Zoho Assist: Remote IT Support Made Simpler

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Steven Arant works in IT desktop support at Mecklenburg County officeNorth Carolina. His everyday job involves providing IT support to his fellow staff. Before discovering Zoho, he wasted a lot of time physically running around the office to address various support issues.

According to Steven, not using any kind of remote support application made his daily job very difficult. Not only were his time and energy wasted, but his fellow employees also had to wait for him to come and assist them. Steven was determined to change this into a more pleasant and less wasteful IT support experience.

​Well, this was history, as one day, one simple Google search for remote support services landed him on Zoho Assist. He found out that just by entering his fellow employee’s email address and inviting them for a remote support session was more than enough to get on to their computer screen. He was thrilled with the instant connect to the remote screen and this helped him to resolve the issues much more faster.

Let’s hear his success story in his own words.

Within 20 seconds I can be on their PC working on their problem. Since I have a email listing saved on my desktop all I have to do is copy and paste their email into Zoho Assist and hit invite to session. My fellow employees can get instant help. I can also help contract employees at remote areas now without them having to come into our office for help.

To cite one recent case, an outside contract attorney needed help from his office opening and viewing discovery on a case. The DVD had a video player that was VERY difficult to install and operate. He would have had to come into our office to watch his video but I was able to fix it remotely. He was so happy since his trial was going to start the next day!

My coworkers call it computer magic. That’s how I feel about it too. Its taken our old outdated office into a new era of productivity. I paid a $115 a year for Zoho and its worth every penny to me. I paid out of my own pocket because I wanted to provide better service to the people I support and Zoho allows me to do it.

If you have your own share of experience with Zoho Assist helping your business scenario, easing your job of supporting your customers remotely, do let us know. If you are one of those who haven’t tried Zoho Assist yet, well, it’s high time you try your hand! You can get an idea on why Steven is so excited about Zoho Assist.

Happy Supporting!

The Technical and Human Hurdles of a New CRM Implementation

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It took Jamie Wilson, Coordinator of Global Operations for Clinical Data Interchange Standards Consortium (CDISC) six months to evaluate all the CRM systems the nonprofit was considering. He looked at Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Siebel from Oracle, and Zoho. His top requirement was a CRM system that could offer tight integration between financials and billing.

Initially Wilson began advocating Microsoft Dynamics because it integrated with Sharepoint and Microsoft offered a decent nonprofit pricing scheme. But when Wilson made his final decision he advocated for Zoho because of its interoperability with other applications through its open API. CDISC uses so many different systems and Wilson discovered that a lot of them integrate with the Zoho API right out of the box.

Choosing a system that fit CDISC’s needs was Wilson’s first technical hurdle. Now he needed to get people to actually use the CRM system which was a major culture shift for the nonprofit. Just because you create the workflow processes it’s not easy to get people to stop inefficient behavior such as sending all communications via email and attaching documents to emails. Ultimately his job required a lot of follow up with members and leads on how to use a workflow to make their life a lot easier.

For any other nonprofit struggling with a similar situation of porting over legacy financial data, Wilson highly recommends you get your financial data in the most standard format possible and get ready for a long cutover period. You’ll have to rely on old Excel spreadsheets for a while until you can start relying on the live CRM data coming in.

For both technology and people, Wilson advised, “Don’t rush the money and be sensitive to people’s attitudes to how they do work.”

Good CRM Requires a Standard Data Input Methodology

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Before the vacation rental management company Optimal Owner Care started using Zoho, they tried to grow their database by purchasing a bulk set of leads and dialing them through a piece of rudimentary client management software that wasn’t sustainable nor expandable, said Matthew Velez and his colleague from Optimal Owner Care.

Since switching to Zoho, business has changed dramatically. The company has grown from ten employees to sixty. To get a handle on what was happening with the sales team they had to normalize the data protocols and the 70,000 leads they’ve processed, explained Velez.

If everyone is doing their own thing when entering data into the CRM, that’s a real problem. You can’t generate reports. It’s very important that everyone follows the same protocols.

Optimal Owner Care’s most valuable reports are their sales reports. They can see how efficient sales people are being and use that information to optimize the workflow. They also utilize a dashboard so that each sales person can see the exact dollar amount they’re making based on every single action they take and that motivates them to do more, Velez said.

Without Zoho there’s no way they could have pulled this off with their growing staff.

For other organizations dealing with a mountain of growing data, they highly advise to stay organized. Create data entry protocols from the start and stick to them. If you keep constantly changing procedures you’ll create gaps and lose data. It’s the only way to create a sustainable and growable sales force.

The Key to a Successful CRM Implementation is Simplicity

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Even if you have a history of running businesses and working with CRM, it doesn’t necessarily lend itself to an easy initial CRM implementation. After a lot of trial and error Kenneth Hart of Thirsty Swagman found a CRM implementation that worked best for his small business.

Business

Kenneth Hart is the founder of Thirsty Swagman a premier travel destination service that offers international tours of the world’s best pubs and other hot nightlife spots. No boring backpacking and sightseeing on Thirsty Swagman, said Hart. You only do the good bits, such as pubs, bars, city nightlife, and festivals.

Situation

When Hart started Thirsty Swagman back in 2008 he just had a simple website with a web form. People filled out the form, they received the information via email, and then Hart or one of his employees copied and pasted the information into an Excel spreadsheet.

That technique worked for a little while until Hart reached 1,000 contacts. After that all sorts of problems started happening.

“Contact information started to get really messed up,” admitted Hart.

Cells and rows weren’t in line and a customer who was from London all of a sudden was living in Amsterdam.

That was just the beginning of Thirsty Swagman’s problems. Hart had worked with CRM packages such as ACT! and Microsoft CRM and he was well aware that he could have a tool that could track and massage leads. That wasn’t possible with contacts in Excel. Those contacts could never be active. They didn’t live. They didn’t breathe.

Unfortunately Excel is what Hart chose when he launched his business. He had a startup and at the time he believed he couldn’t afford the huge costs of a real CRM package.

CRM experiments for a startup

After six months of collecting contacts in Excel, Hart decided to give Salesforce a try. Hart had used Salesforce at his previous company so he was very familiar with its capabilities.

Given that Hart was operating on limited funds he only chose Salesforce’s basic edition, which is called group edition. Unfortunately, for Hart’s needs, Salesforce group edition was very limited. It seemed more appropriate for B2B CRM as it required each contact to be associated with a business, Hart said. There was no way to do personal accounts. While he tried some funky workarounds such as creating a fake account just to get contacts in the database, it really didn’t work for his B2C business.

“It became very painful to manage once we had about 3,000 contacts in there,” said Hart who knew there was a B2C version of Salesforce, but complained that it was far too expensive for his small business and far too complicated to implement.

Discovering Zoho CRM

Hart needed a better B2C CRM solution that wouldn’t break his startup’s bank. He began researching others who had been in his same situation and discovered many other small businesses were using Zoho CRM. In fact, he saw stories of others who had started with Salesforce and then switched to Zoho. After reading the positive stories of Zoho and its fractional cost of Salesforce (1/4 the price according to Hart), Hart signed up for a trial and now he loves it.

Moving to Zoho was completely painless, Hart said. After paying a negligible cost for Zoho to handle the Salesforce-to-Zoho migration it only took 8 hours to be up and running. “There wasn’t anything else we needed to do,” said Hart who has been using Zoho CRM for four months.

Unique use of Zoho CRM

Since he implemented Zoho CRM, Hart says he’s cut administrative efforts by more than 50 percent. And that keeps improving as he slowly adds other services such as Zoho’s web to lead which automatically enters web form data directly into Zoho CRM. In addition, Hart started using Zoho’s B2B module which uses the same interface and integrates very nicely with Thirsty Swagman’s B2C lead management tracking.

If Thirsty Swagman starts working with a travel agent who has a series of clients, Hart can enter all those clients and associate each one appropriately with the travel agent. If the clients book a trip with Thirsty Swagman, he knows exactly where to send the commission check and for how much.

Advice for others

For other businesses that are in a similar situation as Thirsty Swagman, Hart offers the following advice:

Choose a cloud-based application with proper CRM – Don’t just use some type of spreadsheet document because it requires a ton of copy and paste which can cause errors. Plus, with a spreadsheet, you don’t have a history of what you’ve sent in the past. In addition, you want a cloud-based application so more than one person can access at a time.

Keep it simple – Any CRM package will allow you to create lots of customizations. Problem is too much becomes an overhead thing to manage. Cut out any element you don’t need, such as unused fields.

“You’ll end up investing less time and personally I think you’ll get more out of it,” Hart said.

Listen to our interview with Kenneth Hart.

Integrate CRM with Your Custom Front End Application

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In an effort to integrate a custom application with a database, a software developer struggles with one CRM application, but finds solace in Zoho CRM.

Business

Pawan Jaiswal is a senior software developer that contracts on many different application integration projects. A few years ago he was working on a project for Laitkor Infosolutions Pvt. Ltd., a software development consulting company that builds custom web applications, mobile applications, and Windows applications.

Situation

Jaiswal was working on a project that required him to build a CRM backend interface for a custom application that was being used by a medical practice. He and his team started using Free CRM, but it quickly turned into a horrible experience.

The front end application that was supposed to be sending data to the CRM, wasn’t properly inserting the data into the database. To make matters worse they weren’t getting any proper reports as to what was going on, therefore making it impossible to debug, explained Jaiswal.

When Jaiswal called Free CRM for technical support they weren’t helpful and they took very long time to respond.

Tried Zoho CRM to solve their application integration problems

After lots of frustration, Laitkor’s client said to try using Zoho CRM.

Everything they wanted Free CRM to do was now happening with Zoho CRM. They were able to pass the values from the custom application to Zoho CRM and back again, plus they were getting reports from Zoho as to what was happening between the application and the CRM database.

Lastly, Jaiswal was very happy with Zoho’s support. Whenever he got stuck on a problem he just wrote up a query and got a response a few minutes later.

Advice for others

Jaiswal has become a fan of Zoho, and recommends it for other developers. He said it’s quite easy to use and if you don’t know how to program, the tutorials will help you develop your application.

Design Your CRM to Be a Reflection of Your Business Agenda

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Using Zoho CRM, an outsourced sales staff shows its clients how every dollar is being used to gather leads and close sales.

The business:

Katie Berkovich is the founder and a sales executive for Contax Growth Strategies, a two-year-old consulting firm that provides outsourced sales professionals to growth stage companies. They help start ups get big enough so they can hire their own sales staff.

Contax consists of six sales executives that work on a part time basis for multiple clients. Since they’re distributed all around the country, they need collaborative cloud-based resources.

The situation:

Ever since Berkovich graduated college, she has extensively used Salesforce.com and Oracle Siebel.

Berkovich’s knowledge in CRM made her realize she couldn’t start a business with the tools she knew. The other options were simply too expensive. Salesforce required an annual contract for every rep, and Oracle Siebel required a certain number of reps to just get started. Contax has a flux of sales reps and clients coming and going. She really couldn’t commit to any specific level nor that much cash up front.

“Sometimes when you’re starting a business, $500 can be truly expensive,” Berkovich said.

Berkovich went about looking for alternatives and started searching on Google. Zoho came up in the results and there was a free trial that allowed her to test the application. Given her knowledge with CRM she knew exactly what she wanted and soon discovered Zoho could do everything she wanted it to do.

While Berkovich has a strong background in CRM, that’s not always the case with her clients. She finds herself often introducing them to CRM as their contacts are often stuck in a standard contact manager, such as Excel, ACT, or Outlook. In some cases a client only has a stack of business cards.

How they’re using Zoho

Contax’s primary use of Zoho is as a sales automation tool. When they first set up Zoho CRM it was very important that it was set up to track and report on sales activity so everyone to see, especially their clients. Berkovich immediately built in pipeline reporting so everyone could view the results of their efforts.

At any time, Berkovich can log into the system and see what’s happening with her team.

“I was checking in the midday activity report and I would look and see that Rep A called on these two accounts, they spent X number of hours on these accounts. They generated three leads on this one. Two leads on that one. What happened to them? Oh, I can see they were passed on to this other rep. I can now see this rep is closing them. And we had five things added to the pipeline today as a team,” Berkovich explained.

Since installing the pipeline system Contax has also installed Zoho time tracking, invoicing, and email. With all those applications working in sync they’re able to show their clients the hours spent and what activity that happened during that time.

“It’s really important for us to go back to a client and say, ‘This is what happened this week with your money,’” Berkovich said. “Trust is a big thing.”

Contax’s goal is to measure efficiency. They use Zoho to see which efforts yield the best results and adapt accordingly.

Advice for others

“Invest the time in learning how Zoho works. Don’t just ask someone else to set it up for you,” advises Berkovich. “It’s very important that the person running the business knows how to develop customized reports themselves.”

Berkovich says that she herself and her whole team have learned enough about Zoho that anyone can create a customized report. They leaned heavily on Zoho’s help section and the video tutorials. They’ve been invaluable and as a result they’ve yet to have to contact Zoho support.

It’s really important to be ingrained in the application because “CRM really should be designed as a reflection of the business agenda,” Berkovich said.

Listen to the full 14 minute interview here.

Unbound – Freelancer’s bliss

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The age old adage that invoicing is boring is slowly replacing to the ‘fun thing that you do to get money on time’. Customer base is growing. Demands are at an all time high and you need to be on top of your business to stay ahead.

Previously it was enough to store customer data and create invoices from there. But now, when the ‘other guy’ (or gal) is doing a great job, you want to be nothing short of excellent. It’s advised from time immemorial to steer clear of factors that bind you to mediocrity and find avenues that lets you show off your skills better.

Imagine invoicing clients from a train! That’s what Mr Iwasaki does on a regular basis.
Mr. Iwasaki

Mr Iwasaki is a part of the growing phenomenon called ‘freelancers’ whose definition of office is home and work is fun. They enjoy what they do and adopt those softwares which help them do what they love doing the best.

Zoho Invoice had come into his life at an opportune moment when he was looking for respite from Microsoft Excel. Customer information is the key to any organization and managing them efficiently is important.

 

Mr. Iwasaki says,

Such data is supposed to be relational database and I was forced to manage it by Excel which was not efficient.

We are no longer a part of closed economy. Why restrict us then, when freedom is just a few clicks away!

Read ahead to find out more about this talented entrepreneur who wears multiple hats at his company.