Use of CRM Applications Must Be Process-Centric

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“CRM applications are very data centric in nature, but if you’re actually going to use one you need to be process centric,” said Bill Band, VP and Principal Analyst Serving Business Process Professionals for Forrester, in our conversation at the CRM Evolution 2012 conference in New York City.

“While a CRM is great at collecting and storing customer information, it’s not so good at connecting business process from end to end,” said Band.

To be able to handle a case from beginning to end and deliver a great customer experience, Forrester’s clients are trying to add business process capabilities on top of their CRM systems.

While it’s key to have process, it’s often not necessary for a simple customer interaction into the CRM. Overloading the CRM with unnecessary processes is one of the key pitfalls Band sees with adding business process management.

“Business process management can help you deliver a better customer experience but you should only be focusing on things such as customer service interactions, client on-boarding, load applications, or things where there’s a lot of complexity in the business process. If you don’t have that kind of complexity, a traditional data-centric solution will work just fine,” said Band.

Case Study: Improving Sales and Data Accuracy with eSurvey and Zoho Reports

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How do you improve the sales efficiency of your workforce of around 300 sales people, who document and submit their daily sales activities on paper forms? Simple. By moving them to a paperless system, that involves smart phones, a smart data collection app (eSurvey) and a reporting service on the cloud (Zoho Reports). That’s what the farmer owned cooperative, Southern States did.

Know more about how Southern States achieved an increase in sales of 20% and data accuracy of 100%.

Become Preferred: Make Customers Want You

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“Recessions are a great time to gain market share. That’s when you grow. That’s when dissatisfaction is at its highest. You need discontent,” said Michael Vickers (@michael_vickers), Executive Director of Summit Learning Systems in his presentation “Become Preferred: Up-Level the Brand Experience” at the CRM Evolution 2012 conference in New York City.

In his presentation, Vickers went about trying to answer the question, “How do we become preferred in our marketplace regardless of market conditions?”

How do you make your brand experience unique and different from the competition?

While we have an endless array of copycat type companies, Vickers advises businesses to say “No” to imitation. If you do follow the imitation path, you’ll get into an endless cycle of competitive benchmarking. “You want to be considered the only ones that do what you do,” said Vickers, quoting Jerry Garcia.

It’s not about the best product. It’s about the best experience. Your goal should be to become the preferred provider of what you sell, continued Vickers. One way to constantly differentiate is to challenge your assumptions.

Identify the stress of your customers better than your competition, remove it, and then connect, Vickers said explaining that people often don’t make rational decisions, well not initially. People make their decisions first with emotion and then they back it up with logic.

Take a standard service offering and up-level it

A simple way you can “up-level” your offering is to send out a “Thank you” note which moves you out of being seen as just a transaction to that of an experience. The “Thank you” note becomes memorable and therefore you create an experience with that simple action. Even when you don’t have a deal in play or no product sold, you have to add an experience. It gives you points in a relationship for which you can cash in later, like when you screw up, said Vickers.

Vickers offered this formula for achieving preferred status:

(Expected Value + Distinctive Value) x Trust = Preferred Status

To get to preferred status, said Vickers, you need to level up through these three stages:

Loyalty – Be scared of this. Don’t want people to just be “satisfied” with your service. Loyalty can be bought.
Advocacy – Word of mouth business.
Insistence – They want you. They ask for you.
Truly understand what business you’re in. Always ask “Why” people are buying your product. Once you answer the “Why,” align yourself with it, Vickers said.

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
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. was founded to bridge that gap. 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 (, 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.

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