I’ve implemented Zoho Desk and it’s a game changer.

In my first two years as a startup, I had firmly ticked two boxes when it came to systems to manage my business. Zoho CRM is the platform for sales and marketing and Xero has great features and advantages for managing finances as a UK based limited company.

But, tracking actual delivery had been my biggest challenge. I’ve tried various tools and models with different levels of success. My clients are complex (in a good way). They all need different flavours of the same product (Zoho CRM) and require my expertise as a one-off or in an increasing number of cases, as an ongoing retainer as their own business grows.

To track project delivery, here are a few things I’ve tried in the past :

Toggl. A really simple tool for tracking actual time spent on a project. It works neatly in the background as a timer and even prompts you when it thinks you’re working on something, but you haven’t started the timer. However, I need everything integrated with Zoho CRM so that I can automatically generate invoices at the end of the month. Toggl is just too simple to do this. The integration is limited to sending a few pieces of critical information to the Activity module in Zoho CRM.

Verdict : Good for freelancers without CRM integration.

Zoho Projects. It would seem sensible right? I’m a Zoho Alliance Partner and my own business is centred and built around Zoho CRM. Projects is a great product, but it has too much functionality at this stage for my requirements. When Target Cloud has grown enough to warrant a dedicated Project Manager, this will be their tool of choice, but right now, it’s a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Verdict : Great functionality, but too much complexity for my requirements

Evernote. Couldn’t get used to this at all. What is it even trying to be? I think it’s probably a useful tool for a one-man startup and heavy mobile user, but not for a business that wants to scale. I know that lots of people love it, so would be interested in comments and feedback to see if I’ve missed something.

Verdict : Suitable for a one-man startup.

Zoho CRM. Tracking Activities in Zoho CRM is easy. It’s my day-to-day platform, so adding tasks in CRM seems a natural choice. However, here’s the dilemma: Activities to progress sales through to close are accurately captured and work well, but when you throw delivery tasks into the mix, things get a little more complicated. They need a separate space to work in.

Verdict : Track sales activity in Zoho CRM, not delivery activity.

Zoho Support : So, I tried Zoho Support a year or so ago and it looked dated, tired and ready for upgrade and I decided it wasn’t for me. The customer portal wasn’t pretty and didn’t represent my brand. Based on this, I chose not to roll it out at the time.

Verdict : Not a great client experience.

Which brings me full circle. The release of Zoho Desk in November couldn’t have been better timed. I’m ready for it and after using it for one month, it has changed the way I work and the way that my clients interact.

The ability to communicate with clients about their delivery projects, timescales, expectations and changes is made really simple through a contextual platform based around tickets. They can also use the channel that they prefer (and wow this varies!) – Skype, email, phone, meeting, live chat, Facebook, Twitter and more! It all arrives in the same place, ready to be assigned and for work to start.

Over the next few months, I’ll be introducing Customer Service Agents (already testing the model) who’ll be able to work remotely from around the globe and improve client service. It’s also worth mentioning that the mobile version of Zoho Desk feels like it’s brought my business delivery to my smartphone. Technology is just the enabler.

Verdict : Zoho Desk is a game changer

I’ve always thought about the future when selecting the right solutions for my business. If you start with the right platform, you may only use a small amount of functionality, but you’ll have somewhere to go when you grow.

Zoho Desk

Put customer service at the heart of your company. Zoho Desk is the industry's first context-aware help desk software that helps businesses focus on the customer.

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