Zoholics 2013: Agenda Published, Early Bird Pricing Ends Mar 31

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In Jan, we announced Zoholics 2013, Zoho’s annual user conference to be held in San Francisco in May (29th-31st). We now published the agenda for the event at the Zoholics Website.

This two and a half day event is packed with over 55 sessions and a great lineup of Speakers including Ray Wang, Brent Leary, Doug Sleeter, Sridhar Vembu and more. The event features three parallel tracks including a dedicated track for Zoho CRM training with around 20 sessions.

The Early Bird pricing, which offers a 33% discount on our Standard ticket, ends Mar 31st. You may want to take advantage of this offer if you are planning to attend the event.

We also rolled out an iPhone app for the Zoholics event. If you are attending the event, we highly recommend you to install this app.

At Zoholics, you will learn how to get more out of your Zoho apps, meet the people behind the products, get to know the future direction of the apps and of course, network with other Zoho users.

We hope to see you in San Francisco in May. Register Now.


New in Zoho CRM: MailMagnet for Mobile, BCC Dropbox, Zoho LiveDesk Integration, and more…

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Yes! We have a whole bunch of new and interesting features lined up that will not only help you manage your customer data and interactions at a central place in CRM, but also give you an enhanced CRM plus Email solution.

Here’s a summary of what’s new:

MailMagnet for Mobile

When we introduced MailMagnet for Zoho CRM, our aim was to change the way salespeople interact with their email. Today, we’re taking this one step further by introducing MailMagnet for Mobile.

MailMagnet users can now receive their customers’ emails inside Zoho CRM mobile app without fiddling with their phone’s email settings. With the new Messages tab in the app, you can view all your customers’ emails, reply to them and even add tasks. What’s more, you don’t have to be on Zoho CRM app or refresh messages each time to receive new emails. Just enable alerts in your iPhone, iPad or Android device to receive email notifications.

An example? You’re traveling to a customer location and while on transit, you browse through Zite for some interesting articles. While reading, you receive an email notification from a customer. Tapping the notification for details, you find that a customer has arranged for a meeting with you. And as luck has it, the customer is in the same location!

BCC Customers’ Emails to CRM

With BCC Dropbox, you can copy selected customer emails to Zoho CRM. The feature comes with a unique email address for each sales rep. And all you need to do is, BCC the email address while sending emails to your customers, and get a copy of the email linked to the right customer’s record in CRM! Don’t have a matching record in CRM? No Problem. Zoho CRM automatically adds a lead or contact, and associates the email to that record. Even the file attachments are tagged along and saved.

For example, you’re having an email conversation with a customer from your Gmail account, and you find one particular conversation thread essential for further sales discussions. By entering the BCC email address, you can get that email linked to the customer’s record in CRM.

So you don’t have to restrict yourself from using a single mail client. You can use multiple email clients and email address as long as Zoho CRM knows the email addresses that you send from. Of course, a bit of human intervention is required. BCC Dropbox is available for all paid users.

Engage and Delight your customers with LiveDesk Integration

Let’s face it, no one wants to spend time on endless email threads and long phone calls to get their questions answered. Not in this digital age when information is available instantly, all the time. So, what’s the best possible way to support your Net Generation customers?

Introducing Zoho LiveDesk Integration with CRM. Zoho LiveDesk – an online live chat capability – in your website gives impatient customers a chance to ask questions in real time and also get an answer right away. Each chat transcript is attached to the customer’s record in Zoho CRM, keeping your support team in sync with all customer interactions.

That’s not all, your support agents can add Leads, Contacts, Notes and follow-up tasks to Zoho CRM, directly from Zoho LiveDesk. And when an existing customer requests live support, Zoho CRM automatically retrieves relevant customer information to Zoho LiveDesk. The LiveDesk Integration is not only an additional channel to provide better customer support, but also a good way to show that you’re available for them at all times.

Contextual Integration with third-party apps and get holistic view of your customer information

Earlier, we introduced Custom Apps to build apps that can access data inside your CRM system. Now you can pull in any customer related information from custom apps and third-party applications and contextually add it to any record in CRM. Custom Related Lists comes with ready-to-use gallery functions that help you integrate with third-party applications like Contactology, Saasu and Zoho Recruit with ease.

Custom Related List is available for Enterprise users. Our Online Help will walk you through the configurations.

Do try these features and let us know what you think.

– Radhika

Zoho Projects 4: Work More Efficiently, Even On-the-Go

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Today we’re announcing general availability for Zoho Projects 4, the most complete mobile project management tool ever. Everything you need to get work done better: planning, tracking and collaborating is available wherever you are – even from your smartphone.

The Zoho Projects users who got an early preview of Zoho Projects 4 have already been experiencing the many improvements we introduced in this version – from being able to know what’s going on around your project at anytime thanks to Feeds (we like to think of it as your very own Project Coordinator), to the ease and simplicity of use by having most things you need on a daily basis within easy reach, on one page with no tabs or separate windows required.

But that’s not all. When we opened the Zoho Projects 4 preview we promised a surprise for the general availability, and that has arrived. We saved the best for last: taking your projects anywhere with our rich mobile apps.

Push Notifications
Away from the office on a trip? How will you keep up with what’s going on in your project? Zoho Projects gently reminds you about important deadlines from your phone using push notifications – there’s no need to keep refreshing.

Photos As To-Dos
A picture is worth a thousand words. But if you happen to be using a cramped mobile keyboard, then the picture is worth 10 thousand words. It’s just easier. Using the Zoho Projects mobile app you can upload pictures from your phone’s camera, and that way better explain your ideas about the project or how something needs to get fixed.

Easy Access To Everything While On-the-Go
The mobile apps allow you to add tasks, comments, change priority, and order anywhere you go, all in a simple, elegant UI that fits well on your phone. You also get to stay in touch with everything that is going around your project, including the latest updates and status notifications from everyone on the team. In a hurry? You can quickly add a task/milestone/status post with just a couple of taps.

The Zoho Projects 4 mobile apps are available now for both Android and Apple devices. Get them now at the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

With the general availability of Zoho Projects 4, we’re also moving to the new version full-time and retiring the old one (Projects 3.0) at the end of this month. And that’s a great thing, because our new desktop-web UI allows you to do things you couldn’t do before. If you didn’t get to experience the Zoho Projects 4 Preview, here’s what you missed:

Better Organization With The Kanban View
When viewing your task lists and tasks, you can now choose the all-new Kanban view. Kanban is just a fancy term to say you can see your activities as they move towards different steps towards completion. For example, you may have 5 tasks in the Design stage, 15 in Implementation and 3 in Review. Kanban view is great for whenever you have multiple concurrent processes or tasks all going through the same basic flow.

Everyday Tasks Just Got Easier
Getting updates about what’s going on around your projects got easier with the projects feed and notification alerts. Plus, the Follow feature lets you track individual progress and to-do’s, so you can easily view what’s most relevant to you. Similarly, now users can take control of the email notifications they get from Zoho Projects, so the emails they get are more personalized.

Attach Documents from Everywhere
With the latest Zoho Projects we make it easier for you to keep all your documents in a single place. You can now attach documents to your projects from Google Drive, Dropbox, Zoho Docs and even from Microsoft Skydrive.

And just as important, in the newest UI we have drastically improved speed and performance for a smoother and quicker access and navigation to everything you do.

We feel pretty good about our latest iteration – and with today’s mobile release we’ve delivered a major milestone. We can’t wait to see what you think of it, and most importantly, how you use it and how it helps you get work done better.


Poll: What’s your approach to customer support hiring?

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Beyond the processes you put in place and the helpdesk software that your company uses, the customer service experience is ultimately influenced by the people you hire. People in customer-facing roles form the face of your company in the market. When they fit their roles, all’s well. Otherwise, well, not so well.

The Zoho Support Poll

The question we’re asking this week is about customer support hiring. What’s your approach to customer support hiring?

Hire experienced people and empower them.

Experienced customer support professionals bring a certain competitive edge to your company. They already know how to handle varying ticket loads. They know what to do when a ticket gets escalated. They know what not to say to that short-tempered customer. They’ve been there and done that.

Experienced professionals are suitable for small companies that don’t have much process intelligence yet. They’re also suitable for companies that prefer to put hires in their roles almost instantly.

Having said that, professionals who meet your specific requirements are not very easy to find.

Hire fresh candidates and train internally.

Fresh hires come with an open mind. They haven’t been conditioned to think in any particular pattern. They can be trained to fit your company’s exact culture and philosophies.

Hiring fresh is suitable for companies that have process intelligence. Also, if you’re hiring at scale, its easier to hire fresh when compared to hiring experienced professionals.

Having said that, the cost of training a fresh hire is far higher and even more substantial at scale. So, it’s a trade-off between deployment flexibility and training cost.

What do you do at your business? Tell us in the comments section below.

We’re looking forward to listen to your opinions on this topic.

4 Ways to Keep Telecommuting Employees on Task

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This is a guest post by Kristine Hansen of Null Media.

While working from a satellite office, it’s easy for any telecommuter to feel like they’re on an island. But telecommuting offers tremendous business advantages, including cost reductions, environmental benefits, and access to a truly global workforce. So here are 4 tips for keeping your remote staffers motivated and on the same page, literally and figuratively.

  1. Jointly develop a growth plan. One drawback for telecommuting is that it doesn’t naturally allow time and space for feedback. Aside from annual reviews, employees who don’t regularly turn up at company headquarters may have no idea about how they are perceived by others. As a manager, you want all employees to feel invested in the company and their careers. Work together with each remote staffer on writing a growth plan that takes into consideration that employee’s job description, the areas where he would like to improve and grow, and what his long-term goal is – all of which can help to boost retention. By showing your telecommuters you are dedicated to fostering their growth within the company, they’re more likely to want to stick around.
  2. Ask for updates. The last thing you want to hear on the day a project is due is that it isn’t finished. To avoid this situation, request weekly progress reports leading up to the deadline. (In this case, email is okay, because the interaction is brief and informative. But you could also consider using an online project management tool.) If you sense that the employee is falling behind or losing focus, ask how you or the rest of the team can help — and talk through the steps leading up to the deadline.
  3. Use cloud storage. A quick and easy way to check remote employees’ progress on a project is to peruse the documents they’re working on. Store files in a collaborative space that’s convenient for everyone to access. By relying on cloud storage and other online applications, you’ll find this leaves more time to devote to other tasks.
  4. Pick up the phone. Despite the convenience and brevity of email correspondence, for certain tasks it can be too passive. There’s no face-to-face interaction and emotions and intentions are not easily understood. Start relying on the telephone more. You’ll be surprised at how much easier it is to deepen connections amongst a team – and to assess an employee’s input and output. While a conversation might take 15 minutes and incur a cost – versus the few minutes it could take to compose a free email – the long-term benefits of the exchange are much greater. Of course, email is a crucial tool if you’re working with someone on the other side of the globe, where the workday ends when yours begins, but try to use email only when the recipient is already intimately familiar with the project and, at this point, you are on the same page. Leave the details about a brand-new project for a phone call. Explaining a multi-faceted approach over email rarely results in mutual understanding.
With the availability of online tools to help you get your work done and reach your business goals, there’s no reason for employees to be chained to today’s office space. These 4 tips can serve as a guide for ensuring smooth telecommunication and overall productivity for you and your staff.

Results: What kind of interactions do you prefer in a ticket?

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Last week, we had asked Zoho Support users what kind of interactions they preferred in support tickets.

Short interactions are crisp but several such interactions in a single support ticket could still reduce customer happiness significantly. Long interactions need more patience but might get the job done in just a few interactions itself.

We asked the question to customer support managers as well as agents. We were really curious to see how different their opinions were in regard to this particular topic. What surprised us was the resounding uniformity in their opinions!

Customer Support Poll - What kind of interactions do you prefer in a ticket?

Managers prefer shorter interactions.

When asked the question, about 68% of support managers said that they prefer short-but-several interactions. While managing a team of support agents, the bigger picture takes center stage. When agents have shorter interactions in a ticket, they’re able to handle more tickets in a given period of time. Multiply that by the scale of the team and you’ll understand how useful that is, in the big picture.

Agents agree.

Amongst support agents, about 60% opined that they preferred shorter-but-several interactions in support tickets. A quick internal discussion with our own support agents revealed that they prefer shorter interactions themselves. One reason is that most of the issues that customers tend to have are common issues. It’s very rare that an issue that has never been documented before pops up. In the case of common issues, it’s pretty simple for a support agent to isolate the issue and help the customer. So, by and large, shorter interactions would serve the purpose splendidly.

On the other hand, there are situations in which long-but-fewer interactions fit the bill better. We don’t rule those out. But for the vast majority of situations, shorter-but-several interactions seem to be much more convenient.

We’ll come back with a new topic next week. Until then, have a great weekend!

The importance of great branding for small businesses

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This is a guest post by Sandra Faleris of SmBizWinningTips. 

To most small business owners, branding seems more fit for multi-national corporations. Yet many don’t realize that branding, in some ways, is even more important for small businesses which are constantly trying to one-up the competition.

Even if you own, for example, a local corner convenience store that doesn’t seem to inspire any kind of grand marketing gesture, there are ways of branding that will entice customers to spend in your store versus the convenience store down the street.

Branding is more than having a business with a unique name or a restaurant that serves your grandmother’s favorite recipes. Branding encompasses everything in your business, from the way your employees treat your customers, to the bags that hold the purchased products.

5 Branding Tips for Small Businesses

  1. Prepare a one-page Mission Statement: This is an important document that will set the stage for how you do business. Make sure it highlights the elements that sets your business apart from your competitors and how that will engage your customers.
  2. Create Company Identity Standards: Expensive logos are not considered an important element to the small business brand. Yet it’s important to create a visual theme that includes how the company name is graphically configured (fonts, color scheme, images). These “standards” should be used as a base structure for all branding/marketing material that is to follow (i.e. brochures, promotional materials, etc.).
  3. Slogans/Themes: “Expect more, pay less” is Target’s slogan. In a few words, it communicates the company’s position versus their competitors. Yes, K-Mart could have said the same thing. But Target did it first and best. So differentiating your business also includes how you want to “position” it in the minds of the consumer against your competitors. Slogans/themes can be a great asset in branding, as long as your business “delivers” the promise, each and every time. Consider adding a slogan or theme to your company identity standards. Then include it in everything from the way the phones are answered to the close of the sale.
  4. Websites: While logos are no longer the all-important differentiating factor of a brand, websites are the future.  Even if your business is not an online e-commerce site, design a website that encompasses your company standards. If you are afraid that developing a website is too expensive, think again. There are software programs, online developers and outsourcing companies that can create your website for less than $500, and that includes web hosting.
  5. Say-do: This is something small businesses tend to forget and is a key point in branding. What your slogan, promotion or sales people tell your customers must come true. Consumers are reluctant to work with small businesses that say one thing and do another. It creates frustration, negative feelings and bad word-of-mouth. There is nothing worse than inconsistency and failure to deliver on the promise.

Evaluate your branding strategy every few months. Your customers are the ones who will test its efficacy. Alter as needed, but don’t start from scratch unless you have the budget to revise everything.

These 5 easy steps can make a world of difference in how your business is viewed. You can turn your “Mom and Pop Shop” into a growing contender for having the top brand and a growing piece of the market share with little effort and a great deal of forethought.

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