Zoho Creator: Not-so-minor enhancements – Episode #1

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Zoho Creator is one of our services that is frequently updated. Some of these are major, and get all the attention they deserve, while some are not major enough to make news, but are still significant. Here are such updates to three existing features, that were specifically asked for by our community.

Options of radio button and check-box in 3-column layout

Radio button and check-box fields are meant for fields with multiple options. They worked fine, except that when having many options, they would appear as a long list. Hereafter, it can be arranged in one, two or three columns.

Image field supports uploading of images

Image fields have been able to fetch an image from a web URL. Now, in addition to that, they are capable of locating an image on your local storage devices, and uploading it.

File upload via email attachment

Adding records to Zoho Creator forms via email, now supports uploading of files too. Just attach the files to the email which contains the record you wish to add, as explained here. It gets uploaded in the corresponding file-upload fields on the corresponding form.

Enterprise Gamification for Business, Not Just Silly Games

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Gamification in the enterprise is about solving a business problem. We’re letting ourselves be gamified and as a result business operations are happily changing thanks to disruptive technologies and new business models, said Ray Wang, Principal Analyst and CEO for Constellation Research, in his presentation, “Demystifying Enterprise Gamification” at the CRM Evolution 2012 conference in New York City.

Gamification in the office looks at the how, when, where, and why of work. We have lots of other motivations outside of money, said Wang. If you can tap into these other motivations, you can change behavior.

Goal of any gamification effort is to create an intention-driven economy where those that initiate the game know what you would want from an initial decision. Gamification becomes a series of processes to create incentives to change behaviors and outcomes. The shift starts with active listening to determine rewards, achievement, and broader trends, said Wang.

When do you use gamification within your business?

According to Wang, these are the most common reasons:

Encouraging collaboration among functional teams
Improving outcomes in training and learning
Fostering employee referrals
Driving onboarding success among new hires
Creating a culture of sharing and recognition
In the office environment, you want to move beyond game-oriented tactics (e.g., badge, widgets, points systems) and think about the overall business goal and individual motivation.

With your customers, use non-monetary rewards to influence behavior

Cash incentives are less effective by 33% than non-monetary incentives, said Wang. Instead, go after people’s aspirations which appear on three different levels: recognition, access, and making an impact.

Level 1: Recognition

Influence tracking
Leaderboards
Achievement badges
Featured placement
Awards and contests
PR and media placement
Speaking slots
Virtual currencies and points
Level 2: Access

Community resources and tutorials
Virtual goods
Special groups
Key executives
New features
New products
Beta versions
Public events
Private events
Level 3: Impact – These are people who want to change the product, transform the experience, or build another service. Heck, you want to hire these people. At best it’s 1% of your customers. These are your stars, said Wang.

Raise personal and community profile
Participate in feedback surveys
Influence product direction
Drive business outcomes
Provide proof point references
Evangelize products and concepts
Non-monetary incentives come in many different ways and you can use them to motivate your employees and your customers. Half your audience wants to be recognized and known, and half wants their privacy but still want their rewards.

If you want to figure out how you can gamify your audience and employees, you must first listen to determine what it is that motivates them, said Wang.

Customer Spotlight: Accounting Knowledge Not A Must For Zoho Books

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College coursework is often deficient in giving 360 degree industry perspective to graduates who are ready and eager to join the corporate world. OysterConnect.com was founded to bridge that gap. OysterConnect.com is a technology platform, which connects seasoned industry veterans and educational institutes. Through mentorship, workshops, projects etc., these industry professionals are able to connect to the students and enrich their coursework by giving the much needed industry exposure.

A week ago, I was chatting with Pragya Sharma, Assistant Manager – HR (OysterConnect.com), where she shared her experience on managing the financial aspects of running the business. HR manager managing finance! Surprised right? When the company is young with very few employees, individuals invariably don multiple hats. Pragya didn’t like the idea of being chained to her desktop to know the financial health of the business. And after having searched for an online accounting software for the company, she decided to choose Zoho Books to manage their funds and to invoice their clients. Her first impression of Zoho Books was,

“For a person with zero accounting knowledge, Zoho Books was very easy for me. I did not require any kind of demo or training to get started and the customer support has been phenomenol. All my queries are answered within 24 hours and it’s just outstanding.”

Click here to read more about OysterConnect’s story

CRM is Not Just in Your CRM Application, It’s Everywhere

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CRM doesn’t reside solely in your CRM application. It’s actually global with service participants being anyone that you can connect with online, not just official customer service representatives at a call center, explained Jesús Hoyos, Principal of CRM in Latin America, in our conversation at the CRM Evolution 2012 conference in New York City.

We’re undergoing a global impact of CRM where we’re not beholden to a specific call center to get an answer. Instead you can reach out to your neighbor who is someone on YouTube, on Twitter, on Facebook. Companies that have bad service but a good product can’t hide anymore, said Hoyos.

Hoyos relayed two personal stories. One of circumventing an auto dealership to save himself $600 from a defect in his Jeep Commander and another story of fixing a glitch for free on his Samsung TV. In both cases, he reached out online to the open web and found the answer through another user that had experienced the same issue as him.

Unlike my conversation with Brent Leary at the same conference, Hoyos has a different definition of the “Amazon effect” which he refers to as the best service is no service. By creating communities on their site around products, with comments and reviews, Amazon users are able to help other users from within the Amazon site, not the open web. Amazon in turn analyzes the data within their communities and makes decisions based on that data. Hoyos negates social consultants that tell you to be on traditional social channels.

“You don’t have to be on Facebook or Twitter. You have to be where the data of the customer transaction tells you where you have to be,” said Hoyos.

Small Business Tax Deductions – It’s All About Expenses

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There are many things that you can deduct for your small business, but how can you make sure the government will see things the way you do? You might have a list of many business deductions, but making sure they are legit and easy to track is the bigger battle. Setting up deductions as expenses and keeping business expenses separate from personal expenses is the essential first step.

Pay for business expenses from a business bank account, credit card or PayPal.

Many small business owners are able to grow their business quickly, but organize their expenses and look for deductions toward the end of the year. To avoid end of the year angst, it is much easier to use a separate credit card and/or bank account to pay for your business expenses as opposed to constantly reimbursing yourself on the fly.

Keeping things separate will make business expenses easily identifiable when tax time comes. Of course, if your business is a corporation it is even more necessary, as tax reporting is done differently, even if you are a Corp S.

Staying organized all year will also make sure that deductible expenses won’t get lost in the process.

Fund your small business like a bank and avoid lost deductions.

If you need to infuse capital from your personal accounts to the business, develop a loan structure that benefits both you and the business. It is much easier to track and take advantage of interest if you set up loans with repayment schedules that include interest. The beauty of this method is you can set up a payment schedule that doesn’t handicap your growing business while being paid interest that generally gets lost on credit cards. Make sure the interest is realistic and the re-payment schedule is consistent, besides being something the business can afford.

Pay for legitimate expenses right away to avoid scrutiny. Your new business can’t always pay for all the expenses at the beginning, but for tax purposes consistency is important. If you use your car, cell phone, home office or anything else for business, it is best to have the company pay for these expenses right off the bat. Not only will this help you determine the true financial picture of your company, it will also make more sense to the government, should an audit come down the pike in the future.

For guidance on what deductions can be claimed for your small business, look no further than the government. The IRS.gov and SBA.gov have plenty of information to guide you on deducting and capitalizing expenses enabling you to understand now what expenses can be deducted.

Avoid end-of-the-year headaches.

There are many deductions available to small businesses that can be realized at the end of the year, but the more you pay for things right away, the easier your tax prep will be. Understand your business, the expenses that you have that can be deducted and start paying for them right away.

Most expenses like rent from your home/office, utilities, phones and even auto expenses can be set up as monthly payments. It’s simply converting your deductions into expenses that ultimately legitimize your business and avoid scrambling at the end of the year and even IRS scrutiny.

Stay Customer-Centric from CRM through Support

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Each business is different in its own way. Likewise, each customer is different in his/her own way. A single all-encompassing customer support approach might not really hold good in real life. That’s one of the trickiest things in managing a customer support helpdesk.

There’s the customer who gives you so much of revenue directly. Then, there’s the customer who refers so many new customers to you. There’s also the customer who needs a little more help from your side. Oh, and there are many more kinds as well. How do you keep an eye on each of them and serve them differently, every single time?

We’ve finally solved that puzzle. Or, so we think. Zoho Support now has the next level of customization in workflows. You can create request-driven workflows for specific accounts or contacts imported from Zoho Support into Zoho CRM.

So, if Bob is your high-net-worth client, his request gets handled in a certain way. If Tracy is your hot prospect, her request gets handled in a different way. For Example: Bob’s requests can send an e-mail alert to your helpdesk supervisor and Tracy’s can be assigned to one of your senior support representative. You can as well handle, different requests from the same person in different ways.

These are just dead-simple examples. There are so many ways in which you could use this feature to your advantage.

To set this up, you can simply follow the usual steps to create a workflow. But remember to choose your desired field under contacts or accounts, while creating a workflow rule for requests.

George S Patton once said “Always do more than is required of you”. We believe in exactly that. And, with this feature, we hope you’d believe in the same for your customers as well.

Do give it a spin and tell us what you think about it. We’d love to hear from you.

Tackling Traditional and Social CRM Integration

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Not being able to lock down the customer profile is the reason so many companies have a difficult time with CRM integration, said Barton Goldenberg, President of ISM, during a presentation on preparing and launching a social CRM strategy at the CRM Evolution 2012 conference in New York City.

Typically, a CRM system consists of customer profiles filled with product information, service information, and outstanding financial information. That data alone gives you an idea who your customer is and what opportunities exist. The problem, said Goldenberg, is that many companies who are building CRM or have a CRM haven’t mastered the customer profile process, which perpetually asks questions such as:

“What information should I gather from which systems?”

“How do I pull it all together?”

“How do I keep it up to date?”

“How do I make sure my sales, my marketing, and my customer service use the profile to identify opportunities to identify, to cross sell, and to up sell?”

Many companies haven’t mastered the customer profile process right from within their CRM system, said Goldenberg.

The complexity of the traditional CRM compounds itself when you integrate the customer’s emotional and sentimental input, a.k.a. social insight. Whether that profile process is solid or not you’re going to try to integrate the social with the traditional CRM.

Now that you’re collecting all this sensitive information about the customer, how can a representative approach the customer so that neither party feels awkward, asked Goldenberg.

Four steps to smooth integration

Here’s Goldenberg’s four-step guide for a smooth CRM-to-social engagement and integration:

  1. Make sure your traditional CRM vendor can deliver an excellent customer profile.
  2. Bring in the social media either through APIs or call outs to social communities.
  3. Listen, filter that information, and use it in your customer engagement system.
  4. Train all users, representatives and customers, to better use the system so it’s not uncomfortable and not a burden for anyone. It should be something that’s desired where both parties want to combine forces to make it work.