Analysts days like ZohoDay have their highs and lows. The best moments of these days are, without doubt, the free-flowing discussions that emerge if you aren't too focused on running through slides and features. We've had some of those debates this week in Austin, such as the issue of integration:
Good to see Zoho bringing in third party data for enterprise search in Zoho One (more apps to be added). As Zoho moves upmarket, customers will expect deeper integration beyond Zoho. Integrated search is beyond what most vendors with so-called "platforms" are doing. #ZohoDay2020 pic.twitter.com/lLq54QeP40
— Jon Reed (@jonerp) January 29, 2020
The privacy-and-AI debate today was terrific, and warrants a full article:
Give me a frank debate on AI and privacy anyday. Doesn't happen enough on the event circuit. pic.twitter.com/bTgglLqz9c
— Jon Reed (@jonerp) January 30, 2020
Zoho One - a real-world view from ONE Business Solutions
The other typical downside to an analyst day? No customers in sight. Zoho went to great lengths to avoid that pitfall, flying in a number of customers knee-deep in Zoho and Zoho One. Yesterday, I got a face-to-face view with ONE Business Solutions, alongside my diginomica colleague Phil Wainewright. Marc Fishman joined ONE Business Solutions (OBS) in March 2019 as the Director of Marketing. Then, in October 2019, he took on sales leadership also - so he's now the Director of Sales and Marketing (how's that for sales and marketing alignment?).
So what's ONE Business Solutions? Short answer: the company provides answering services to their clients. But as Fishman told us, that phrase can be limiting. You need to think beyond:
When I was introduced to the job, they never used the term answering service to me once. They kept telling me about while we're butts in seats; we help people grow; we help people scale; we make a business. Think about their core competencies. What do you do best? If you are a widget maker, you want to make widgets. You don't want to answer the phone; you don't want to deal with someone who accidentally broke the widget. You want someone who knows what to do, and process it - so that you can go back to making the next big widget.
But Fishman also wants to bring-sexy-back to how we think about answering services:
As I've been taking on a bigger role in the company, I've been helping them see that light that as we're making decisions, especially because of Zoho and what it allows us to do, on a daily basis, we're seeing an opportunity for growth in an industry. Admittedly, an industry that always feels like it's in decline, even when it's not. Answering services may not sexy, but we know that now. And we can lean into that - and make people understand it is [sexy], if you think about it the right way.
At first, Fishman had to overcome his own biases about the limitations of answering services. We've probably all had substandard experiences dealing with the answering services for, say, medical professionals. That's exactly what OBS wants to change:
Well, it's an answering service. I had never even thought of it that way. Before joining OBS, I always thought, "Well, I have a doctor, and I call the service, and the service sucks." They never do what I want them to do, and I don't know what keywords I have to say to get the thing I want.
A different approach changes the caller's experience:
I've learned now that, that's the doctor, that's not the service. The doctor tells them what to do or what they can or can't do. I think, especially now, we can change the conversation. Right now, the thing I'm getting over is this: #domorewithless. That's what we do.
OBS wants to free their customers up:
We say, "You have a dollar, I can stretch it thinner, and at the same time make you a better company... I can put a butt in a chair to do something menial that will free you up to do your job better." If that's not enticing, I don't know what.
During his presentation at a collaboration breakout session, Fishman shared a slide which gives insight into Zoho's impact on productivity:
We didn't have time to talk about nearly all of the ways Fishman's team is using Zoho, and I think with Zoho, that's kind of the point. During that same presentation, Fishman shared how they use Zoho Cliq for three channels. One of those channels is an "at risk" channel, where accounts perceived as at-risk are escalated to leadership, and actions discussed. Fishman also talked about the ONE employee rewards program they operate within Zoho:
When Wainewright asked Fishman to share how Zoho has impacted their business the most, Fishman launched into an anecdote of how ONE Business Solution's owner fell in love with Zoho. They were at a big medical conference in New Orleans; they had dropped a bunch of money on a booth. It's that classic trade show cost dilemma: was that booth that seems obligatory really worth it? And how do you maximize the result without annoying attendees? For Fishman, a Zoho landing page for booth visitors was a promising option:
That automated email hit their box with all of our show materials, so that we didn't have to bury them in paper.
Now that email is in the prospect's inbox. But that's not all:
In that email is a big blue button. If you actually want to talk to me, you can schedule on my calendar, which is on my phone already.
Now the booth investment can be measured:
From that, we could walk away at the end of that show and say exactly how well we did. How many leads turned up, and then six months from now, I can look back and ask, how many of those leads turned into actual business? So when they come back to me and they say, "Marc, you want to buy that booth again?" I can say, "No. And you want to know why?"
I would be remiss if I didn't mention ONE Inc's President, Janet Livingston. From the sounds of it, Livingston's call center roots and leadership are key to the company's momentum. Another huge theme from ZohoDay applies here: Zoho is determined not to be a "costly input" for their customers. That seems to be working out for OBS:
We are not the most expensive people in the game. We are right-priced for the right solution because we're not here to take away from somebody. Because we know that if they're successful, most of our book of business and we have 2000 customers, I would say probably in the realm of 40 to 60 percent of them have been with us for more than ten years. And we have watched them grow.
Project success is contagious:
We work a lot in the medical field. We'll work with one department somewhere, say, the transplant department. Well, if we do a good job with that - and all of a sudden they're meeting their metrics, some other department in the hospital's going to hear about it. They're going to say, "Why did that happen?"
Zoho spent a fair amount of time briefing us on AI, and also on their commitment to data privacy. I asked Fishman if AI capabilities are a priority for him, given how sales and marketing leaders are hyped about personalization by vendors every day of the calendar year. For now, Fishman doesn't see an immediate need: "I would like us to be human-intelligent first," he says, referring to processes he still wants to transform. I would expect, however, that if Zoho embeds relevant features powered by AI, Fishman would give them a look. That's part of Zoho's AI challenge: justify your significant, homegrown AI investments by making things customers love. They may never realize it's "AI" - so much the better.
If Zoho can do that, sounds like Fishman is on board:
If it makes me more money and it saves me money by making me more money, sure, why not?
Up next from our coverage: Phil Wainewright's review of the diginomica interview we did with Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu. For now, this tweet whets the whistle: