Customer Spotlight: Using Automated Workflows in Z-CRM to Save HOURS Everyday

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brightwise

When BrightWise Marketing first opened its doors over 12 years ago, CEO Jeff Gordon knew that CRM was of utmost importance in creating a positive customer experience and helping the new company grow.  Gordon selected a popular CRM solution at the time and “made due” for several years before realizing that the current approach wasn’t working.  “We had been talking about getting a real CRM solution for 6 or 7 months because our current CRM tool was simply not cutting it.”

Having used the same CRM tool for several years, Gordon was looking for a CRM solution that he could easily import data into, quickly learn to use, and automate many of his daily tasks.

The Business

Jeff Gordon - Found and CEO

BrightWise was started in 1992 by CEO Jeff Gordon to provide marketing consulting services to small and medium sized businesses.  Gordon refers to his marketing strategy as “action marketing.”

BrightWise’s strategy is to provide innovative strategies that generate response, change behavior, and build brand equity.  They focus on marketing programs that blend promotion, advertising, direct response, visual communications, branded products, and alternative media.

The Challenge: Finding a Cloud-based CRM solution with automated workflows

Gordon had been using GoldMine as his CRM solution for over eight years when he began to realize that it was becoming more of a cost and time incurrence than the benefit it was providing.

“We had been using Goldmine for many years and it was finally reaching the end of its useful life for us. We started having CRM problems and I was spending entirely too much money and time fixing problems!”

For Gordon, he found CRM advice from an unlikely source:

“My financial advisor actually recommended Zoho.  I signed up for free to and immediately knew whether or not this was the CRM solution for BrightWise.”

Competitive Analysis of CRM Solutions

Although Gordon used GoldMine as his CRM solution for several years, there were several specific issues he was having.

“Goldmine was much too complicated for our needs and it was becoming an ongoing cost sinker. I couldn’t actually implement things that I wanted to with Goldmine, specifically automating workflow.”

Gordon had three main selection criteria for a new CRM Solution:

Workflow Automation – Gordon places high value on time savings to automating workflow was of high importance.  “I really wanted to be able to take sales processes, break them down, and then automatically generate emails, setup tasks, and other things like that.”

Simple Interface – Gordon found Goldmine’s increasing complexity frustrating and time consuming and wanted a simple, easy-to-navigate solution

Cloud Based – Gordon wanted to increase his virtual capabilities including using virtual employees which made this an essential feature.  “The initial allure of Zoho CRM is that it was cloud based which would allow us to be more virtualized.”

Implementing Zoho CRM

After about a month of using CRM, Gordon and the rest of BrightWise felt very comfortable with Zoho CRM and were already saving time by automating workflow.

“Zoho CRM was just so smooth and swift and made workflow automation so easy”

Once familiar with Zoho CRM, Gordon soon discovered Zoho Projects and decided to integrate that as well to create one interconnected solution for customer project management.

“We actually use Zoho Projects to manage projects and connect that to CRM to have one cohesive dashboard.  It’s very easy for us now to navigate between customers and projects.

Life After Implementing Zoho CRM

“The speed with which we work and the ability to get our hands on information is so much quicker and simpler.  I can’t over emphasize how much time we save using Zoho.  I have been able to save at least two to three hours per day since switching to Zoho.

Gordon has seen huge improvements to his business in customer acquisition as well.

“Managing potential customers has been the biggest boon to my work in dealing with clients and helping me to organize and manage multiple priorities.  We’re now integrating QuickBooks with Zoho so we now have a 360 degree view of client activity from one dashboard which is something I’ve wanted for years and with Zoho became a reality.  But the improvement in dealing with potential customers has been where I’ve gained the most value since switching to Zoho.”

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

“Zoho is always upgrading, adding new features, and make new things available which I really like.  It’s so quick and everything just goes where it’s supposed to go.  Everything is just so easy.  Zoho is just so smooth, reliable and doesn’t crash EVER!”

“The bottom line is that every business person is looking for the same thing:  a sustainable, systematic process for growth that doesn’t’ depend on them being there and is a money making machine that can live in perpetuity.  Zoho CRM does exactly this.”

To learn more about BrightWise, click here.

5 Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn from Vijay Brihmadesam

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These days, it doesn’t take much to call yourself an entrepreneur. You don’t need an advanced degree, a certificate proving you completed required training or even a business card to pursue a dream of starting your own company.

Photo courtesy of Tava Indian Kitchen

Photo courtesy of Tava Indian Kitchen

However, having success as an innovator takes more than just a great idea. It takes dedication, hard work, sacrifice, and possibly even abandoning your comfort zone to have a chance at doing what you love.

Meet Vijay Brihmadesam. Like many people across the world, Vijay had a well-paying job and comfortable lifestyle working at a private equity firm in Palo Alto, Calif. And like many people, he was not happy with his current job and career path.

Long story short, Vijay got together with two of his friends and decided to leave the daily grind of Wall Street to pursue their passion — a fast-casual Indian food restaurant called Tava Indian Kitchen. Now, with two locations and plans for a third, Tava Indian Kitchen is thriving in the Bay Area.

Vijay’s story is just another example of someone having success from taking a risk and working hard. So what can you learn from Vijay to apply to your own path toward entrepreneurial success?

1.  Chase Your Passion

Photo courtesy of Tava

Photo courtesy of Tava

This may seem cliche and obvious, but it’s one of the most fundamental components for success as an entrepreneur. Without a passion or love for the business you are starting, it is almost impossible to fight through the roadblocks and keep moving forward when the easier route is giving up.

Vijay set out wanting to, “serve Indian food in a casual setting that was like what [he] ate growing up.” He believed in his vision and pursued a business that was close to his heart.

2.  Surround Yourself with the Right People

Having encouraging people who are all chasing the same dream as business partners can be an essential part of your success. Vijay partnered with a former classmate of his from Duke University named Jason Pate. The two ran into each other on an airplane and began discussing how they were both dissatisfied with their current jobs and decided to do something about it. They then partnered with another friend (Hasnain Zhaidi) after returning to San Francisco.

“We both wanted to be doing more than the rat race of Wall Street and start contributing to the community in a way that felt meaningful to us,” Brihmadesam told Business Insider.

Chipotle Mexican Grill paper bag3.  Do Whatever It Takes

One of the most amazing parts of Vijay’s story is that he left everything — a high paying job in a respectable field — to chase his dream. More than that, he and his two friends knew they needed restaurant experience in order to have a chance at success. So, the three applied for jobs at Chipotle, and worked the assembly line for a few weeks. Adjusting from an office job to making burritos and burrito bowls everyday may not have been required, but it laid the foundation for Tava Indian Kitchen and its success.

“Chipotle is great because they took authentic Mexican food and made it accessible to the masses,” he said.

4.  Learn from Others’ Success

Vijay and his friends knew there weren’t any casual Indian food restaurants in the area and they made it a goal to fix that problem with Tava. Additionally, the trio wanted to have an ethical impact on the community, just like Chipotle, by using produce from local sources as well as meat that is free of hormones. Another lesson they learned while working the assembly line.

5.  Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

If you are going to be an entrepreneur, you have to know there is a risk of failing, but it cannot stop you. Leaving what you know and the comfort of a guaranteed salary is scary, but by investing everything and not fearing failure, you give yourself the best chance at being successful.

“A chance encounter changed the path of my life…taking the risk was scary, but I couldn’t be more thrilled with my career today,” he said.

Just In: Enhanced Look & Feel for Charts, New Import Option, Expandable Shelves and more

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Zoho Reports brought in some new features in its latest update.

Enhanced Look & Feel of Charts
The default chart background color has been changed from grey to white, to give the chart a lighter look and feel. The fonts and styles of the charts have all been made more consistent. The tooltip now sports a new presentation style, and the tooltip border reflects the same background color as the corresponding bar/line/point.

new-enhanced-chart

New Import Option
Before this update, Zoho Reports supported 3 import options – 1) append new records to the end of a table, 2) delete all records and add all records afresh, and 3) add new records and update existing records. Now, there is a fourth option, which allows you to delete those records in Zoho Reports which aren’t there in the incoming import file. This option is most useful when relationships are defined between tables, and you want to delete specific records.

import

Expandable Shelves
Previously, the column shelves in the chart designer were of fixed height. If more than 2-3 columns were dropped, it was a bit difficult to scroll through and drop new columns. It’s become more intuitive now, as the shelf’s height grows, based on the number of columns dropped.

expandable-shelf-designer

More Chart Types
New Area Chart types have been added.

  • Smooth Area
  • Smooth Area with Points
  • Stacked Smooth Area
  • Stacked Smooth Area with Points

chart-options (1)

Other Enhancements

  • Previously, when changes were made to a chart, the chart type reverted to default. But now, the chosen chart type gets retained.
  • When adding a numeric data column in the Graph tab, Add New Range option is available now (previously, the range was auto-calculated).
  • When you do some changes to a chart’s Settings, you can now preview those changes using the Preview link.

Try the new enhancements in Zoho Reports now.

Customer Spotlight: Zoho CRM Transforms the Way a Business Tracks Customers AND Equipment

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ProSound

In 1999, Chester Hull saw a major opportunity in the consulting industry.  As an ordinary consumer, Hull began to take notice of how frequently he was put on hold when calling companies for support, inquiries, or product information, and how often the experience was relatively unpleasant.

“How long will I be on hold for?  Why is the ‘hold music’ so awful? When will I reach a real person to talk to?!”

Hull seized the opportunity to address this common customer pain and started his company Prosound to alleviate this pain.  His goal was to work with companies around the globe to offer an amazing customer phone experience.

For the first seven years of business, Prosound tracked its customers with spreadsheets and various database programs.  As the customer base grew, so did the data that needed tracking.  Additionally, the aspect of mobile integration offered a valuable opportunity for Prosound which was impossible with the current customer tracking approach.  Hull decided that if Prosound wanted to take business to the next level, he needed flexible CRM solution with mobile integration.

The Business

Chester Hull - Founder and CEO

Chester Hull – Founder and CEO

Pro Sound is a consulting company providing turn-key systems for transforming customer caller experience.  Prosound’s services include writing automated phone messages, recording them, and ensuring the installation works according to a company’s system specifications.   As CEO and founder Chester Hull summarizes Prosound’s approach, “Why are your callers reaching out to you, what are they expecting, and how can we make that experience better.”

The Challenge: Migrating to a CRM Solution with a Large Database of Contacts and Implementing Mobile

Prosound faced an intimidating task:  transferring their existing database of thousands of contacts into a cloud-based CRM solution.  Additionally, they would restructure the way they interact with customers to take advantage of mobile integration so that customer information could be accessed and edited in-field.

As such, Prosound needed a CRM solution where they could quickly import contacts and easy begin to use mobile features without incurring substantial cost.

Competitive Analysis of CRM Solutions

Hull initially tried the CRM solutions from Intuit and Salesforce.

“With the Intuit product, it just wasn’t as customizable and flexible as we needed.  And with Salesforce, it was actually just more than we needed and certainly much more cost than we needed.”

Hull’s selection criteria for a CRM solution were the following:

Low Cost Barrier to Entry – With the myriad of CRM solutions available, Hull did not want to end up spending a lot of money on a CRM solution that didn’t fit his needs.  Rather, he wanted something he could start using immediately, before deciding if this is the right solution for Prosound.

Mobile Integration – Prosound performs a large number of field visits and needs to access customer information on the go.

Flexibility – Customer equipment tracking requirements constantly change for Prosound, so they needed a CRM solution which allows them to easily customize and change the tracking fields.

Connectivity – Ability to sync with email management software to allow easy data sharing.

Implementing Zoho CRM

Prosound’s choice to try Zoho CRM was quickly validated with the ease with which they implemented it.

“Migrating over was pretty basic for us.  What was really nice is that we slowly dialed in our customization of CRM and could add additional fields as we went, whenever we wanted.”

Soon after trying the free trial, Hull decided that Zoho CRM was the solution for him.

“It was just so easy and intuitive, and it satisfied every one of my requirements.”

Life After Implementing Zoho CRM

Zoho CRM’s first major impact for Prosound was that it enabled much better tracking.

“Before implementing Zoho CRM, we didn’t have an exact track of the equipment we had at a client’s site, what the status was, and what kind of phone system they had.  This information just slipped through the cracks and this was one of the first customizations we used with Zoho CRM.  Now we can quickly pull up that information as we’re talking to a customer and know exactly what equipment they’re using.”

Additionally, Zoho CRM’s cloud storage allowed easy data access and automatic data backup.

“In the last four years, we’ve transitioned entirely to the cloud so every business function that we do is in the cloud and Zoho CRM was a natural fit for that versus something running locally. We’re now a completely virtualized office so we have people connecting from different parts of the world.  Additionally, Zoho CRM gives us instant backup and data recovery which is great.  Zoho CRM has been a perfect fit.”

Prosound has also been able to take advantage of Zoho’s cross product connectivity.

“We’ve been able to tie CRM and Zoho Creator together and store things like email conversations in the Creator database and link them to specific customers in CRM which is critical.  Connecting these two applications has been incredibly powerful for us.”

Since implementing Zoho CRM and Creator, Prosound has enjoyed steady growth which Hull largely attributes to the time savings and ease with which he and his employees can navigate through customer data.

“Zoho CRM saves us a ton of time and really allows us to have smooth and quick interactions with customers allowing us to fit in more work per day.”

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

“I recommend Zoho CRM as often as I can because the barrier to entry is so low and anyone can jump in, starting using Zoho CRM, and get the advantages right away. It’s free, extremely customizable and flexible, and it’s mobile!”

To learn more about Prosound, click here.

Introducing Business Card Scanner App for Zoho CRM

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Card Scanner App IconEntering data manually into any CRM app is not fun. Any solution that helps automate data entry is a win for CRM users. That is the idea behind our new mobile app for Zoho CRM – Card Scanner.

Card Scanner is an iPhone app that extracts contact information from business cards and saves it into Zoho CRM as Contacts or Leads. Take a photo of a business card and the app extracts information from it and automatically populates the information into the appropriate fields. You can save the extracted information as a CRM Contact or Lead if you are logged into your Zoho CRM account within the app. Read more

Utilizing Employee Referrals in Your Recruiting

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I had a roommate in college who, like many students, put a lot of importance on his social life. He went to parties on the weekends — even the occasional weeknight — joined a number of organizations and went out of his way to meet as many people as possible during his four years of undergrad.

One day he was leaving for another meeting when I made a comment about how busy his schedule was. Just before walking out the door he turned around and said, “it’s not the grades you make, it’s the hands you shake.”People waiting for job interview

Despite sounding like an excuse to not take school work very seriously, the comment made a lot of sense; however, it wasn’t till after graduating that I fully realized the truthfulness of his statement. The most recent example was three and a half months ago when I was working on a freelance project from home and a chat window opened in the bottom right corner of my laptop screen with five words in it.

“Interested in a new gig?”

The message was from another friend of mine from college and the “new gig,” was a writing job in the marketing department at the company he worked for — Zoho.

A few emails back and forth, some research, two tryout articles and one interview later, I landed the job. And while I still believe you have to have the necessary skills and adequately prepare for the interview, it was the hand I shook back in 2007 that got my foot in the door.

It’s Not What You Know, It’s Who You Know

To some degree, this old mantra is very true. Think about all the jobs you have had in your life. From waiting tables to working as a lifeguard during summers at the public pool and even starting your career, there’s a good chance that you got one of those jobs from knowing somebody who already worked there.

Turns out, employee referrals is a common way of recruiting not only talent, but also trustworthy employees who fit your company’s culture. In fact, according to Jobvite, the online employee recruiting firm, employee referrals make up 40 percent of hires across the nation.

Referrals also speed up the hiring process. Jobvite also found from their research that it took an average of 29 days to hire an applicant from a referral — 10 days quicker than a job board and 26 days quicker than a recruiting site.

The Top of the Resume Pile

iStock_000017600891XSmallThe concept of “who you know,” is nothing new for the hiring process, but it has become increasingly more advantageous, especially during the recent recession.

In a January article from The New York Times, writer Nelson D. Schwartz says there is a, “fundamental shift in the job market…big companies are increasingly using their own workers to find new hires, saving time and money.”

For the global service firm Ernst & Young, employee recommendations make up 45 percent of nonentry-level jobs, a 28 percent increase since 2010. And like any job, getting to the top of the resume pile is one of the biggest challenges.

“A referral puts them in the express lane,” said Larry Nash, Ernst & Young director of experienced and executive recruiting, to The New York Times.

Additionally, a new study by three economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York also found that an employee referral was twice as likely to get an interview. And of the interviewees, the referral has a 40 percent better chance of getting the job.

Finding the Right Balance

Of course, not every hire comes from, or should come from, an employee recommendation. It’s about finding the right balance between recommendations and also potential employees through applicant tracking and recruiting software.

At Ernst & Young, their goal is for 50 percent of hires to come from employee recommendations. Other companies like Enterprise Rent-A-Car want to make sure they don’t get past that halfway mark to make sure others still have a chance.

“I think if you begin to creep up to 50 percent or higher, you start to worry about people not getting the opportunity to talk to us,” said Marie Artim, vice president for talent acquisition at Enterprise Holdings.

Using employee recommendations can be very beneficial for your business, but it really is a balance that is unique to your company. Find what works best for you and get the employees who will take your company to the next level.

View Customer Info from 3rd Party Apps with Custom Related Lists & Gallery Scripts

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Recently, we introduced Custom Related Lists that gives you a holistic view of your customer’s information from Custom Apps and third-party applications right within your CRM system. Today, we’ll explain it more in detail.

Imagine this situation – Charles Stone heads the sales team for Zillum Corporation. Apart from assigning sales targets and forecasting he reviews sales expenses, travel plans and meetings with prospects. Since his sales reps travel extensively and the expenses can’t be reported on a daily basis, they enter the travel details and expenses using Zoho Creator’s Mobile App.

crm-desk-mobile

This data is in turn linked to each prospect and displayed contextually in the Contact details page in Zoho CRM. So, Charles no longer has to toggle between tabs or sign in to different applications. With all the information in one single place, Charles can analyze the return on investment for the deals won. Needless to say, there is also an overall increase in the entire team’s productivity and time is made use for more sales follow-ups. But, there’s more to this!

Contextual Integration with 3rd party Apps
To kick-start, we’ve integrated with third-party applications, like Contactology and Saasu Invoices. Just select the service from our Gallery of pre-defined functions, and instantly get the customer information from the app within your CRM.  And, of course, we’ve more integrations in line. We’ve also contextually integrated with Zoho Recruit.

Developer Tools For Programmers
If you have a flair for programming, we encourage you to write your own Deluge function. You can use it for your own purpose or we will work through the function and help you share it with the user community.

Sounds interesting? Then try out this feature and leave us your comments below.

- Vaishnav