Add Online Forums to your Support Portal

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The best way to fully understand your customers is to go beyond their needs and identify/solve their problems. We have tried to make this easier for you in Zoho Support through the introduction of the

Forums


add-on
. This add-on is powered by

Zoho Discussions
. The add-on helps you setup a result oriented, online customer community where your community members can start general discussions, share ideas, report issues, ask questions etc, all under one roof.

With the Forums add-on, you can engage your customers in various ways:

  • Start discussion threads
  • Make product/service announcements
  • Manage your product roadmap through voting of Ideas
  • Convert forum posts as requests in Zoho Support and track them
  • and do much more

The Forums add-on supports all the features of the Zoho forum (http://forums.zoho.com/).

You can read more about the Forums Add-on at http://www.zoho.com/support/help/forums-addon.html. To enable the 15 day free trial of this add-on in Zoho Support, go to

Setup

->

Customer Portal Settings

->

Forums Configuration
. Subscriptions are available @ $10/forum/month.

Go ahead and setup your own forum with individual sub-forums for each of your departments. Start building your customer community today!

Enable Collaboration and Innovation in your Organization

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A recent

Harvard Business Review article
talks about the need for people across hierarchies, functions and geographies within an organization to collaborate. Your employees should be empowered to submit their ideas and suggestions across the hierarchy. And your top management should be able to provide feedback and guidance to employees across verticals. Also, companies/teams within the same parent organization should be able to bridge differences in objectives and work together towards organizational goals.

Another aspect of collaboration required within an organization, is to tap knowledge and experience for process improvement in a large, global organization. The article suggests the need for online tools that can be employed to bridge these gaps and to enhance vertical, horizontal and global collaboration within the organization.

An Online Discussion forum can help you perfectly achieve all the above objectives. Here’s how:


Process Improvement and Innovation

All your employees can participate in process improvement by suggesting ideas or reporting problems. Your Online Discussion forum can provide a variety of topics to post under. For example an employee can post a process improvement initiative or a new innovative idea under the ‘Propose an idea’ category.


Besides suggesting their own ideas or contributing by commenting on existing ideas, employees can also vote on ideas or on whether a particular comment contributes value to the idea.


    


Problem-Solving and Decision-Making

Knowledge and Expertise across various functions can be tapped for solving problems.


Discussion posts can be organized into categories, making it easier for employees to view or contribute to relevant discussions.


Employees should be able to follow, bookmark or email specific posts, so that they can easily collaborate across a geographically dispersed organization.


The look and feel of the discussion community should be customizable and brandable, making employees feel at home work irrespective of where they access the forum from.


At Zoho, we offer one such tool and have in fact, been using it extensively for encouraging collaboration within our own organization.

Zoho Discussions
lets organizations create powerful internal communities which are fully customizable and come with a host of collaborative features. Apart from the above mentioned features, Zoho Discussions comes with a few more

integrated features
that enable employees across teams to collaborate and contribute, thereby helping us constantly innovate around the products and services we create for you.

Another important community powered by Zoho Discussions, is our

Customer Support forum
where customers can discuss Zoho products with our employees and with one another.

Your organization too can benefit in more ways than one, from a hosted forum service like Zoho Discussions. Watch

this video
to learn more:


Introducing ‘Zoho Discussions for Google Apps’

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The last 2 Tuesdays saw

Zoho Reports
 and 

Zoho Wiki
 debuting at the Google Apps Marketplace. The star of this week’s Google Apps Release is Zoho Discussions.

Zoho Discussions is about making decisions from discussions. The members of a community can share ideas, report problems & ask questions, in addition to other discussions from a single point. Zoho Discussions brings everything under one roof to engage the community. 

Last week, we’d introduced 

private communities in Zoho Discussions
. Now, we’re extending this enhancement to Google Apps users as well. With Zoho Discussions’ private community, organizations can bring people together and make decisions quite easily.

Here are the highlights of Zoho Discussions – Google Apps integration,


  • Single Sign-On (SSO)

    : Once Zoho Discussions is installed in your Google Apps domain, your users can start using it conveniently right from the universal navigation bar in Google Apps.


  • Add Google Apps Users

    : The members of Google Apps account will be automatically added as members of the associated Zoho Discussion Portal.


  • Attach Google Docs Documents

    : The users can directly attach a Google document while posting a new topic/response in Zoho Discussions.



  • iGoogle Gadget

    : We also have a Zoho Discussions gadget which can be embedded right inside iGoogle, Gmail or Google Sites. 

Take a quick look at the Zoho Show slideshow below for more details.

With popular clients like

jQuery
 having implemented it, Zoho Discussions is definitely the ace amongst discussion portals. Try it out and do let us know your feedback.

Introducing Private Communities in Zoho Discussions

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For over an year, Zoho Discussions has been helping businesses and non-profit organizations create and foster communities that involve and empower its members and help crowd-source decision making.

One of the design goals of Zoho Discussions was to reduce the amount of technical expertise administrators needed to setup and maintain an user community. But one of the things we’ve heard loud and clear is that many of our customers did not find the initial setup process as easy as they’d like it to be. The main reason was that Zoho Discussions setup management had so many options and controls that it took some time to get used to.

We also realized that our customer base was broadly split into two main segments – those who wanted to setup a private community (for improving employee engagement, supporting private beta launches etc) and those who wanted to set up a public customer support community.

Based on the feedback and customer profile segmentation, we have improved our sign-up and community-creation process focusing on streamlining two key scenarios: private communities and public customer support. When you sign-up for Zoho Discussions, we make it easier for you to quickly get started with one of those two options, and we quietly set on the background a number of parameters you previously had to deal with yourself manually.

This segmentation runs deeper into Zoho Discussions than just settings changes. For instance, you can get a fully powered PRIVATE community for Free – as opposed to paying hundreds of dollars a month for “enterprise plans” of other similar products.

We have also introduced a new getting-started walk-through guide that takes you through the most common settings.

Currently, we also offer a free, no-commitment consultation and implementation support. If you want to explore the feasibility of rolling out Zoho Discussions for your business / project, do get in touch with us.

Improved community membership management with Zoho Discussions: Introducing Subscriptions

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One of the challenges of running an online community is who you invite or let in to participate.

 


While some communities are “open”, some other communities, as a result of their nature, tend to be a bit more vigilant about who can come in and read/post. 


Zoho Discussions has for long supported membership and provides fine-grained control over who can access and participate in a conversation, but today we are building on that and making it a bit easier.




We built a nifty feature that simplifies life for community admins:

membership requests

.


 


Membership requests allow visitors to apply for memberships that the community admin would then evaluate and grant. If adopted for your community, this subscription feature in Zoho Discussions will help you know your users better and also help reduce spam. This is also ideal for open communities where you would like to know your users better before you allow them in to participate. This feature also integrates well with the existing moderation options, by 

enabling you to provide subscribers a higher level of access to specific areas of your community. For example: you could allow everyone to come and read the posts, but then only allow posting to people who have been screened. Or you could allow read/post grants in certain forums, but access to other forums to only the users you choose.






So how do you go about setting one up? All you need to do is toggle a switch in your Portal settings. (you can read this in detail

here

)


Once you do that, users visiting your community will see a prompt in the portal specific login page (which you can

customize

too). If your portal is open for guest access, a guest will see a prominent widget prompting for subscription.


You can view all subscription requests in the moderation panel and approve them one by one or in a single shot. 

Now you can make your user community spam free and more engaging! We invite you to try 

Zoho Discussions

today and let us know how we can help at support@zohodiscussions.com.

Easy Ways to Kill Spam in Your Online Community

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In our earlier blog posts, we spoke about various features that help in
tailoring your online community for a better user engagement and
branding. Once you popularize your forum, the first thing that hits you
is spam. If not effectively prevented, unwanted comments and irrelevant
responses can drive users away and suck your time up. Zoho Discussions
has powerful spam detection and moderation features that we will explore
in this blog post.

Spam Engine: To stop spamming right at the door, Zoho Discussions has a built-in spam
engine, which automatically detects and stops most of the irrelevant
content. This content is labeled and pushed to a moderation queue where
designated forum and portal moderators can approve or reject these
content.
Captcha: Another form of
spamming is repetitive posting of valid content. Zoho Discussions
provides a way to cut this down by adding captcha option for guest
posts. For those, who are new to this term, CAPTCHA is an acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart”.
When a guest (non-registered user) is trying to post a topic, he/she
will be allowed to publish only two posts and for the third, the user
will be provided with a captcha option, which they need to fill-in
before publishing the topic.
Community Flagging: Keeping the
community area clean from spam is not only a moderator’s job. The entire
community can pitch in too! Registered members can flag a topic or
response as inappropriate and send it to the moderation queue. An
administrator or moderator can then choose to approve the flagged posts
or delete them from the discussions board with one click.
Exhaustive Moderation Panel:  To
make your online community easy to maintain, it is important to provide
your moderators with the necessary tools allowing them to moderate
quickly and efficiently. Zoho Discussions makes this easy with an
exhaustive moderation panel where topics and responses that require
moderators’ approval are displayed. Now, as a moderator you may approve
or delete the posts by checking its content.
Block Users: Other than managing
topics, it is also important to protect your discussions board from
unwanted users. With Zoho Discussions, you can block abusive users from
posting topics and responses so that they will no longer be able to
interact with you and other members of your online community. You can
then unblock them as and when required.
Post and User Moderation: Apart from these, Zoho Discussions also offers
fine grained control by allowing you to moderate individual topics and
users. When you use these techniques then all posts and responses posted
by the moderated user or on the moderated topic will require additional
approval by a moderator before getting published.

In addition to forum and user moderation, Zoho Discussions provides
you with topic management tools – like the ability to edit, delete,
lock, unlock, moderate and move posts. Thus Zoho Discussions gives you
complete control over the posts, users and forums and helping you
make your end user experience more productive. You can also read more about the moderation options here.

Subscribe to Zoho Discussions today and set up a spam-free online community for your business.

Happy Discussing!

Beyond Web Analytics: Tools to Improve Customer Support Efficiency

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You cannot improve what you cannot measure! In this day where inbound traffic is everything for a website, webmasters can’t live without Web Analytics tools. They give you hard data about how your website was accessed, the usage patterns, user interests and trends and so on.

However, they cannot tell you semantic data about your application. For instance, Google Analytics cannot tell you the efficiency of your support reps, or the rate of participation of your customer community. It cannot tell you whether your users really “found” the answers to most of their questions or they just kept shooting in the dark till they got frustrated. It cannot tell you if ideas are languishing without votes or questions without answers. You will need special tools for that.

Zoho Discussions now has an

integrated statistics and analytics panel

that gives you just that ability. Here is a quick screenshot of how the stats dashboard looks like:

 


You can now use the unique user participation trend graphs to find out how many users are effectively engaging. Such stats let you figure out the effectiveness of the knowledge base that you have accumulated in your customer support community. How? Well, if the number of users visiting the site does not drop down (measurable using this dashboard or also from WebAnalytics tools), but the participation levels have gone down, then possibly users are finding their queries answered – just the nirvana you want to achieve through your support community. Of course, this analysis is not complete without measuring the participation or closure rate on topics raised. That brings us to the next graph
 


The stats dashboard also gives you snapshot graphs that show the effectiveness of your customer support community. Higher response rates indicate satisfied customers – since most of their queries are answered and issues solved. You can use this data to drive improvement campaigns centered around increasing customer satisfaction.


Sometimes just knowing generic participation is not enough. Zoho Discussions packs a powerful

topic type segregation

feature that helps your users classify their queries / opinions into discussions or questions or ideas or problems. If you are running a customer support community area, it is very important that you are answering all user queries and problems on a daily basis. Ideas on the other hand need more thought, analysis before a response is made. The statistics dashboard can help you differentiate response periods for each topic type. The figure on the right side shows that user Questions need attention from your customer support representatives.

Try

Zoho Discussions

for your customer support community today. Improve your customer satisfaction!