Zoho CRM & Zoho Creator: the affair is getting better

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Zoho CRM and Zoho Creator continue to be two of our most loved services. To all of you who use both these services alike, we believe this will be good news. The integration started off with two DELUGE tasks solely for Zoho CRM. Now, there are 7 tasks that make communication between these two services, simpler like never before. To sum things up, you can

1. Create a record on Zoho CRM – For records submitted to a Zoho Creator application, you can create a corresponding record on Zoho CRM too.
2. Fetch records from Zoho CRM that fall in a specific range of index.
3. Search for records on Zoho CRM.
4. Search for records on Zoho CRM, by specific predefined columns.
5. Update an existing record on Zoho CRM, using the values submitted into Zoho Creator.
6. Fetch related records from Zoho CRM, based on a specific record ID.
7. Fetch records from Zoho CRM of specific record ID.

When used in combination, the possibilities of automating tasks are countless. Learn more about these Zoho Creator DELUGE tasks and their syntax, here.

The CRM You Use is the One You Love

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After working with a string of dreadful non-intuitive CRM applications, young entrepreneur Tara Berthier, President of Speakers Boutique, recently discovered Zoho CRM, the first CRM application she actually loves using every single day.

The business

For her six years out of college, Tara Berthier (@tberthier) has worked at a string of speakers agencies, Speakers Spotlight and the National Speakers Bureau. Just a year ago she started TLB Talent and last month she launched Speakers Boutique, a speakers agency with offices in Toronto and Halifax, Ontario Canada.

A troublesome history with CRM applications

Berthier was introduced to CRM applications right out of college. They were a must for any speakers agency that not only have to manage talent, but also customers and prospective customers.

First job out of school was at the National Speakers Bureau where they used a CRM application called Maximizer. It was Berthier’s first ever experience with CRM. She had never been exposed to CRM or even know it was called CRM. Regardless, she found Maximizer to be not user friendly and a little complicated.

Her next job was with Speakers Spotlight, and they used ACT! for which Berthier referred to as “the worst.” She complained that it was slow, complicated, and was loaded with useless features. Her greatest aggravation was how cumbersome it was to complete the simplest tasks. For example, with ACT! there was no way to move a large amount of tasks forward in the calendar, said Berthier. You had to manually move them one by one. She faced this tiresome task every time she came back from vacation and faced a series of assigned tasks whose dates had passed. Her first day back at the office from a vacation was spent manually rescheduling her tasks.

After learning the business from two established companies, it was time for Berthier to break out on her own. She started her own company, TLB Talent, for which she used Google Docs, an application she loved. Being that she was a young entrepreneur with loan debt, she began searching for free CRMs that would work with Google Docs. She stumbled across Insightly and decided to give it a try. Given her past experience with Maximizer and ACT! she didn’t have high expectations for any CRM application.

Unfortunately, Berthier wasn’t disappointed. She found Insightly to be just as frustrating as the previous CRM applications. She felt it was a dinosaur when it came to graphics and it was slow and non-intuitive. But since she was a young entrepreneur with poor cash flow she felt at the time it was worth it to slog through this application and get out of it what she could.

How discovered Zoho

After months of frustration with Insightly, Berthier had enough. She started searching for another Google App friendly CRM application and stumbled across Zoho.

“I decided to try Zoho and it was night and day,” said Berthier. “It’s cleaner. It’s fast. When I’m using it, it just makes sense.”

With all the previous CRM applications she found herself looking things up constantly on Google, calling support, or asking colleagues how to do certain tasks.

“With Zoho it’s almost as though it reads my mind. It’s so user friendly and intuitive,” she said citing the ease of importing all her contacts from Insightly into Zoho. It was a task she admitted she was dreading yet was happily surprised when everything came in perfectly, without a hitch.

A CRM application is only valuable if you use it

With only a couple of months of Zoho experience under her belt, Berthier is using the CRM application for its most basic uses. She puts in potential leads and logs all her communications. If she doesn’t hear back from someone she puts a task to follow up with them in a week.

“When I had Insightly I didn’t want to use it,” Berthier complained.

Prior to Zoho Berthier admitted she had poor organization with all her communications simply because she wasn’t actually inputting data into the CRM. “Those things were incredibly disorganized at my last company because I dreaded using the application,” she said.

Berthier became so discouraged with Insightly that she just avoided using it. As a result she found herself going through 800 emails just to try to figure out what her last communications was with a specific contact.

Zoho turned that all around. She actually likes using the application.

“Now, I go to my office and [Zoho] is the second thing I open after my email. It’s made me a more efficient worker. Much more organized. I feel much more in control with my work and my ability to be a good agent,” she said.

Advice for others 

Berthier used to look at CRM as being a necessary evil. She knew she had to have one for her company, but she also realized that you have to use it for it to serve its function.

“It’s a pain in the ass to have to log all your communications,” said Berthier. “But it’s essential to keeping organized and motivated and knowing what your next day is going to look like and being on top of things.”

Her advice for others is to “find a CRM that’s easy to use and doesn’t make you depressed by the site of it.”

“My [first] business would have looked a lot different if I had found Zoho,” said Berthier. “I would have done more work. I would have definitely reached out to more people. I would have felt more confident with my abilities as an agent instead of scrambling every day and feeling disorganized and just discouraged overall.”

We’re glad that Tara isn’t disorganized anymore.

As a side note, I thought you’d be amused that we discovered Berchier through a tweet, in which she announced:

With praise like that, we had to talk with her.

Listen to our full 15 minute conversation here on Soundcloud.

Code Red! How good is your emergency response?

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Zoho Support Escalation Alert

For decades together, the traditional customer support paradigm worked like a charm. Businesses were happy with a ‘good’ ratio of positive to negative experiences. Over time, that ‘good’ ratio has grown steadily, like seaweed on a pier.

Today, it’s a social world. There’s no ‘good’ ratio anymore. For your business, the difference between a negative experience and a catastrophe is almost nothing. As much as social media amplifies the good things about your business, it has a more powerful effect on the not-so-good things as well.

The concept of emergency response has to be finely ingrained in your customer support approach itself. Yes, this necessarily includes your helpdesk software too! Let’s take a small example, in the case of a web-based product/service.

A very common case is that of a service outage. One customer tweets about it. A few more pitch in. And, before you know it, the whole World knows you had an outage. If your first official response, in this case, is delayed or insufficient, you can as well get into a bunker underground.

What if your support rep doesn’t know what to do, or isn’t around, at the time? Well, that’s exactly why you need a really smart helpdesk software! Of course, if you use Zoho Support for your business, you wouldn’t need to worry about this situation at all!

Emergency Escalation Rule

Zoho Support has automatic social escalation built right into it. You can just setup an escalation rule wherein if several tweets containing your business’ name appear in a span of a few minutes, the support manager gets notified by email/SMS. This is just one example of where it can come in handy. You can think of many more relevant situations, I’m sure.

We use this internally at Zoho. In fact, our helpdesk coord simply loves it.

But, you don’t have to take our word at all. Try it yourself. Just set the rule up once. You’ll probably be as cool as a cucumber during your Code Red moment!

Mobile Websites: the Dos and Don’ts

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Mobile devices are catching up so fast that it is predicted that mobile web usage will surpass desktop web usage by 2015. It has become so important, a regular website that was doing great deal of good to a business, will no longer be as yielding without a complementary mobile website. Regional businesses in particular, have something to worry about, because more than 50% of local searches are made on mobile devices.

Regular websites, resized for smaller screens, don’t make good mobile websites. So, how is mobile websites different from regular websites? What accounts to a great mobile website? Before you begin working on a mobile website, one needs to understand how Mobile Internet is different.

* Mobile phones and tablets use a relatively slower connection than conventional wired ones.

* The arena is very small; but the audience is the same.

* Mobile devices are most used on the verge of decision-making, so the experience influences the decision.

Only the essentials:

The best mobile websites are ones that deliver the best navigation experience, despite the limited real estate. So the first thing to do is to prioritize the content that would make it to the small screen. What essential can be put in, without a horizontal scroll bar, and without making the page too long.If it is fairly long, have a link on the footer to take the visitor to the top of the page without having to scroll back.

Consistency:

Your mobile website should match your regular website in appearance. This makes it look familiar to returning visitors, and establishes a connection immediately. It could be the color schemes, logo and other trademark visual elements.

Readability.

Mobile devices are most likely to be held at arm’s length. So smaller text and too many links are going to make it all the more difficult to find a speck of information. Interaction is going to be “touch”, rather than point and click. So the interactive items like links need to be touchable icons.

And Writability too. Text input fields on forms can be a pain if there are too many. It is not so easy to type using an on-screen keyboard on hand-held devices.

Speed:

Having too many images as in your regular website can seriously slow the page down on mobile devices. Use very few, compressed images.

Mobile-Specific Features:

Smart phones offer features like “Tap to call” or “send an SMS”. A visitor can touch the contact number on your website to initiate a call instantly. Features like this ensure seamless navigation, resulting in higher conversions.

These mostly are the visual elements that enhance the mobile browsing experience of visitors. There is more to this; the search engine’s side of the story. Stay tuned.


Or, get a mobile-optimized version of your website, automatically, with Zoho Sites.

HelpOnClick live chat software and Zoho CRM join forces

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This is a Guest Post by Neran Ashkenazi, CEO of OnClick Solutions Ltd.

What if I told you that you could generate at least 40% more leads without generating new traffic to your site? Sounds good right? Then you’ll love the innovative chat system we at HelpOnClick have to offer.

Including live chat in your site will give you an advantage over your competitors who do not have this capability. Customers in the digital age do not want to “open a ticket” or send an email through a “contact me” section. They want answers now. Having a chat capability enables this impatient potential customer to have a chance to ask a question in real time and get an answer right then and there. When they get what they want, they’re more likely to continue talking with you and buy something.

To get a better understanding of how this works picture yourself going to a new retail or service business online. You arrive at the site and notice that you are being asked to join a live conversation. You find this great because you have tons of questions to ask and were just about to leave the website. You join the chat and realize you are talking to a live person. You get your questions answered in a short amount of time. As a result you buy the product or service or schedule a phone call to continue the discussion.

CRM software in many ways become more advanced over the years. The need to maintain a strong relationship with your customers is an important rule to follow. Zoho CRM is a great system to do that and close sales. But to do that, you need the leads. That’s where HelpOnClick comes in with our new live chat to Zoho CRM integration that will allow you to enjoy both worlds.

Are you new to HelpOnClick live chat? If you are, we’d love to offer you, as a Zoho CRM blog reader, a free 14 day tryout + 80% discount on your first paid month. Just use coupon code ZOHO during checkout. Check us out on our website: http://www.helponclick.com

- Neran

5 Keys for Transitioning Your Business Online

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This is a guest post by Sandra Faleris of SmBizSuccessTeam. To read more from Sandra, visit her blog.

Every business can use an online presence, whether they think so or not. Save your customers time by putting together a website that showcases your products and services. You don’t have to go e-commerce (allowing customers to purchase online), however, for heavy computer users going to a static website can be frustrating.

The world is moving toward convenience at a break-neck speed. Just look at the competitive cell phone providers who tout faster browsers and cellular technology.

Faster is the new bigger. Knowing where your industry is headed is key.

Losing business to those who offer “more convenience” is something you can count on if you don’t jump on the train now. It’s the way life is headed; one would have to be blind to ignore the fast pace of the information highway.

According to the U.S. Commerce Department, e-commerce sales exceeded $194 billion in 2011. This 16.1% increase is another indication that e-commerce is taking a bigger portion of market share from brick-and-mortar establishments.

So far, the categories that are not purchased online are: Gas, groceries, autos, food and beverage services. However, if you are in an industry that is becoming more competitive online, here’s a guide to help get you started.

Half-on, half-off.

No one is recommending that you abandon your physical location, if it is working for you. There are still plenty of customers who prefer to see merchandise or deal with their professionals in person. Doing both is ideal, for the time being.

Here are the primary reasons to get your business online now:

  • To capture sales from the audience that prefers to shop from their home
  • Providing online information helps the sales effort and often allows for less trained or fewer employees on-premise
  • To reduce overhead costs; the higher the percentage of online sales, the more reason to consider smaller, physical quarters and fewer employees
  • To stay competitive

Costs for creating an online presence have been reduced substantially, making it an affordable move for everyone.

5 Key ingredients for a successful online transition:

  1. Planning: Pick a start date that gives more than enough time for development (ideally, 3-months)
  2. Selecting: Find a freelance web designer or consider using a city or industry portal, from where you can post your website. There are also a myriad of services that will create your website: some for free and others for a monthly fee or a percentage of sales. (Check out our recently launched service, Zoho Sites).
  3. Developing: Develop a Content Outline and gather photos to give to the designer.
  4. Writing: Write the text you want included or hire a copywriter to work with the designer. (It’s best if you can at least write the salient points that need to be included.) Remember to set aside an area of the website for specials or information that can be updated on a weekly or monthly basis.
  5. Testing: Test-drive it for a month before going “live”.
  6. Promoting: Promote it with a discount offer for trial usage. Get feedback from the first 100 users and make necessary changes ASAP.

It’s no longer the intimidating move of yesteryear. In today’s techno-age, a website is your calling card, which provides pertinent information about your business and its products and services.  Isn’t it time to move ahead and join the Internet ranks?

We’re flat-world-friendly! Are you?

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In 2005, Thomas L Friedman proposed that the world was becoming flat. Today, we can be certain that it already has! What that has done is to unify consumers and businesses across the World.

All you need today is a product or service that makes life easier for someone, somewhere in the world. The Internet has made it remarkably easy to offer products & services globally. However, it’s not just about selling, now, is it? What you sell, you also have to support thereafter.

At Zoho, we have customers across various time zones. And, our support commitments have to be restricted to each time zone. Selling to a single global market comes with that peculiar challenge. We spoke to some customers and they all said “Hey, we have that challenge too! Can you fix it?”

Much to our surprise, even some popular enterprise-quality helpdesk software didn’t do anything to fix this handicap. So, we set out to do what we’ve always done best. We found a simple way to get rid of the challenge and built it right into Zoho Support. We’re excited to tell you all about it!

You can have a different set of business hours for each time zone. Your SLAs will ‘automagically’ tie into these business hours too. All you have to do is setup the business hours for each of the time zones you’re servicing. Pretty simple, ain’t it? Pretty useful too!

Zoho Support Custom Business Hours

Zoho has consistently empowered businesses to succeed in a flat world. And this is just one more step forward in that direction.

Try it for your business and tell us what you think. We really hope you’ll love it.