Customer Service & Support Articles

Zoho Support – Independent Analyst Review by Eval Source

by Keean Persaud
Published on 14 February 2011

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| Features: | Help-Desk, Ticket Management, Customer Support Portal, Workflow Rules, Knowledge Base, SLA & Contracts, Accounts & Contacts Management, Reports & Dashboard | | Industry: | Non Specific | | Customers: | Small and Medium Business | | Geography: | All markets | | Languages: | English | | Cost: | Free for 1 Agent, Professional Edition starting at 12US$/Agent/per Month |

Review Methodology

This review constitutes an analysis based on a product demonstration and software review by qualified system software experts at Eval-Source The demonstration Eval-Source received from the vendor was based on their own custom vendor script, designed to validate and/or disprove vendors' claims. The script was specifically prepared to identify functionalities and form an impartial analysis and software review for various features of Help-Desk, Ticket Management and Customer Support Service.

Business Problems Addressed

Today's market demands that organizations examine all aspects of their business in order to lower costs, become more competitive attract new business and differentiate themselves. In a competitive business climate, high-level customer support can help retain existing customers and attract new ones. These initiatives can prove difficult to quantify and doing so becomes the challenge.

Organizations are beginning to tackle these challenges of internal and external collaboration, issue management, service level agreement support, customer retention and acquisition of new customers by implementing a Customer Service/Support solution.

Today's business environment has evolved in terms of what constitutes customer support and customer service. In order to keep customers happy, organizations are doing what is required to retain customers. Customer Service/Support solutions address the need to capture, aggregate, disseminate and deliver appropriate levels of customer service. A Customer Support solution can optimize the areas mentioned to streamline inefficient processes, automate and distinguish your organization as a leader in support, increase internal/external collaboration and combine them into one solution.

Incorporating various functions into one application allows organizations to maximize every dollar spent on technology. These types of systems can exist as standalone or can be incorporated into an existing application and infrastructure. Zoho Support enables organizations to support customer service requirements without requiring a pre-established infrastructure of people, hardware and software. By adopting a Customer Support Management solution organizations can rapidly create a delivery mechanism to administer their customer service initiatives. These solutions allow prioritization and management of customer service issues for B2B and B2C consumers alike.

Target Market

Zoho Support caters to organizations that need to prioritize, manage and automate online help desk support needs. Zoho Support is a web-based solution that allows organizations to create, analyze and streamline best practices for customer support teams.

Zoho Support targets organizations such as:

  • Manufacturers
  • Retailers
  • Distributors
  • Service based businesses
  • Call centers
  • Organizations looking for internal support
  • Companies that provide technical support

Pricing Model

Zoho Support is priced in two ways and suits a variety of organizational needs. Options for larger companies include the Professional and Enterprise editions. These editions target organizations that create a large number of incidents or tickets and that require additional user complexities such as workflow automation, additional security parameters, exporting capabilities and additional web templates. The Professional and Enterprise editions are based on the user count and have no transaction limits. The Free edition caters to companies that employ one service agent but is limited to 25 requests per day.

The following editions are priced as follows:

| Free Edition | Free for one agent and request limit of 25 per day | | Professional Edition | $12 per agent/per month no request limits | | Enterprise Edition | $25 per agent/per month no request limits |

For small business, young start-ups and do-it-all teams there are three package options : Express 50, Express 100 and Express 200. These packages are designed for organizations that do not have dedicated support personnel and in which support rests with everyone in the company. These packages are priced according to requested support tickets and have unlimited user capabilities. The Express 50, 100 and 200 offers Request Tracking, Custom Fields, Reports and Dashboards and Ticket Management.

The packages for Express 50, Express 100 and Express 200 are as follows:

| Express 50 | $24 a month, unlimited users, up to 50 requests a day, request management solutions, custom fields and dashboards | | Express 100 | $49 a month, unlimited users, up to 100 requests a day, request management solutions, custom fields and dashboards | | Express 200 | $99 a month, unlimited users, up to 200 requests a day, request management solutions, custom fields and dashboards |

The matrix below presents the different packages and a feature function list of what each package includes, along with pricing.

Figure 1.

Total Cost of Ownership

Eval-Source has identified 18 key areas that organizations should consider when purchasing SaaS and cloud technology. These items reflect areas that will determine the monthly cost of the subscription. The component checklist below demonstrates how Zoho Support fared:

| Tenancy-multi or single | Multi-tenancy | | Cloud structure-public or private | Public | | Database Licenses Subscription terms | Monthly and yearly | | Data center-online or offline | Online | | Data security standards by vertical | No specific verticals, data security at network level. See https://www.zoho.com/privacy.html for full details | | Business continuity/data recovery | Yes | | Encryption type | 128/256 bit SSL encryption | | Version release schedule | Not available | | Current version released | Version 1.0 | | Session management | Yes | | Application level security | Yes | | Current version released | None, pricing based on number of concurrent projects | | User limits | Yes, pricing based on amount of concurrent Agents for Professional and Enterprise editions. Express 50,100 and 200 based on incidents not users | | Offer data migration services | Yes (on request) | | Offer free trials/sandbox testing | Yes 15 day trial | | 15. Application customizable by user | Yes (Change Logo, Time zone, Tabs, Fields, Page layout, Customer Portal Home Page, Search Layout) | | Application customizable by vendor | No | | Charge for additional space | No |

Solution Analysis

When selecting a Customer Support software application, organizations should realize what types of requirements are actually needed and differentiate between "must haves" and "wants". Customer Support software has matured as a standalone solution and industry-specific requirements has emerged.

Zoho Support addresses these key areas of support functionality:

Figure 2.

Zoho Support encompasses many ways to automate processes, especially when it comes to utilizing workflow and alert/notification functionalities. Users can customize email, alerts/escalations, reporting, queuing, ticket assignment and other attributes automate workflows. The automation of repetitive tasks allows users to fully maximize software functionality. It's customizable front-end further facilitates more effective use of the software.

Functional Modules

Zoho Support consists of ten modules. The modules include: Contracts and SLA's, Accounts and Contacts, Reports and Dashboards, Alerts and Notifications, Knowledge Base, Customer Support Portal, Workflow, Product Catalogue (or Catalog in US English) and Ticket Management. All ten modules form part of this application's off the shelf capabilities.

In order to gain a better understanding of Zoho Support, we will analyze each module's functional capability. A brief description details the functional capabilities and key features found within these modules.

Ticket Management: Ticket management is a key part of customer support and enables agents to record the most important details about customer interactions and manage incidents from start to finish. This module facilitates the creation of webforms, integration of knowledgebase, management of requests, scheduling, customization, prioritization and can calculate costs based on time spent on the ticket.

Additional features of this module include bulk assignment of tickets, tracking history of conversation threads, time spent by the support rep and cost/hr allowing supervisors to approve requests and calculate the total cost for a particular support rep.

Contracts and SLA'S: The Contracts and SLA's module is used for supporting customers with specific service level agreements and possibly time sensitive support contracts. It is often used to support customers that require a specific level of support, such as urgent response in mission critical hardware or software support. The main features of this module allow the support department to set resolution time parameters for support tickets whereby honoring SLA's in place and calculating the time spent on tickets. The module also permits the capture of multiple levels of escalation if tickets are not resolved in a timely manner.

Accounts and Contacts: This module will be integrated to Zoho CRM and allows customer service reps to access accounts and contacts. Accounts and Contacts capabilities form part of Zoho Support. Seamless integration of account and contact information into Support enables the use of a single application to access multiple functions that may have previously existed in several disparate systems.

Knowledge Base: The Knowledge Base module allows users to create a repository of past incidents by/customer, by product, contract stipulations, attachments or a variety of other categories. This tool allows rapid search, which enables the customer service agent to access relevant information as a reference for the customer call. Viewing of the knowledge base can be made public or kept internal, depending on the company needs.

Customer Support Portal: The Customer Support Portal enables organizations to offer customer self support. This module allows customers to resolve their own issues by accessing the knowledge base, thereby reducing the number of incoming customer support calls. This module allows a secure login, status tracking and creation of online requests.

Workflows: The Workflow module enables automation by rule creation that can auto-assign requests, send notifications and modify data pertaining to tickets. This module can create alerts, assignments and email templates for specific resolution tasks. Assignments and workflow tasks can be set to trigger certain actions or responses.

Product Catalog: The Product Catalog is an internal customer support tool that provides product specific details about any type of support tickets and appropriate information about products and inventory in order to facilitate the best possible customer service support. The details on the Product Catalog include product and customer attributes, manufacturer, warranty information and service level agreement information and can be categorized by product group or relevance.

A key differentiator in this space is the user's ability to customize the interface. Zoho Support provides the user with the tools to cater the front-end to personal specifications. Customizable functionalities include renaming of tabs and departments, changing of field names, customization of email templates, webforms, workflows, rules and defines working hours, which can be applied to SLA's and tickets. Zoho Support customizations require no technical coding or programming and are WYSIWYG driven. An interface that users can understand lowers learning curves, guarantees usage of the software and reinforces the technology investment by ensuring that everyone uses the system.

Figure 3.

Technical Specifications

Zoho Support includes Accounts and Contacts as part of the off the shelf product. The next version release of Zoho will include integration to the Zoho CRM for bulk imports. Zoho Support facilitates data export and back up for the modules, which can be exported in a zip file in CSV format. To date, import from Zoho CRM has been a manual process, but will be automated in future releases.

Zoho Support offers the ability to create user level, role level, group level and session level security access for additional/enhanced security. A data sharing setting is provided in order to manage the sharing rules for all modules and also for organizational default share settings.

Network Security

In order to keep data protected Zoho offers 128/256-bit SSL data encryption. To further secure data, multiple intrusion detection and intrusion prevention measures are included on the Zoho servers. The Zoho network security strategy also incorporated a secured sliced down operating system that minimizes vulnerabilities and offers virus scanning when importing from extraneous programs.

Quick Glance Specifications

| Web browser optimization | Internet Explorer 7+, Firefox (2+), Google Chrome and Safari (Java Plug-in Required) | | APIs provided | Provides REST API's, which allow developers to design push or pull data to and from applications. The open API also enables other services to be integrated to Support | | Safe harbour compliant | Yes, both American and European | | Business continuity/redundancy | Distributed SaaS grid architecture. Network, cooling, power redundancy, and Internet failovers and geo mirroring at off-site locations are part of security practices. |

Conclusion

Zoho Support targets SMB and large businesses and features pricing models that reflect each market. The Enterprise and Professional editions have no transactional limit and are priced according to user and additional functions for larger enterprises. The SMB target is based on a /pre-determined number of tickets and support incidents per day but has no user limit. The Express packages have no user limits and targets organizations where everyone is responsible for customer support.

Zoho Support has 10 base modules : Ticket Management, Reports and Dashboards, Knowledge Base, Alerts and notifications, Workflows, Customer Support Portal, Contracts and SLA's and Accounts and Contacts, Product Catalog and Task Management. These modules provide a broad spectrum that supports various customer support needs. The Express versions offer less functionality but may be a better option for smaller organizations that do not require in-depth customer support functionality.

Zoho Support is an intuitive, customizable and robust solution with which organizations can equip their support departments. In a crowded customer support marketplace, a key differentiator is its ability to provide a configurable WYSIWYG customization for end users without requiring any programming. Zoho Support offers configurable workflows, field customizations, email templates, webforms and many other configuration options. This unique capability allows a greater adoption of the solution in your organization. Employees can comfortably and efficiently utilize the software, which maximizes a company's technology investment.

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