Is your response quick enough? Here’s how to find out!

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Today, a colleague showed me results of a survey that almost threw me off my seat! It was from a study conducted by CMO Council on how end consumers use social media to connect with brands.

Amongst several things, I noticed that about 47% of respondents had said they expected a response from brands within 24 hours. About 19% expected a response within an hour while another 22% expected an instant response! This goes on to show how important it is for support teams to track their turnaround time.

Helpdesk Turnaround Time

Courtesy: CMO Council

Using SLAs, Zoho Support already lets you track if a ticket has taken too long to close. However, now, you can even track if the first or any subsequent response has taken too long to happen.

Here’s how:

  • First, create a custom field.
  • Then, set a time-based rule to update it, when a response is delayed.
  • Additionally, you can compile a daily report using the same custom field or setup an alert associated with that custom field.

Sounds complicated? Not really!  Let’s look at a Zoho Support scenario.

Zoho Support Helpdesk Time Based Rule

Suppose a customer had raised a ticket and our first response was delayed beyond 24 hours, for some reason. Our helpdesk coordinator immediately knows that we’ve not satisfied that customer enough. So, he can easily ensure we make amends with that customer. It’s really convenient for helpdesk coordinators.

So, the next time a response is delayed, you know about it instantly. And, when you compile a report, you know how many times it has happened as well! You can effectively keep an eye on your support team’s turnaround time and optimize it wherever necessary.

We really hope this would be of use to you while you try to deliver the best support experience to your customers.

So, what’re you waiting for? Respond. Track. Optimize. Improve.

Announcing, Password Protected Pages on Zoho Sites

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Here’s announcing another update to Zoho Sites; Password-Protected Pages. You can now restrict access to pages on your website using passwords. This lets you share relevant content alone, with a closed group of people.

Password Protection:

There are two types of passwords to use based on the instance:

  •  Site Password
  •  Page Password

Site Password is ideal when you want to share multiple pages with a group of people. One password for all the pages, so you share only one password with everyone.

On the other hand, Page Password lets you set separate passwords for each page. With each page having its own password, there is no possibility of accessing such pages with one common password. Read our help section on how to protect your webpages.

Linking External Pages:

Another feature that accompanies password protection, is linking your pages to external links. You can now link your pages to any other external websites. Particularly, if you own multiple websites, you could link to each of them from every other website.

Both these features have been repeatedly asked for, so we are eagerly looking forward to hearing your comments on them.

4 Simple Steps to Getting Organized

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This is a guest post by Lindsay Holloway, writer and editor of small business trends and technology. To read more from Lindsay, check out her articles on The Examiner

You may have missed National Get Organized Month in January or perhaps didn’t quite finish spring cleaning, but it’s never too late to get your home office or home-based business organized. And since we’re halfway into 2012, now is a great time to reorganize and cross a few items off your summer checklist.

Fortunately you don’t have to do it alone. You don’t have to ditch your cluttered filing “system” cold turkey. You don’t have to learn a new complex spreadsheet program. And you don’t have to hand over your paycheck to an assistant or professional organizer. There are myriad resources, tools and experts out there to help you, and we’ve put together four essential tips for getting your office or business organized this year:

1. Take control of your inbox. Small-business resource SCORE suggests creating e-mail folders to organize your messages. We all know what it’s like to have an inbox overflowing with both old and unread messages, so get ahold of the message madness from the get-go. Create working folders that make sense for your business, whether they’re based on urgency, task, contact group or department.

2. Stop clutter before it starts. To battle clutter, you must have systems and routines for dealing with it, says certified professional organizer Lorie Marrero. Aside from avoiding situations where “clutter cravings” can arise, she stresses the importance of dealing with things as they come and not letting clutter like mail, bills or filing stack up until it becomes a problem or wieldy task. For example, when you get the mail, immediately discard the junk mail; then organize and open the remaining pieces by importance.

3. Leverage free productivity tools. There’s an app for everything, right? Whether it’s on your smartphone, notebook or in the cloud, there are endless tools available to help you organize your schedule, documents, projects and more. Nowadays, it’s nearly impossible to mentally coordinate your daily tasks and appointments, so at times it’s necessary to let technology do the work for you. There are various calendar and scheduling apps, tools for conducting and tracking surveys, and project collaboration and management apps available.

​4. Organize your files and documents. While it may be essential to have physical copies of some documents, others are better made digital and others still could really be thrown out (safely, of course). And for these steps, there are convenient home-office and small-business gadgets. Consider a Xerox DocuMate scanner for taking those paper forms into the digital realm, or the handy yet robust Swingline Stack-and-Shred line of shredders for proper disposal of those dinosaur-aged files you’ve been too scared to throw away.

An organized space – and workflow – is necessary for maximum efficiency and productivity in the modern workplace. When work piles up, things get messy! So keep the above tips in mind this summer as you clean up your space and keep your productivity going. Happy working!

10 Reasons Why Tracking Time Matters

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‘Time tracking is such a waste of time!’

I’ve often heard people say that. Honestly, if you are a freelancer, you’ll know that time accounting is a serious task  as you get  paid by the hour. So why is time tracking all that important?  Top of the mind, this is why I think:

1. Albert Einstein had only 24 hours. So do youTime-Tracking
No one is saying you are not a genius like him. Of course you are! But when you are heading a project, you cannot whip out extra time in the last minute.

Quick Tip: PLAN. Go back to the basics. Make a task list and stick to it.

2. Energy Drainers – Count them in too
Your mobile, email, internet and staring at the clock itself will eat away your carefully planned time. They have a unique way to disrupt your carefully planned time. Tracking your time helps to keep them at bay.

Quick Tip: While planning, set aside some time for energy drainers.

3. Bill your time right
Would you like to be paid by the hour for your expertise or by fixing a rate for the ultimate finished product.  As a freelancer your time’s worth should be estimated carefully before you bill your client on the basis of project hours, staff hours or task hours.

Quick Tip: Spend some time to know which project billing method suits you the best.

4. Heard of umm ‘delegating’
Ever noticed the amount of time you spend on actually doing what you love and the time spent on administrative tasks to get to do what you want to do? Share your workload.

Quick Tip: Add more people to the project and let them track their own time.

5. We all procrastinate – No exception
“Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday”. Ahem I didn’t say that…Don Marquis did and I kind of agree. We procrastinate filling up those timesheets that when the day dawns to send the invoice, we rush and do a shoddy work of essaying the work we did.

Quick Tip: Do it small bits like once in 3 days instead of once a week.

6. ‘I don’t remember ‘ – syndrome
Not everyone is blessed with exceptional memory. As a freelancer, chances are you will be working on multiple projects and for many clients. The simple things might skip your mind when you finally get to your timesheets.

Quick Tip: Use the notes and write it down when it’s fresh in the mind.

7. Busy bees are awfully busy all the time
“I’ll fill it when I’m not so busy”. Well THAT… somehow never happens. Even if it does, then point no 5 and 6 pitch in and the rest is history. Prise out some time everyday to keep track of what you’ve achieved and where you are headed.

Quick Tip: Keep your mobile handy. Before starting the task, click start the timer. Let the app do the tracking.

8.My client ‘KNOWS’ the work I do
I know he does. But let’s be honest, you might be the best person working on the job but you are not the only one. Why make your client track your work when you can do an awesome job of it yourself. Remember… clients observe.

Quick Tip: Send out an immensely detailed invoice of the tasks accomplished with description. It’ll speak a lot about your professionalism.

9. Increased sense of accomplishment
Don’t know about you, but I love the happy fuzzy feeling that comes when a task is complete. It lets me know that I’m almost close to that finishing line and gives me that additional motivation to get the rest of the job done.

Quick Tip: Track your tasks and their progress regularly. Nothing disturbs the mind like a pending task.

10.It’s a friday job
It’s friday today and I know for a fact I have far more interesting things to do than fill up timesheets. So do you!   You often have to reverse engineer your way to noting down what you did the entire week.

Quick Tip: Spend 5 min a day to write down the key tasks. Elaborate later.

Well these were some of the reasons why I thought tracking time is so crucial. Would love to know why you track time. Share your inputs right here in the comments below.

Has Your CRM Application Changed Your Life?

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After undergoing an exhaustive search of CRM applications, Deborah Morelli, Account Executive for Interbank Mortgage Company landed on one CRM tool that has changed her life and she’s vowed to take it wherever she goes.

Business:

On a daily basis, Deborah Morelli, Account Executive for Interbank Mortgage Company, must manage 40 to 50 accounts with mortgage brokers across 20 states while also looking through 200 to 2000 different leads.

The Challenge:

Morelli used to manage all her accounts through Outlook. It was a mess. She forgot people’s names, couldn’t discern key contacts within a group, and she forgot to return phone calls.

“Keeping track of them within Outlook just doesn’t work for me,” said Morelli. “I found myself disorganized, losing business, not servicing my clients very well, and I was just desperate.”

Competitive analysis of CRM:

Morelli wanted to be more organized so she started to do some research on CRM. She wanted an application to look nice, be configurable to the way she wanted to work, and be interactive.

“If I put information in to tell it to talk to me, I want it to talk to me,” said Morelli.

Night after night she pulled up her iPhone and researched different CRM applications. When she saw one she liked she gave it a try. Sometimes she would sign up for the 30 day trial and after she realized she didn’t like it she would cancel the subscription.

Morelli would discover a variety of reasons for the CRM application to disappoint her. Either it didn’t do what it said it would do, was ugly, or it didn’t let her make many changes.

Morelli looked at somewhere between 35-50 different CRM applications. She was frustrated by all of them until she discovered Zoho. What she liked that about Zoho was the lack of limitations. It could work for anyone in any industry.

“The criteria you can set up, it’s unlimited. It’s all within your imagination actually,” Morelli said. “I feel this is my little buddy here. Without it there’s no me.”

With all her research, Morelli set a limit of $125 per month she would spend on a CRM application. That wasn’t a problem when it came to Zoho.

“The price point for Zoho is amazing,” she said.

Unique use case of Zoho CRM:

Every day Morelli’s in her office looking at 40-50 accounts and 200-2000 leads in Zoho. She needs to know who’s active, who’s inactive, and who she needs to call. Then she has to know if there are any leads. Which ones are the good leads and which ones are the dead ones.

Deborah Morelli proudly flaunts her Zoho desktop

From her first initial setup five years ago, which took her only 20 minutes, Zoho has become a standard part of her workflow as she’s in the application every single day. One extra feature Morelli likes is the ability to have links within Zoho that let her pop into other sites without having to leave Zoho.

As Morelli did most of her CRM research on an iPhone, she is also dependent on using her CRM via her iPhone.

“I can be on my iPhone and open Zoho and it’s just as good as the one I have on my desktop,” said Morelli. “A lot of these CRMs it’s one or the other.”

Zoho goes where I go

Morelli is an unabashed Zoholic saying, “I’m not able to function without it.”

“If I change jobs I’ve decided I’m going to have Zoho a part of my life forever. Because life is business and business is life,” said Morelli who will soon be adding personal to do items as well to Zoho. “Everyone needs some type of CRM.”

“By keeping up with your CRM you’re helping your clients make money and then you make money,” she said.

For those still not sure, Morelli advised you not frustrate yourself and waste your time trying to manage your business through Outlook.

“Outlook doesn’t work for me anymore. I don’t know who it works for. It’s outdated,” she said.

Instead Morelli suggests you try Zoho for one month and you’ll see improvement in your business life which will lead to your personal life.

Listen to my full interview with Morelli on Soundcloud.

Elementary SEO: All about robots.txt

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SEO is about making your pages rank higher on search results. But there are certain pages on your website which you don’t want users to arrive at from search results. The robots.txt file is used to exclude such pages from showing up in search results.

Search engines use bots or robots to crawl websites and learn about them, so that they’ll know which websites should show up for a particular keyword. Whenever such bots arrive at a website, the first thing they look for is the robots.txt file, because it contains instructions from the website’s owner. Now, there are good bots and bad bots. The bad ones especially, like the malware bots that are on the lookout for security vulnerabilities, pay no attention to the robots.txt file.

What is the role of robots.txt?

It contains two important information. Which bots are allowed to crawl this website, and which pages on this site should not be crawled.

How to create a robots.txt?

It can be created using any text-editor. The name of this file is case-sensitive, so it should be lower-case only. The robots.txt file should be put in the root folder of your website, along with the index or welcome page, so that the path of this file always is, www.yourdomainname.com/robots.txt .

It usually has two commands. User-agent is to specify the bot to which the following instructions apply. Disallow specifies the pages which are restricted.

A simple example of a robots.txt file is as below.

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

So, in the example above, the “*” beside User-agent says, the following commands apply to every kind of bot that lands on this site.
The “/” beside Disallow, represents all sub-directories in the root folder are restricted to bots. That means, no page inside the root folder should be crawled, by any bot.

Here are a few examples. To permit select bots, and keep the rest out,

User-agent: Googlebot
Disallow:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

To restrict select directories on a website from being crawled, the commands would be,

User-agent: *
Disallow: /directory/

To block files of a specific type,

User-agent: Googlebot

Disallow: /*.gif$

To block a particular directory, and everything in it,

User-agent: Googlebot-Image

Disallow: /images/dogs.jpg

Alternate method – META TAG:
You can also include a robots <meta> in the header of every page on your site. The syntax is,

<META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”NOINDEX, FOLLOW”>
<META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”INDEX, NOFOLLOW”>

The FOLLOW / NOFOLLOW attribute is for the links on that page. If it is NOFOLLOW, then bots should not be following any links on that page. If no meta tag is included, then it implies INDEX and FOLLOW, so there is no need to explicitly mention this.

As with Zoho Sites, you can access the crawler specification in the SEO settings page.

The commands entered here will automatically be saved in the robots.txt file of your website, and can be accessed at www.yourdomainname.com/robots.txt .

Zoho Office Integrates with Google Drive

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Recently we have seen our friends at Google open up their SDK for Google Drive letting third parties integrate their apps into Google Drive. We excitedly pounced on it and we are now thrilled to announce that Zoho Office is now integrated with Google Drive.

What does this mean? To start with, Google users can now open their documents using Zoho’s Writer, Sheet & Show – our word processor, spreadsheet and presentation applications. Of course, this integration is not just for viewing your files using Zoho’s apps, but you can also edit your documents and save them back to Google Drive. Better yet, you can also create new documents using Zoho’s editors and save those documents in Google Drive…all without needing to create a Zoho account.

But wait…it gets better. You can even collaboratively work on documents with other Google users, inside the Zoho editors. As all your documents are saved in Google Drive, you have the inherent advantages of Google Drive where your files are automatically synchronized between your various devices.

Taking advantage of all this goodness is actually pretty straightforward. Users just need to install Zoho apps from the Google Chrome Webstore.

Once installed, get over to your Google Drive and click on “Manage Apps” in Google Drive settings menu and check the box next to “Make [App Name] the default for files it can open”. This enables users to access Zoho apps with just a click from Google Drive. In the contextual menu of each document, users will see options to open the document with the respective Zoho editors. Of course, if you prefer to use Google’s editors, that is also possible. Just that you have an additional option with this integration.

If you are trying to create a new document in Google Drive, choose ‘New’ option and you’ll find Zoho Apps under the ‘More’ option. You can edit an existing document by just right clicking on it and choosing the Zoho app.

When you save, the modified document will be saved in Google Drive as a new document, thereby leaving the original document untouched. This new document comes with extensions recognized by Zoho’s apps. For example, a text document, BusinessProposal.doc, from Google Drive, when edited in Zoho Writer and saved, will be saved as BusinessProposal.zdoc in Google Drive. Similarly the extensions for Zoho Sheet, Zoho Show are .zsheet and .zslides respectively.

Collaboration is also simple. You can invite your Google contacts to collaborate on their Google Drive documents and edit them using Zoho editors in real time.  Based on the permissions, you will be allowed to access the document for collaboration.

If you have the Google Drive app installed on the Mac or the PC, you will also be able to access Zoho documents right from the desktop.

To get started, do take a look at the presentation that explains this integration,

We hope you like this integration.  We are excited to bring our powerful Office suite to Google Drive, complementing Google’s applications. As always, we look forward to hear your feedback, questions. We are all ears!!

Update: Our friends at Google gave us an opportunity to share our technical experience about the Zoho Office – Google Drive integration in Google developer blogs. You can take a look at it to know how the integration started, what are all the technologies used behind the scenes etc.,