Liberty Security gains flexibility to grow with Zoho
"Zoho gave us full reporting that gave me total insight into how everyone was doing. I can look at any activity and really know who is putting in the effort and who is getting results. I can also look at why those people are succeeding to help others improve."
Founded in 2005, Liberty Security, a Gardaworld Company, is a large independent security system provider in Canada. While serving many individuals and families with home security offerings, Liberty also serves large customers such as municipalities and multi-location accounts across Canada. Liberty is a recurring monthly revenue (RMR) business, so it relies heavily on being able to track and manage renewing payments. With one hundred employees and a hundred and fifty contractors and dealers operating throughout Canada, Liberty needed a system that would not only handle work processes like billing and customer management, but one that would bring together disparate teams and employees onto one, unified process.
Taylor Wolsey is the VP of Operations at Liberty Security. Wolsey started off as a technician with Liberty and now manages two in-house developers who built software that integrates with Zoho and a call-center that handles anything post sale, but the inside sales team is where he spends most of his time. Three years ago, Liberty did management training with Brene Brown's book Dare to Lead. During this training, they did an exercise that made them look at the values that made them who they are and then narrow it down to two. Wolsey said, "mine were accountability and truth. I'm a bit of a stats person and I always want to know the truth of where people are at." Liberty needed to find a system that would give real insight into their processes.
Before switching to Zoho, Liberty's processes were largely manual. They were using a CRM built specifically for security providers along with Quickbooks. This meant that their front-end and back-end were disconnected, leading to communication issues. Sales associates spent much of their time knocking on doors. Usually, these initial interactions with leads would be recorded in their CRM, but then they would often not be updated. "On the sales side, two years ago our sales team wasn't using the CRM. We'd create the lead that way, but no one was consistently updating and following up on those leads." There were vital KPIs that Liberty was effectively in the dark on. Without knowing what their sales associates were doing, how many calls they were having, or how many appointments they were making, they could only go off of how many sales they were closing. This meant that feedback could take weeks or even months to be gathered and passed on the employees.
On the customer side of things, Liberty also struggled with the lack of a centralized space for customer information. "We had our CRM and Quickbooks, but the two didn't integrate. This was really tough because we are an RMR company and were having to manually bill all of our customer's subscriptions," said Wolsey. Not only was this manual system taking up time, but it was also making it harder to get people to actually use the system as it was set up.
The combination of a non-integrated system with a workforce who was having trouble consistently entering data into the system as it was meant that Liberty was losing clarity on their business which, in turn, was losing them opportunities. Wolsey said, "when your accounting system doesn't connect with your CRM, you lose visibility. If a customer is behind a payment, the person talking to that system doesn't necessarily know." They needed to move to a system that would make sales reps want to use it, and they needed it to have reporting capabilities that they could count on.
About five years ago, Liberty found Zoho through a Zoho partner. Initially, the plan was to work with the partner to build a custom solution that would integrate with Zoho to take care of their billing and CRM needs. When it became clear that Zoho One could address all of their issues in one place, they started customizing their applications to suit their growing business' needs. "Because of our size, we ended up going directly to Zoho and building a lot of the capabilities we needed in house," said Wolsey. They ended up building a web-based custom app through Zoho Creator that pushes and pulls information to and from Zoho CRM. This has simplified onboarding customers and given employees more access to information that they need. The customer journey is now passed through CRM and their custom system automatically, cutting down on manual entry and missing data. The employees are also able to get a full picture of the leads and customers they're speaking to as the front and back office have been connected. This unification of information has improved the customer journey both for Liberty and the customers themselves.
Once they had an in-house team working on their implementation, it became easier to start pushing their workflows to become increasingly efficient. "The open platform lets us integrate anything, and that flexibility to add is huge. The workflow automation has made a really big difference to us in the long term," said Wolsey. Liberty was able to fine-tune their work process both because of the visibility Liberty gained into their own businesses and the tools built into Zoho's platform that facilitate integration and automation wherever possible.
One of the hardest things about switching over to a new technology is getting the workforce onboard. New software can be intimidating, especially when systems are still being set up. In order to combat this, Liberty decided to start implementing from the processes they were already comfortable with. "The biggest challenge I've found with Zoho is the amount of rabbit holes you can go down. That was a challenge, so we started off by implementing just what we knew we needed at the time and then slowly added in some more parts of the feature set," said Wolsey.
Reporting was one of the most important considerations going into Liberty's search for a new system. Going back to the two values that Wolsey holds as a manager, accountability and truth, the biggest improvement was going to start with really understanding where people were at. Wolsey said that "migrating to Zoho made it easier to hold to those values. We migrated CRM and Books at first, and there were some challenges, but it wasn't too bad because of the superior reporting we could get out of the two apps versus what we were using previously."
Using a mixture of CRM's built in analytics and Zoho Analytics as a standalone tool, Liberty has been able to offer that visibility across the board. As new applications get added to their work process, Wolsey is making sure that they get full value out of the automations available. Wolsey said, "every single contract we sign is Zoho Sign. We used an API to automate the signing process."
Benefits and ROI
On the CRM side, Liberty not only has its sales reps fully adopting the new system, but they continue to develop ways to engage with Zoho to make their lives easier. One of the biggest hurdles to software adoption is that many people don't see how it will benefit their work, especially considering the learning curve involved. Here, the solution is clear: make the new software so much more effective that it's easier to use it than continue on with the old system. The simplicity of Zoho led to automations and integrations that ultimately saved Liberty Security significant time without compromising the security of their data. "The ability for Taylor's team to customize our systems was an absolute game changer for us on every level," said Anand Pandarinath, Liberty Security's Finance Manager. The web-based custom app that Wolsey built through Zoho Creator eliminated the need for their 20 minute phonecall to onboard each customer. With thousands of new customers each year, Wolsey estimated that Liberty saved around $40-50K on just eliminating those calls alone.
Expanding on the success of Zoho CRM, Liberty took steps to unify everyone under a common language. Pandarinath highlighted the significance of centralizing their software. "Most mid sized companies have a financial reporting software that is completely independent of everything else," Pandarinath explained that it's common for financial software to remain the same while other teams change their software almost every few years to keep up with trends. For many companies, that overhaul can be a nightmare. "Liberty is going into our 6th year of using a common platform where you only have to call one company. You understand how they all work together, your developers can speak all the same language as they start to link things up, and all of your managers can work together to do customizations."
Centralizing their system brought more efficiency and better cohesion, but it also made Liberty more resilient. "When the pandemic hit, Western Canada was told to move to remote, and we had been preparing for that. We decided we were going to move our call-center staff to remote on a Thursday and on Monday we were completely transitioned. The customers didn't notice the change at all," said Wolsey. Consistency in their work processes made Liberty particularly prepared to handle the challenges the pandemic threw at many businesses. Everyone was already collaborating online and tools were already set up to account for a workforce spread over many locations.
With a unifying software that was widely adopted, Liberty Security was able to improve management's visibility into the daily goings-on and make it easier for other employees to use the system set up for them. They have empowered employees who have zero financial or accounting background to work within the system to deliver a fairly powerful product without any training aside from the most basic processes. "The interface to create an invoice or bill, to do the basic transactions of any business, are really easy to do in Zoho," Pandarinath said. While Liberty has utilized Zoho to empower employees without them having to delve into the depths of the accounting system or GL accounts or know all the rules, it has also allowed for a smaller team to focus on high-level accounting work. "It's wonderful because I don't have to have a really high-level, skilled financial team around me to do all the work. I just need a small group of people that know what they are doing because everybody else feeds the system."
Because Liberty Security has been centralizing their various departments around Zoho for some time now, it's allowed more individuals the opportunity to become master-users, which then enables them to get more out of the information. "Our parent company uses another platform but we get better analytics out of Zoho. Why? Because everyone is comfortable with it: accounting, operations, sales. That makes it an easier conversation to have and thus easier to grow it," said Wolsey. This increased visibility is important, not only to have an idea of where a company is, but also to help get the company to where it could be. The reporting capabilities in Zoho not only made Wolsey's job easier and more effective, but it also made it easier to share knowledge across teams so that the entire company could be lifted up by learning from the people doing things well. Wolsey said that "Zoho's full reporting gave me total insight into how everyone was doing. I can look at any activity and really know who is putting in the effort and who is getting results. I can also look at why those people are succeeding and use that to help others improve."
When they were looking for a solution, it seemed like the options they would be able to customize in house were limited. This would have meant hiring expensive consultants, driving up the price of the implementation and maintenance in the future. Without any of their team being IT, they were able to fully set up Zoho without needing to hire integrating consultants. Pandarinath explained, "From the CFO perspective, if you can find a way to not spend a million dollars on expensive consultants, that is key. That is a really good thing."
Wolsey also emphasizes that while affordability was a huge aspect of why Liberty initially chose Zoho, the real asset has the flexibility to grow that Zoho affords them. "Being able to scale without changing our software was huge. If someone is starting out their business, starting with something with so much growth opportunity makes future growth so much more sustainable," said Wolsey. "There are so many systems out there that take you to your first 1K customers and then they are no longer useful to you. We're really excited that we're investing our time in something that will endure and not have to be switched out in a couple of years." Though Liberty started off their software search as a small business, they have been able to carry that initial work over as they have rapidly expanded. Now, Liberty has 30,000 customers on subscriptions.
Liberty Security is always improving their processes both by building out their custom tools and deepening the integrations between systems and departments. Wolsey is looking at new ways to meet the evolution of the market, including growth in the DIY sector. "A lot more customers are wanting to do things themselves, which we are totally happy to help with," Wolsey explained, "but it does impact some of our normal processes and procedures." Liberty aims to update their customer portal to be more seamless on all ends, with an integrated approach that allows customers to change and update even more of their information themselves. As Liberty continues to expand across Canada, they are also looking to incorporate additional languages to fulfill the documentation requirements of certain provinces. This growth also means a more comprehensive system of reporting, expanding the platform from the simple unit they are in, to multiple units in different departments and geographies on a national level. "That's probably the big challenge for us going forward," Pandarintath shared, "There's going to be a big demand on us to report by regions, divisions, product sectors, or service line sectors differently. It's really coming down to a giant way to track our revenue and our costing."
From the financial side, Liberty Security is also looking to deepen their Zoho deployment. "We would really like to be able to go deeper into cost accounting and merging more of the client information and operational stats or metrics with our finances, and that's going to involve a lot more use of Analytics," said Pandarinath. Additionally, as Liberty Security transitions into their recent acquisition, they will be developing a system of regular reporting to a higher level of management, including an entirely new group of users.