Hear ye! Hear ye! Direct Signup for Customer Portal

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Whenever I talk to customers about their customer support operation, one topic creeps into our conversations. “How can I continually reduce load on a given support rep?”. My sarcasm kicks in and I go, “Why don’t you hire more reps?”, followed by a wink.

The real solution takes a little more time and effort than just hiring reps, and it costs far less. Some call it old-fashioned, some call it impersonal. But, whatever you call it, the customer portal is the quintessential way to reduce ticket load on your support reps.

Building an extremely detailed, success-focused knowledge base can be a tricky affair. But, you’ll get your gratification when you open it to your customers and create happiness instantly.

When we reach this point in the conversation, customers often say “Yeah. But then, they still have to raise a ticket to get access to the customer portal!”. Today, I have some good news on that front.

Till now, for a few reasons, security and otherwise, support reps had to give customer portal access manually to customers. Not anymore. Today, we’re really excited to announce direct signups for customer portals. You can simply point your customers to your customer portal. They can sign up directly and start using it immediately.

We think this would take you one step closer towards creating more happiness per ticket, and even when no ticket is raised!

Your customers who are currently using your customer portal will see nothing unusual. Their login credentials will work seamlessly. If you have any more questions, please feel free to check out this page.

This is our first announcement in the new year. But, you can expect a few big announcements in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for more happiness!

Year End Accounting: Read these tips before you close your 2012 books!

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The good news is that the world didn’t end on 12/21 as the Mayans had predicted. The bad news is: you still need to work on your accounting and taxes for 2012. Here are some tips in the form of a checklist so you can avoid overpaying or underpaying the taxman. It’s important you do this before you close your books for 2012. Happy 2013!

Reconcile your bank accounts

If you have been manually entering the bank transactions, it is imperative that you reconcile the bank balances with the actual bank statements. Look for the usual culprits like cancelled or uncleared checks. Give this a skip if you have setup a feed for online banking and have forgotten how to enter the bank transactions.

Complete your invoicing

Send the invoices for all the services you have rendered; products that you have sold and for any task that remains unbilled.

Record all your supplier bills

Ensure that you haven’t missed entering any supplier bills. Filter your inbox for e-mails from your suppliers — pull out that shoe box and if you see any bills that you have missed entering in your accounting system, do it right away.

Write off bad debts

The world isn’t a nice place always and you might have customers who are unlikely to pay you their dues. Let’s hope there aren’t invoices that you would be writing off. However, if that were to happen, then write off the invoices sent to such customers.

Get to the bottom and look for outliers

Compare the reports of the current financial year with the previous year’s and see if everything’s kosher. If something looks unreasonable, don’t fret! Use a magnifying glass and get ready for the great reporting drill-down. Dig and Drill until you are convinced till the last penny. Even pennies matter in business!

Record your depreciation

If your business has any fixed assets, you have to account for depreciation expenses. Zoho Books doesn’t have a form for this, but manual journals will come in handy. Consult your accountant, if this applies to your business.

Handle prepaid expenses

If your business has paid in advance for the insurance or other services, you would have recorded that as ‘assets’. You will have to categorize these as ‘expenses’.

Close out the owner’s draw

Any money you have withdrawn from your business for personal expenses is typically recorded under a temporary account. You have to close this account and transfer the balance to an equity account that reflects your stake in the business.

Get started with 1099s now

If you are using sub-contractors, you have to send them 1099 by Thursday, January 31 2013. Identify your 1099-MISC vendors, cull out the relevant details and use the services of an online 1099 filing service to send the forms across.

Don’t miss the last (s)mile:

If you spend time on the road for your clients, don’t miss recording the mileage. You can claim deductions for that!

 

I hope this checklist will come in handy for your year end and beyond. In addition to this list, invite your accountant to your Zoho Books organization and allow him/her to review your numbers from the comfort of his office or home. If you have been using an accounting software now and have done your books manually before, you must have realized much of the rigmarole associated with the manual accounting, like transferring of balances from income and expense accounts to retained earnings (sorry if this sounds like the ‘Accountantspeak!’) has completely gone. If you are still doing your books manually, the best gift you can get yourself this new year would be an online accounting software that you can count on!

 

Have an amazing 2013!

Reach out to those last-minute shoppers. Three days to go!

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You might think it’s a little late to run your email marketing campaigns, but wait, have you thought of those last-minute shoppers?

It’s the final week of the holiday season and there’s always a last-minute shopping rush – people looking for the perfect gifts and trying to tick everything off their shopping lists.

As a retailer, you might just have an offer for them, but how do you let them know about your offers?

Here’re 2 ways in which you could run a last-minute campaign. Read more

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.