Just in: Zoho CRM Web Forms and Button Element for Zoho Sites

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Website is the face of every business while CRM is the backbone. As a measure to link them both, we now have Zoho CRM web forms integrated with Zoho Sites.

All the customization is done in one place where the data is stored. With such integrated Website-CRM system, you will have streamlined and up-to-date information of Contacts, Cases and Leads at your disposal. You will be better prepared to make decisions for successful negotiations with customers. Here’s all the help you need.

Another significant feature that we are announcing today is the button element. The button element enables you to create call-to-action buttons that link to any other page, thereby making the links prominent.

Try them right away!

The Incredibly-Shrinking Google Apps Free Edition Is Gone; Zoho Committed To Helping Small Businesses

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Google just yesterday announced it is giving the axe to the free edition of Google Apps (i.e. the Standard Edition). So from now on Google Apps only has a single version: the paid one. This is not exactly news to those of us who do business in this space. Google Apps free edition has gone from “unlimited users” to 100, to 50, to 10 and now, well.. to 0.

This is bad news for small businesses who are just getting started and who would rather use their limited amount of funds somewhere else. Although, software services are not expensive these days (for the most part), every single dollar counts when you’re getting started.

That’s the reason why we at Zoho remain committed to helping the small guys – new businesses just launching, the ones who are not able to commit just yet. That’s also reflected in our pricing structure – we’ve never required a yearly contract for any of our services. Sure, we’ll give you a nice discount if you do, but you can choose to subscribe on a monthly basis.

For those users looking for a great web mail service, and who want to get started for free, we’ll continue to offer our free plan for hosted mail - that is not going away anytime soon. We want to continue servicing Small Businesses.

It’s not just email – the vast majority of Zoho services are free for our growing customers –  from attracting more customers with Zoho CRM to having a mobile-enabled website presence, for free to online invoicing so you can get your money faster to…  well, pretty much everything Zoho offers.

And of course, with over 14 Apps, we continue to be one of the leading vendors in the Google Apps Marketplace. So whether you start with Zoho Mail or you start with Google Apps, you still have access to all the rest Zoho has to offer.

Thats why over 7 million people have chosen Zoho to, as we say, “Work Online”!

Rodrigo

Create happiness, not satisfaction

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One of my routine activities every week is to spend some time talking to folks from the Sales and Support teams. This gives me a good first-hand account of how we’re doing in the market. We also discuss interesting questions that customers asked and anything interesting that the team just learned from the previous week.

Last week, the Support team had to work extremely hard, because of the service outage. We discussed a lot of things about what went right and what can go better next time. On my way out, I just popped a quick question at the team: “What’s the one thing you guys did that you’re really proud of?”

An answer came right back at me, and quite resoundingly at that. They all said “We aim for customer happiness, not customer satisfaction”. We exchanged pleasantries and walked back to our desks.

But, that line has possessed me all of this week. There’s a seemingly subtle, but actually significant, difference between happiness and satisfaction. The latter is often corrective while the former is proactive.

Happiness is about empowering customers to reach you through as many channels as possible. Satisfaction is about picking channels you can handle really well and sticking to them.

Happiness is about enabling support execs to delight more customers in a day. Satisfaction is about letting support execs close tickets faster.

Happiness is about making it an amazing experience to manage customer support teams. Satisfaction is about giving support managers more reports than they need.

At every level of interaction with a customer, it is possible to clearly differentiate happiness and satisfaction. Happy customers become evangelists and start owning your brand. They become a cog in the wheel, a part of your company. They stand with you in times of dire need and grow with you when you grow. In fact, happy customers are the reason we’re in business today.

If you’re not creating customer happiness everyday, then don’t just optimize your operation. Hap-timize it.

Passing A Tax Audit With Speed

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This is a guest post by Craig Keolanui of SmBizWinningTips

Are you facing an unexpected audit from either the state or Feds? If so, you might be seized with panic, worry or doubt. A tax audit is never easy, but keeping things highly organized and following instructions is the key to getting through the process with speed and confidence.

Reframe it as a presentation to an investor or client for your services and much of that consternation and doubt will pass and so will the time it takes for the audit.

You will receive a list of information required. Follow it carefully.
Be prepared to reveal two-three years of data, but follow the specific details in the notice you receive as it can be the difference between passing and failing.

Offering to provide more information than requested may actually make things worse and add time or further scrutiny to the audit. It is best to adhere to the instructions, providing more information only if it is requested.

Auditors have a limited amount of time to spend on each audit and more information will only lead to more effort spent trying to find something wrong with your records. After all, they are trained to find errors.

If and when more information is requested, buy time to provide it in an organized manner.

Organization is paramount to success.
The rule is “quality” over “quantity”. Make sure any reports are flushed out with details, in proper order or sequence and labeled. If you use a program like Zoho Books, make sure all reports are from Zoho Books and not hasty recreations from Excel or another program. If one year doesn’t match a previous year, you are better off inputting the information in again to ensure that all the reports are the same format. Believe it or not, presentation makes a difference as it will make your business appear professional, organized and on top of tax issues.

Organize your information in the chronological order in which it is requested and use folders or any dividers to keep it organized. Highly organized information will not only speed up the audit, but also reinforces the perception that you have little to hide.

Know your numbers and the information provided.
If it takes too much time to answer any questions, be assured that further details will be requested and your audit will proceed at a snail’s pace. Your reports and professional organization can be rendered useless if you can’t answer the simplest of questions.

Start by knowing “what” each report is and then proceed to understanding the details. Have answers to questions such as: Why were sales so inconsistent or why payroll fluctuated year to year?

Auditors are looking for inconsistencies and illogical spikes because they are most likely to lead to more revenue generation over simple accounting mistakes.

If your numbers do not match, know why.
Mistakes happen and many companies are caught underpaying taxes, so don’t feel like a criminal, unless you have reason to, of course. Any error that you catch and bring up to an auditor, will lead to less scrutiny. If you can explain the justifiable error and bring it up beforehand, the taxing agency can often help ease the burden for any penalties. In any case, understand an audit is to generate revenue and not to throw people in jail.

There is no need to be nervous, stressed or feel like the world is crumbling under your feet. Audits happen and more often than not are passed without incident. Follow these basic steps and you can sleep easier at night.

Clear the clog: Get your project flowing again with quick decisions

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This is a guest post by Shabana Shiliwala, who owns The Financial Sort, a financial planning company based in Austin, Texas.

Is your project not flowing smoothly? If you’re plagued with missed deadlines, overspending or incomplete tasks, it’s time to find out what’s clogging the pipes. A clue is that these blunders are often related to each other. For example, when overlooked tasks are discovered, going into emergency mode to complete them can require employees to work overtime, which pushes the project over budget. So if these problems are related, there must be a single culprit behind them. The usual suspect? Decisions aren’t being made efficiently. Find out what’s preventing the right people from making the decisions that will get your project flowing again.

Meetings. Think about how long it takes to organize a meeting, maneuver schedules so that all the major players can attend, keep it focused and obtain a consensus by the time it’s finished. Don’t forget the likelihood that more meetings will be required. When too many decisions are dependent on meetings, it’s no wonder your project is being held up. Keep the meetings at a minimum.

Approval channels. Decisions that can only be made after being approved by several levels of management can significantly slow down a project. All that time when staff are making presentations and waiting for approval to accomplish tasks is time they aren’t spending working on the project. Why does management need to be involved in every decision? The staff who are working on the project every day know best what needs to be done, so give them the freedom to fix minor problems and pivot the direction of the project when they think it’s necessary, leaving only major decisions to be reviewed by management.

Large groups. The theory behind juries is that when more people are involved in making a decision, it will lead to better decisions. Watch any legal drama television show and you’ll see that the drawback is how long it takes to get through everyone’s opinions and objections to come to an agreement. In your project, you have to maximize every minute, so get the results you want by limiting specific decisions to only those who are most qualified to make them. For example, leave the user experience decisions to the user experience designers instead of the entire software development group. A smaller team can be more agile in making decisions, allowing the project to move forward faster.

Bring your project back on time, on budget and on task by asking yourself who, what, when, where and how are decisions being made. Providing people the flexibility to make quick decisions may be just what you need to clear up that clog in your project.

Save the world, on time!

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Tracy is a highly proactive customer success leader. She manages a customer support team at her company. Delivering little nuggets of customer happiness everyday is her ultimate goal. Needless to say, she trusts her helpdesk software as much as she trusts her own team.

She gets into office every morning and has a huddle with her team. They discuss important highlights from the previous day and their plan of action for the rest of the day. That’s all she needs from them. For every other detail, she trusts Zoho Support. She loves the automation features and finds them really useful. “You guys really make my day!”, she says, all the time.

Last week, we heard from Tracy. But, she sounded a little serious.

Her company just signed on a big client. This one’s really important for their future. A strong responsibility now rests on her shoulders. Her company has to ensure that this client is thoroughly happy with their service.

She just can’t afford to let any stone unturned. After setting up a new contract, an SLA and some escalation rules, she just moved on with her typical day. They covered everything she needed, with clients previously. This time, she wanted to push a little further. That’s where we came in.

For proactive support, we think support reps have to reach out, sometimes, even if customers/clients don’t respond to an email. We also think that customers/clients need to be handled extra carefully during non-business hours. So, that’s precisely what we recommended her.

Using Zoho Support’s time-based actions, managers like Tracy can now setup alerts when a client hasn’t replied to an important follow-up email for an hour. Or, to send an email when that big client needs support after business hours. The beauty is that these alerts work with your business hours as well as plain calendar hours.

You can try it too! Just setup a time-based action and choose a business hour (or calendar hours). It’s very easy and works sensibly. That’s what we call truly functional software.

Tracy’s really happy with our automations, now, more than ever before. We love her too. After all, people like her really make our lives amazing.

Making unwanted travel a deductible expense

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This is a guest post by Craig Keolanui of SmBizWinningTips

You might have heard of planning a vacation around a trade show or convention that you can attend, but consider those trips you want to take but don’t necessarily want to spend money on, such as weddings or other family events.

It would be nice to write off some of these expenses and, if done carefully, it is entirely possible.

Most often these trips involve expensive airfare and covering your business in your absence, so getting a tax break is the best way to recoup some of these costs. The key is to mix business with pleasure and the rest is as easy as keeping organized receipts.

What else can be accomplished on your trip?
Make your personal trip a business trip. Network with old friends and read up about conventions or events involving small businesses in the destination city’s publications or websites. Attend a convention, trade show or a conference or anything that can directly relate to your business. Make sure to keep some type of documentation to justify the travel expenses.

Hold onto the ticket stubs, notes from a conference, brochures or any material that supports the reason for taking the trip.

Evaluate possible deductions prior to the trip.
You obviously will pay more for last-minute travel arrangements, in some cases, so your airfare will be the first thing on the list. If you have to rent a car, that will follow, but don’t forget to log mileage and document your driving to and from any scheduled appointment or meeting. All travel meals will be worthy of 50% of the expense, but eating at the homes of family or friends will make the trip less costly.

Be careful about what else you try to expense. It would be unwise to try to write off flowers that you purchase for Aunt Edna’s bedside or the wedding gift you bought, unless the bride or groom is a client.

If your trip is prolonged, have more than one business reason.
If you stay over a week and plan on deducting the hotel room and meals, it is smart to have more than one business engagement to attend. This will help keep things above board if you were to face an audit.

Last-minute personal trips happen all the time, and operating a small business provides some advantages to offset the cost. In an occupation where long hours are spent and time is very short, it’s important to maximize every opportunity to save money.