazine which listed five different CRM solutions.  They touted Zoho VERY highly, and I somehow subconsciously was saving the ‘best for last.’  I tried every one of them with varying levels of satisfaction for the next two months until I finally realized I haven’t yet tried Zoho CRM itself!”

Having already tried out a number of CRM solutions, Loffeld was growing weary that he would find his ideal solution but was pleasantly surprised when he registered for Zoho CRM.

“I registered for Zoho CRM and after just a few hours, I knew this was it!”

But Loffeld didn’t stop with Zoho CRM.  As he began to grow comfortable with the interface and customizing it for Hillbay Consultancy’s needs, he began to discover other Zoho tools and solutions that integrate tightly with CRM.

“Once I imported all my clients, I began to brainstorm some different ways I could interact with them.  Then I discovered Zoho Campaigns, and integrated that with CRM to send mail out to my clients.”

As Loffeld dug deeper, he began finding value in a number of Zoho products.

“At the moment, I think I use everything of Zoho!  I use Zoho CRM, Campaigns, Sites, Invoice, Projects, and Mail.  Using these products together has made things even easier for me!  I also have begun integrating the mobile option which adds to the convenience.”

Life After Implementation

As soon as Loffeld decided that Zoho CRM was the solution for Hillbay Consultancy, he really “sunk his teeth in” and began taking advantage of Zoho CRM’s customizable features.

“I began optimizing Zoho CRM for myself by adding several custom fields, and grouping clients into separate groups.  To be honest, now I use every feature in CRM in addition to the new features that are added because everything is just so simple to learn.”

Hillbay Consulting is now thriving and has even started its own shoe label in addition to the existing consulting services.  With Zoho tightly integrated into the company, Hillbay has been steadily outgrowing and outperforming its competitors.

What You Like to Say to Other Customers about CRM Solutions?

“If I were to write my own perfect CRM software right now, it would be nearly identical to Zoho.  The BEST thing is that it’s so easy to use!  Zoho CRM is like a good pair of jeans that fits great when you try it on, and one year later is even more comfortable.  I now essentially have Zoho integrated in all aspects of Hillbay Consultancy and we are thriving.”

To learn more about Hillbay Consultancy, CLICK HERE

Announcing Zoho Survey: Easily Create Professional Surveys, Collect Data and Make Smarter Decisions

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Zoho Survey for iPad

We are excited to announce Zoho Survey, the newest addition to the Zoho family. It will now become easier for you to create professional surveys, distribute them to the right people wherever they are and analyze their responses.

 

Create Surveys with Ease, even while on the goZoho Survey for iPad
Our smart survey tool is filled with features that help you quickly and easily create great-looking surveys. Multiple question types are available and hence you can ask your audience exactly what you want. Add logic to your surveys by skipping or adding questions. Depending on the survey taker’s previous responses, you can always make the surveys shorter and more relevant.

 

Zoho Survey also comes with ready-made templates that you can use, with just a couple of clicks, for a variety of purposes. With elegant themes, your surveys look more professional.

We know that most times you are working in a larger team and you can now work in collaboration with your colleagues to receive feedback even before you deploy a survey. Plus, with Zoho Survey’s app for the iPad, you can create surveys while on the go.

Collect Feedback from Your Audience
Zoho Survey is integrated with MailChimp and also with our own Zoho Campaigns. Now, you can connect your surveys with your e-mail marketing lists and distribute personalized invites to your contacts.

Share survey links across social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus and watch the responses roll in. Zoho Survey automatically generates links and HTML/embed codes, so you can display your surveys on your website or blog.

All surveys are automatically optimized for mobile devices (phones and tablets) and hence your participants have a better survey experience and can complete surveys faster on their mobiles.

Analyze Results and Make Smarter Decisions
Analyze your survey results through reports that include a detailed summary of responses and visual representations with numerous charts. You can also create custom reports, crosstabs and filters, so you drill down and uncover patterns in your data.

Results can be shared with colleagues, viewed in Zoho Sheet and exported in various format like XLS, CSV and PDF.  Google Apps users can also export reports to Google Drive.

Plans and Pricing
Zoho Survey offers a free plan and two pocket-friendly plans – A standard plan for $19 per month and a Professional plan that costs $180 per year. You can create unlimited surveys with any plan!

Register for a Webinar
We are hosting a webinar on Wednesday, July 10, 2013, at 9:00 a.m. PDT. Register here for the Zoho Survey webinar.

And, there’s more…
As part of our inaugural offer, get a three-month free subscription when you refer three friends. If you’ve got more friends, make hay while the sun shines, and get up to twelve months free. Create surveys; make smarter decisions.

Free unlimited users! Freedom from software licenses!

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Ever since we started building Zoho Support, we’ve firmly believed that small businesses must also be able to deliver world class customer service without having to spend a lot of resources. That belief has guided us over the last few years and it shall continue to guide us well into the future too.

We’ve continued to ship a lot of features and automation capabilities that make life easier for customer support teams. But, there’s one thing we always wanted to simplify: the way small businesses adopt a web based customer support software. Today, we’re extremely happy to be doing that.

ZSupport-announcement

It’s tricky for small businesses to decide what support channels they can sustain, how many people to hire, how many licenses to buy and so on. It’s really meaningless and unnecessary to go through these decisions when you’re just about to start and grow. You should simply focus on defining your customer support culture. Starting today, you can have as many support reps as you want, for free. Forever.

What?!

Yes, that was not a typo! We’re letting you add as many people from your team as you want for free.

Why free?

Because we think you shouldn’t worry about what channels to use, what plan to choose, how many licenses will be too little and how many too much! These are things you’ll figure out along the way. Until then, we don’t want you to have these in the way of your work!

What’s in the box?

Free Unlimited Reps

Channels: Email, web form, customer portal and forums.

Helpdesk Basics: SLA, escalation, priority

Customization: Rebranding, custom fields and tabs, domain mapping

Reports: Pre-defined reports to help you track how your team is handling requests

What’s the catch? Where’s the fine print?

It might be difficult for you to believe this. But, there’s no catch. No fine print. Nothing. The plan is free for you to use. It has all of the features mentioned above.

However, it’s available only for a limited period and applies only to fresh signups. But once you sign up, your agents are free forever. And you can add more for no cost as well. We don’t limit that at all.

Simply, sign up, set up and start building your customer service culture today!

3 Ways to be a Kick-Ass Sales Rep at your Workplace

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Sales SuperheroAt some point in our lives we all dreamed of possessing superpowers to do extraordinary things, just like our favorite superhero.  We’d love to fly over the traffic to our workplace, multitask in a jiffy and close deals in a snap – in short, we’d love to be that kick-ass sales rep at our workplace! But wait…you don’t have to be born in Krypton or be bitten by a radioactive spider, or possess hi-tech gadgets to do all that. Like Mjollnir is for Thor, your reliable tool is a good CRM system that’s flexible and does most of the sales automation, leaving you to just focus on customer interaction and closing deals.

And with Zoho CRM, here’s how you can become the kick-ass sales rep at your workplace:

Be notified about important customer emails

You’re at work on a fine Monday morning, running through your emails and replying to the ones that are most important. By noon, you find out that you had missed reading an important email from a hot prospect. The reason: your Inbox is cluttered with business emails, personal emails and pesky emails!

The rule of thumb to be a smart sales rep is to attend to your prospects ASAP and to get there, you need a filtered view of your prospects’ emails alone. With MailMagnet, you’d not only receive emails within Zoho CRM but also get a filtered view of your prospects’ emails. The best part of this integration is that you don’t have to keep a check on your emails all the time, because each time you receive an email from a prospect, you’d be notified by a batch right on the Zoho CRM home page.

Mundane tasks keeping you busy? Just Automate.

You love your job. But you also dread the ‘manual data entry’ that comes along with it. All day long you’d type thank you emails, welcome emails, reminder emails and introduction emails, leaving you very little time to do what you are hired for…selling!

Email Template in Zoho CRM helps you get rid of this mundane task. Just personalize emails for each activity, and send emails to individual prospects or mass emails to a list of leads. Say, you’ve imported leads from a trade show and you want to send them a thank you email. All you need to do is select the leads list and blast a mass email.

Go Mobile. Carry Zoho CRM in your pocket

To all those field sales reps, this one is for you. We know you work almost round the clock, attending customer meetings, conferences and events. But at the same time, you can’t carry bulky laptops with you, to update and keep your team in sync with the latest happenings. You need a CRM system you can carry in your pocket. And Zoho CRM for Mobile provides just that. From adding leads to creating tasks, and from receiving email notifications to finding nearby customers, Zoho CRM Mobile App provides it all.

These are 3 quick ways you could become a kick-ass sales rep at your workplace. What are your tips and tricks? Do share them in the comments below.

- Radhika

Finding Time for Vacation as a Small Business Owner

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iStock_000011860951Small

My father is a small business owner. He’s been a small business owner for eight years now. His small business is a lawn care and landscape company in my hometown just outside the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

What started as a three-lawn, single-mower operation back in 2005, has transformed into a full-time job with over 60 yards a week. Mostly from referrals, my dad was getting new yards and expanding on a weekly basis. For a while, I couldn’t talk to him on the phone without the conversation going something like this:

“Picked up another yard today.”

“That’s great!” I’d say. “More business.”

“Yeah. Better than the alternative. Gonna have to start working Saturdays.”

Like most small business owners, my dad’s company is a 24-hour-a-day job. It’s constant planning and working to make sure he gets to every customer, every week. It’s his life.

This is the story of the small business owner. Weekends barely exist, let alone vacation time. In fact, a recent study reported that 41 percent of small business owners take vacation time less than twice a year, and 18 percent never take vacation at all.

Another survey, from Sam’s Club in 2008, reported that 50 percent of small business owners only take major holidays off. To put that in perspective, that’s less than half the number of vacation days the average professional takes every year. (The average number of vacation days outside of holidays in the United States is 13).

But does it have to be like this? We know that for some small business owners, taking vacation time is simply not an option. However, it’s important for not only your own health and success, but also the health and success of your business, to take some time away from the daily grind of dealing with customers or creating a marketing strategy. You have to get away and recharge.

Fortunately, advancements in technology have made it easier than ever to get away from the office while also staying close and “connected,” from your mobile device. Years ago, vacation time meant you were away from the office, and therefore, away from every aspect of the business. You had no idea what was going on until you returned.

Not anymore. With cloud technology, you can access anything you need as long as you have an Internet connection and a device — laptop, smartphone or tablet.

“Small and medium-sized businesses have clearly confirmed the growing importance of mobile services accessed via phone, smartphone and tablet devices when it comes to operating their business,” senior director of product management at Cbeyond Bill Thomson told Business News Daily.

Cbeyond, a cloud and communication services provider, conducted research highlighting the importance of mobile services in running a small business. They found that 42 percent of small business owners would have trouble operating their business without mobile technology. That’s almost half of all small businesses in the country that would lose business and profit without the luxury of working on-the-go.

Additionally, the survey reported that a third of all small business owners claimed their business would not just suffer, but would not survive without mobile services.

Look outside. The sun is shining (at least in Austin, Texas), the weather is warm, and a body of water is calling your name. Trade in another two days at the office for a long weekend at home, in the mountains or on a beach with friends or family. You deserve it.

And remember, with mobile and cloud technology, you’re never more than a few clicks or swipes away from your business. Just in case of an emergency.

How do you handle passwords when an employee leaves the organization?

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This question may sound trivial. Before discussing further, let me narrate an incident:

About three years ago, on March 17, 2010, at Austin, Texas hundreds of cars purchased from a particular car dealer went honking uncontrollably. Still worse, the owners were not able to start the cars as the ignition system had been disabled. Car owners had no clue as to what was happening. They had no other option but to disconnect the battery.

cars-honking3Following hundreds of such complaints and anxious moments, the car dealer carried out an investigation with the help of police and found that a sacked employee had gained unauthorized access to an internal IT application and turned on the web-based vehicle-immobilization system normally used to draw the attention of the customers delinquent in their auto payments. The techie had apparently taken revenge on the dealer for laying him off.

Soon after sacking him, the car dealer had promptly terminated all access, including the one to the vehicle-immobilization IT application. But, he had known the credentials of a colleague, using which he gained unauthorized access to the application.

Now, coming back to the question: How do you handle passwords when an employee leaves the organization? Does your organization have an effective ‘de-provisioning’ process in place to ensure that the former colleague will not continue to access your applications or data?

The saying ‘out of sight, out of mind’ might not hold good in all cases. Most of the employees leaving the organization will forget their former employer and start concentrating on the happenings in the new organization. Rarely, a disgruntled ex-colleague or a sacked employee or a terminated contractor or a greedy techie might turn bad and you will have to encounter problems.

The Austin cars honking incident is a classic example for the kind of insider threats organizations are prone to. A single disgruntled employee leaving the organization can wreak havoc to the very business or cause huge financial loss, if user de-provisioning is not handled properly. De-provisioning includes not just terminating access to key IT systems and applications, but also resetting the passwords.

Conversely, certain online accounts might be ‘owned’ by the person leaving the organization. If he fails to ‘hand over’ or ‘reveal’ the account details to someone else, the account will practically become an orphan posing a different kind of problem.

Tracing Access – The Key Challenge

When an employee leaves the organization,

  • it is essential to carry out a careful review of the access permissions granted to him/her
  • access has to be terminated and passwords must be reset
  • passwords owned by the person should be transferred to someone else
  • the password sharing scenario has to be reviewed. Users often tend to reveal passwords to their colleagues for some reason or other. The most common reason for such an ‘unofficial share’ is to cater to an emergency on one’s absence – Manager revealing the password of an application to a senior member when he has gone on vacation.

The key challenge here is finding out the list of all applications and resources accessed by the person leaving the organization. With the proliferation of online applications, it is indeed a daunting task to trace all the applications to which the person possessed access. Tracing the ‘shared passwords’ is another tricky scenario.

If you can’t trace access, the safest option is to change the passwords of all applications, sites and resources. Needless to say, this is cumbersome, arduous and time-consuming.

Centralized Password Repository – The Ideal Solution

The ideal solution to tackle this problem is establishing and maintaining a centralized password repository using a Password Manager. You can keep all your logins in the centralized vault and grant access to employees selectively based on job roles/responsibilities. By looking at the dashboard, you will know ‘who’ is having access to ‘what’ applications and accounts. When an employee leaves the organization, within minutes you can take a report on the applications accessed by him/her and change the passwords of those sites or applications alone. You can also overcome the sharing-related issues by using a Password Manager. In addition, you may even restrict the passwords from being shown in plain-text to the users while sharing passwords with them. The users will just be allowed to launch a direct connection to the site/application without viewing the password.

If you are wondering which password manager to use, take a look at Zoho Vault, an online password manager that serves as the centralized repository for all your passwords. It helps you securely store, share and manage your passwords and other sensitive data and access them from anywhere. Try Zoho Vault, now!