Zoholics: Add to your Business Toolbox this May

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Want to know how to better manage your business? Whether you’re getting started with using Zoho or want more out of your Zoho apps, the second annual Zoho User Conference held on May 29th-31st in San Francisco has you covered with over 55 sessions.

In addition to providing general workshops, there will be tracks specifically designed for those who are already well-acquainted with Zoho products or want to explore other tools that can help make managing a business more efficient.

The conference will feature well–known speakers in the tech industry like Ray Wang, Brent Leary, Doug Sleeter, and also Robert Scoble, who will be hosting a fireside chat with Sridhar Vembu, CEO of Zoho.

To find out what you can learn from the conference, answer some of the questions in the graphic below or view the conference’s full agenda here. Don’t forget to download our updated Zoholics iPhone app that will give you details about the event on the go.

We hope to see you in San Francisco! For more information, to register, or book your hotel at the venue, visit www.zoholics.com.

What sessions are you excited about? What speakers are you looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Zoholics Infographic

 

 

Email With CRM inside; A Must Have For Sales People Who Live In Email

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So you managed to set up this fantastic Customer Relationship Management (CRM) application, which is without a doubt helping your sales team close more deals faster. But then, it dawns on you that some of your sales people are still obsessed with using Email for exchanging messages.

The more you notice them spending time in keeping the two tools in sync, you get this nagging feeling that maybe your Email service and CRM should interact with each other?

Let’s face it. It is an irrefutable fact that we are all still obsessed with checking and responding through Email even amidst the burst of social media channels. You simply cannot write it off, particularly as a communication medium for business. Trying to treat CRM and Email as two exclusive tools, is probably not too prudent.

In our view, as a provider of online business apps that include an award winning CRM and ads-free business email service, the stance to take is not CRM or Email, it is CRM and Email, integrated with each other.

For instance, imagine how nice it would be if, from within your Email service you could:

Automatically identify leads, prospects, customers (or in short CRM contacts)
You just realized that you promised to send an email with some important documents attached to a new prospect with a first name….Patrick, last name….ugh….? You hit compose in your Email interface, start entering ‘pat….’ and bam!

crmleads-autoprompt

There amongst the list of possible Patricks, suggested automatically, under a section clearly demarcated as ‘CRM Contacts and Leads’, you find ‘Patrick…..Yee’. Yes, that’s him. You select his email id and start composing your message. Without having to navigate away from your Email.

Auto-magically filter emails from the people who matter most (that is your CRM contacts)
crmbox-folder

Your Inbox is overflowing as usual and you wish to somehow directly get to those emails that are truly worth reading and responding to.

Oh wait! Since your Email connects with your company’s CRM, your CRM contacts’ messages are automatically filtered into your ‘MustReadEmails’  folder. Better to check this CRMBox in your Inbox then.

That’s a relief!

 

Equip yourself with utmost information about your leads and prospects
Hasn’t there been at least one instance where you ended up confusing a prospect because he had conversations with multiple people in your business, who were out of sync with each other?

zcg-crm2Thanks to the CRM contextual gadget in your Email, you can now quickly skim through notes recorded about a contact by your colleagues, events and demos scheduled, completed and more. Having gained a deeper insight on the accumulated impact of interactions as team, rather than just you individually, you can proceed to create new CRM tasks from within your email. And all of your actions will directly reflect in your business’ CRM. Nice, isn’t it?

Now wouldn’t it be wonderful if Email & CRM are integrated with each other in such non-intrusive, contextual ways?

Does your Email service include such CRM integrations? Does your CRM come with a MailMagnet?

Isn’t an email service with CRM integrations, a must have for sales people who live in email?

Well, these integrations are already in place between Zoho Mail and Zoho CRM. Maybe it’s time you switched to a smarter email hosting service, built for business use?

McDonald’s customer service problem

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In a surprise to absolutely no one who has ever spent more than a minute inside one of their 34,000 restaurants, McDonald’s has begun admitting after a string of missed expectations that even in the world of fast food, being cheap and tasty isn’t actually everything—customer service matters.

By Giorgio Martini (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

Ronald, in the face of news that could make anyone Grimace, has finally learned what we—the customers—always knew: customer service, or the lack there-of in this case, makes up a huge part of the combo meal we are looking for in a place to eat (or from any business for that matter).

Earlier this month the Wall Street Journal reported on a webcast that Mickey-D’s executives had with franchise owners, in which the company said 1 in 5 customer complaints are related to “friendliness issues, ‘and it’s increasing.’” According to the presentation, the top complaint from customers: “rude or unprofessional employees.”

Executives admitted that “service is broken,” and cited that customers find their service chaotic. The Journal added, “McDonald’s told franchisees that customers rate good service almost as highly as dollar value, pointing to a National Restaurant Association survey.”

One franchisee told the Journal where he feels the Golden Arches are headed, “The new leadership has decided to focus on customer satisfaction as a real driver for us to build the brand and build sales. So for us to maximize the potential that’s out there, we’ve got to be the leader in guest satisfaction.”

Well, duh. What took so long?

With 1.7 million employees worldwide serving 68 million customers each day at 34,000 restaurants in 119 countries, McDonald’s is the world’s burger behemoth. But stateside, the typical McDonald’s is a small business, with 90% of the 14,000 restaurants owned by independent operators.

Like any small business, a McDonald’s is much more than the products it makes and distributes, it is an organization driven by customer service interactions. Without quality employees delivering happiness to customers in harmony with a consistent and accurate product—the customers will stop returning, the sales will decrease.

For me, there is always somewhere else I can spend my money. In this case, the Chick-Fil-A across the street will always greet me with a smile and go out of their way to refill my refreshing diet lemonade. Of course, that is only if I am not at the local joint around the corner where they know me by name and have memorized my usual order.

Regardless of how cheap your food is, and how fast you can deliver it, if you continually screw up customers’ orders, treat them with contempt when they make requests, and are flat out rude—they won’t return. Those addictively delicious, crispy, salty fries and the smooth sweetness of a $1.29 hot fudge sundae can only cover up so much bitterness from your employees.

Known the world over for their iconic Golden Arches and greasy boxes of children’s happiness, Ronald and Co. appear to be slowly coming around to today’s customers—who value good customer service and support and will quickly and boisterously share with the digital world when they encounter sub-par service.

A real McDonald's. New and modern look, same old rude service.

Yes, this is a real McDonald’s. Seriously. (Credit: Freshhome.com)

Lately, they’ve focused on rehabbing the company’s image from a mechanical slinger of processed, fatty foods (Super Size Me” wasn’t the best PR), to an affordable, fresh, quick-service café with options (even healthy ones) for every mood, taste and budget. Their attempts to remain relevant to today’s customers—adding variety to the menu, redesigning their locations, even adding upscale beverages (they have real-fruit smoothies, at McDonald’s, seriously)—are impressive in contrast to the old McDonald’s. But while extensive, and expensive, these changes were only skin-deep.

Ronald is wearing the right things, he’s listening to the right bands, but underneath he is still the same old, creepy, rude clown.

The reason why others are passing McDonald’s by, as McDonald’s has finally admitted, is because they have a cultural problem with customer service. Their culture isn’t centered on the customer. The new expert-designed spaces and menus are aimed to make McDonald’s convenient, comfortable and friendly in today’s marketplace, but the key ingredient – the people delivering the customer service – was neglected rather than rehabbed.

Last week, for the first time in a very long time, I had a meal at McDonald’s. I stopped in for breakfast at a trendy, clean, well-designed space in downtown Chicago’s Loop. Uncluttered, well designed, easy-to-use digital menu boards welcomed me, enticed me to order. I even had a choice of fashionable mid-century chairs to sit in and eat. The space was great – it felt cool and comfortable, and was more an extension of it’s chic neighbor, the W hotel, than a competitor to the Dunkin’ Donuts across the street.

Yet the whole experience fell flat because the employees were mechanical, impersonal, and in the case of the one who handed me my order, flat-out rude. I was somehow inconveniencing them for making a simple request.

Maybe McDonald’s will get it right. Maybe the small-business owners that operate the majority of their restaurants in America will realize that the Golden Arches only go so far, that they need to focus on building a customer service culture that gives everyone, not just those under the age of 10, a happy meal.

Next time you stop in, please share with me your latest McDonald’s experience. Myself, I think I will track their progressing customer service elsewhere.

Investing Your Tax Refund into Your Small Business

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The April 15th deadline for filing your taxes has come and gone and you survived (hopefully). More importantly, if you’re expecting a tax refund, you’ve probably already starting thinking about ways to spend the money — especially considering the average refund is almost $3,000.iStock_000012423600XSmall

There is, of course, the responsible route. You could put your refund in a savings account in case of an emergency, pay off high-interest personal credit card debt or even invest in the stock market.

On the other hand, you could also have some fun with the extra cash. Maybe it’s finally starting that home improvement project, taking a much-needed vacation or even splurging on something you’ve had your eye on for quite some time like a new car. In fact, according to a recent poll by Travel Leaders Group, 43 percent of people plan on spending their tax refund on traveling while another study by eBay found that 33 percent of Americans will spend their refund on a new vehicle.

However, for small business owners, you may want to consider investing this extra cash into growing your business. Whether you are just starting out or have a respectable presence in your market and city, some extra money can go a long way in future success.

Investing in Your Website and Online Presence 

Finding the best avenue to put your money to use may seem like an overwhelming task. From advertising to hiring employees and even improving your office, there are a number of ways you could invest your tax refund money into your small business. But which is the best?

Web designer and CEO and founder of the international online perfume retailer GrandPerfumes.com Sonny Ahuja suggests investing money in building a better website and launching a Google Adwords campaign. Both of these investments can help attract new customers to your business for not much money. Additionally, hiring copywriters to produce quality and unique content, can go a long way in attracting new and loyal clients.

Along the same lines as improving your website, one of the most effective and least expensive marketing strategies available is adding videos to your site says Alfred Poor, author of “Power Marketing for Small Businesses:  How You Can Boost Sales with Low-Cost Video.”

“A professional short video can cost $500 or less…and you don’t even have to own a camera or a computer,” Poor said.

Thinking About the Future

Along with investing your tax refund directly into your business’ marketing campaigns, website and other areas, many experts also recommend using this extra cash flow to pay off debts or for investing in benefits for your employees.

This is especially the case if you are experiencing steady growth and are looking to keep valuable employees on staff. From using the money for a company outing to boost office morale to paying the start-up costs for a 401(k) retirement plan, it is important to show your employees how much you value their hard work and dedication.

Seek Professional Advice

Remember that your business is unique and what is right for one business may not be right for another. Make sure you speak with a financial professional about how to best use your money so you can continue growing and have a bountiful 2013.

 

 

Poll: What’s the ratio of support reps to sales reps in your business?

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Businesses come in various shapes and sizes. Some can generate a lot of new business with a small sales team, but will need a much bigger customer happiness team to support customers. Other businesses might need a large sales to scale new business quickly and can do with a small team for customer support.

The Zoho Support Poll

Either way, an interesting metric to look at is the ratio of support reps to sales reps in any business. It allows a bird’s eye look at whether a business is sales-intensive or service-intensive. So, that’s the question we’re asking on our poll this week: What’s the ratio of support reps to sales reps in your business?

One support rep for many sales reps

Typically, this is for businesses where sales is driven by a lot of human interactions and post-sales support is only for a small set of issues. For example, businesses that sell simple-but-indispensable products can thrive on this model. The larger sales team enables them to reach more customers and sell more volume. The small-yet-efficient support team can handle the finite bunch of possible issues and resolve tickets quickly.

One sales rep for many support reps

Companies that operate in the B2B space can function on this model. Selling to other businesses means deal sizes are substantial and sales can be handled by a relatively smaller team. On the other hand, they’ll need a fairly sizable customer support team to handle the support load. For products that offer extensive customization, the effort required in post-sales support could be far higher than what’s required of the sales team itself.

It’s also possible that there’s a third case where the ratio is at 1:1. But that’s not as common as the other two. Most businesses are likely to have (at least!) a slight skew in the ratio.

We’re curious to see how the ratios are distributed across all of your businesses. If you have a specific rationale for the ratio in your business, do tell us about it in the comments section below.

Results: Facebook is the most used platform for community

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In a bid to understand how businesses build communities, we had asked a question last week on our poll. We were eager to see what platforms were preferred by businesses to build a community. At the same time, we also wanted to see how much the idea of a building a community had permeated.

poll-results-building-community

As it turns out, Facebook was voted as the most popular platform for building a community. About 23% of all respondents had chosen Facebook as their preference (or one of their preferences). This is fairly straightforward. Facebook has a really large user base and has a simple user experience. It takes very little time to start a community and grow it via Facebook.

LinkedIn comes a close second, with about 20% of respondents choosing the professional networking platform. As a more serious alternative, LinkedIn has several business communities that attract significant participation from members. Businesses, initially, preferred LinkedIn to Facebook when it came to building a professional community, because of its more serious outlook towards networking.

Twitter comes third with about 16% of all respondents in its favor. Although, Twitter isn’t suitable for a community in the traditional sense, it allows businesses to have ‘conversations’ with their customers/prospects. Businesses can address customer support issues via Twitter. It’s also a great distribution platform for content marketing.

Just over 16% of all respondents said they use their own blog and forum to build their communities. This is most likely because a blog and a forum are one level separated from a social network. So, it takes more effort to build a community using these. Building a community away from social networks means that your customers need not necessarily have an account on any of them. In that sense, it has no prerequisites.

Above all this, around 24% of respondents opined that they haven’t yet started building a community. Building a community involves a lot of sustained effort for mostly-long-term benefits. Businesses in their early days might not prefer to build a community, simply because they’re busy finding customers via other means. Also, in the case of businesses where a community simply serves the purpose of customer support, email or phone support might be a better idea for sometime. Nevertheless, this component of the respondents will most likely start building a community sometime in the future.

If you’re looking to build a community, you might want to consider the pros and cons of each platform in detail, before deciding on anything.

That’s it for this week. We’ll come right back next week with another topic. Until the, have a great weekend!

5 Tips to Make Online Meetings Run Smoothly

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This is a guest post by Michael Essany of Null Media

With the increasing use of online business applications and remote working habits, the modern workplace can often reap more benefit from timely online conferences rather than face-to-face on-site interactions. And not surprisingly, continued technological development and corporate cost-cutting pressures around the world will keep fueling the rampant growth of virtual meetings in the years to come.Businessman working on laptop in his office.

“In these tough economic times,” offers Brent Arslaner in BusinessWeek, “advancing technologies are making virtual events not only a less expensive replacement for physical meetings but also a superior one. Why do we have meetings and events? 1) to exchange information; and 2) to network. Virtual meeting and event technology can facilitate these two objectives easily.”

Fortunately for employers and employees alike, the advantages of conducting a meeting online can be as pronounced as they are plentiful. But with the added convenience, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness of virtual meetings also come plenty of caveats to consider before your next web-based powwow. To better ensure glitch-free virtual gatherings in the future, here are a few battle-tested tips to make online meetings go smoothly:

  1. Set an agenda and stick to it. A meeting without a basic structure runs the risk of becoming a chaotic mess that falls short of achieving its goals. Create the same focused, professional atmosphere you would in a face-to-face meeting by emailing an agenda to all participants well in advance of the meeting. Give each person an opportunity to share their observations and feedback.
  2. Be concise. Few attributes are more important in online meetings than brevity. No one wants to listen to colleagues ramble or drone on incessantly. And, whereas it’s difficult to doze off unnoticed when you’re seated in a board room with 12 other people, it’s easy to do so when you’re secluded in your home office. If your digital conference requires more than 45 to 60 minutes, break it up into parts.
  3. Multitasking is a no-no. For some participants, online meetings present the perfect opportunity to catch up on other tasks. From checking your email to scanning your Twitter feed, there’s so much you could but shouldn’t do during a virtual conference. Out of respect for your colleagues and to dodge a distraction that might lead to disaster, pay attention — and keep your multitasking to a minimum.
  4. Choose a quiet location. Online meetings enable remote participants to attend without having to travel. But that doesn’t mean your location doesn’t matter. It does. Nothing interrupts or interferes with a virtual gathering like background noise and distractions (traffic, a barking dog, a blaring television, etc.). Be courteous to fellow meeting participants and take yourself, your laptop, or your smartphone to someplace quiet.
  5. Get to know the platform. Never assume that you’ll know “on the fly” how to navigate the computer software that makes your online meeting possible. It goes without saying that virtual meetings are always best served by the use of a platform that delivers a multitude of key web conferencing features. But regardless of the platform, whether you’re the facilitator or a silent participant, familiarize yourself with it before — and never during — a meeting.