We chose Zoho because everything was part of a single ecosystem. We started going deeper into Zoho One because there were so many different apps available to us.
About the Company
Today, Inspired Business Services has three divisions: Inspired Communications, Inspired Waste Solutions, and Inspired IT Services. However, when Sean Tak joined co-founder Peter Goodear, the Victoria-based company was just starting out and preparing to take on big projects. It acquired four smaller telecommunications franchises to form the flagship division, Inspired Communications. From there, the parent company expanded its other divisions separately, first capitalising on the potential in waste reselling and brokering. It then began offering IT services for businesses that were relocating their offices.
In the beginning, the Inspired team was using Infusionsoft to manage its customer operations and contacts. However, they soon encountered roadblocks. The costs, for one, were stacking up—but that wasn't the only problem. Infusionsoft wasn't as flexible as the team wanted it to be. "It couldn't do the billing properly or integrate with our other software systems. We were using Myob for our accounting at the time, and we just couldn't get Infusionsoft to integrate with Myob."
As the company's operations and demands grew, Sean worked diligently to find the ideal software system. "We moved from Infusionsoft to Capsule for a while," he said, "But it was like a fancy contact book. It couldn't do all the things I needed. So then we tried Vtiger. It's an open source platform, but that meant we had to do a lot of the implementation work. We couldn't find the right software developers to work with us on that."
That's when Sean gave Odoo a go. But at the time, Odoo's pricing structure and lack of implementation partners outside of Europe became a big challenge for Inspired Business Services. "Of all the ones we evaluated or tried, Odoo was the most expensive," said Sean.
While the team was shopping around for Odoo alternatives, Peter and Sean made a list of the top vendors, and started exploring one at a time. They considered Microsoft Dynamics, Bitrix24, Salesforce, Zoho, Freshsales, Amcom, and the Australian vendor, Wasteedge. "Peter then attended a Zoho webinar, and soon after that, signed up for Zoho One," said Sean.
The team started off with Zoho CRM. Managing three seemingly separate businesses under the same umbrella came with challenges, but in Zoho CRM, Sean could set up three different sales funnels to organise and channel leads accordingly. "For the telecommunications business, we don't get a lot of leads from the website. All those leads are from other sources, like referring partners," said Sean. While those leads are manually added into Zoho CRM, the leads from the other two business divisions come mainly from the Inspired Business website, and are automatically pushed to CRM and tagged accordingly.
As an IT services provider, Inspired Business Services also provides integration services to its clients. As a result, Sean has extensive experience integrating Zoho apps with 3CX and troubleshooting any issues that might arise in the process. For his own business, he's integrated 3CX in Zoho Desk and RingCentral in CRM.
For the company's waste management division, Sean set up a webhook from Zoho CRM to an AWS database. "To quote our waste carriers, we look up a price book," he explained. "The web hook goes into AWS, where we have a database with our full price list. It pulls up the relevant details in tabular form, so we can easily choose the services we want to quote on."
Apart from the ready-to-use apps in Zoho One, Sean also uses Zoho Creator for various operations, which he connects back to Zoho CRM and Desk.
As part of its communication offerings, the team at Inspired Business takes calls on behalf of its customers. "These are usually businesses like restaurants and dental clinics," said Sean. "I've onboarded their client lists into our Creator app, so that when we get a call on our PBX, which is integrated with Zoho Desk, it triggers a contact lookup in Zoho CRM. At the moment, whoever's answered the call needs to go back to Creator to book follow-up jobs for that third-party company. We're working on getting the contact card to open in Creator directly so that we can have the full workflow within a single Creator app."
Sean's team has also built an event management app on Zoho Creator for another communications client. "We've integrated their website forms and emails with Zoho Creator," he said. "When someone fills in a form on the website, their details trickle into our Zoho Creator app. From there, we respond to requests and manage event FAQs. All emails will go through Zoho Creator but the sender's address will say, firstname.lastname@example.org."
The team intends to take it further. "We're also trying to integrate an SMS platform [with] that app," said Sean. That way, when someone books an event, in addition to confirming the booking, the agent can trigger a template SMS confirmation with a link to the payment gateway. Once the payment is processed, the customer would receive a reference number that's synced into the Zoho Creator app, and the customer would be marked as a lead.
At the time of this writing, the Inspired Business team was in the process of setting up call support for a chain of corporate laundromats that cater to hotels and B&Bs. "We're going to take their calls, and do their bookings through a separate Creator app," Sean explained. Zoho Creator's app gallery has a fully-customisable laundry management application. Sean used that app as a starting point for his own app, and expanded on its use case. The app will enable the team to manage the entire booking process. When the team receives a call, the agent in charge will create a booking on Creator. That, in turn, will trigger a notification to the laundromat's driver, which will indicate the pick-up location. Once the driver picks up the laundry, they'll press a button in the app to update the job status, and a confirmation will be emailed to the hotel's representative.
Every Creator app the team has built to manage its clients' support calls connects with the company's Zoho Cliq account. The team has different channels for each client's operations manager/supervisor, so it can provide live updates on Zoho Cliq, rather than sending separate email threads.
Sean uses the mobile device management (MDM) tool included in Zoho One, which is powered by Manage Engine, a separate division of Zoho Corp. "I've also signed up with Manage Engine separately to use the managed service provider (MSP) functionality, and offer mobile device management as a service for my clients," he said.
Apart from these core apps, Inspired Business Services has branched out to using Zoho Assist, Lens, Forms, Survey, Projects, Mail, Flow, and Social, amongst others. For all billing related to the telecommunication business, the Inspired team uses Selcomm. Other accounting activities are done on Xero.
Benefits and ROI
Some of the biggest benefits the Inspired team gained from Zoho include technical capabilities and the wide range of add-ons compatible with Zoho's full suite of apps.
Another way Zoho addressed Inspired Business' needs was by providing access to developers familiar with the Zoho implementation processes. "I found it easy to hire technical developers in India and Squirrel Business Solutions, a Zoho Partner, in Australia. That's what we didn't have with Odoo. At the time, Odoo was geared more towards the European market, and it was hard to find programmers and software developers here who could work on it."
Sean and his team have created and customised over 10 apps in Zoho Creator, and are using over 20 apps within Zoho One. "We've grown 60% in the last two years," he said. "I can't attribute all of that to Zoho, but we wouldn't have been able to reach that 60% increase had it not been for Zoho. Zoho, and mainly the apps in Zoho Creator, helped us get more business out of our existing clients, like add-on services. Those are much easier to manage on Creator than on spreadsheets."
As noted earlier, Sean and his team built an event management system on Zoho Creator to manage a client's operations. Sean's priority now is to optimise the associated workflows. "We're looking at completing the SMS integration as well as the account search functionality," he said. "We've already tested it [in] a sandbox in Creator and it worked fine. So I'm confident it's going to work in the live app as well." A sandbox is a testing environment available to every app built on Zoho Creator. It allows users to test any customisations and custom workflows in a safe environment before they go live.
At the time of writing, the Inspired team was uploading its bills to Zoho systems in CSV format. However, some of the company's waste suppliers create bills as PDFs. To address this mismatch, the Inspired team was working with Zoho's Jumpstart team to either set up a PDF reader functionality that can convert the information into CSV format, or bypass the conversion and directly upload the information to the system.
Apart from the updates to existing processes, Sean is also keen on implementing Zoho Recruit.
Thanks for sharing your story with us, Sean! Inspired indeed.