Out of Office, a London-based travel company, gains control over data and finds business insights using Zoho One

The company

OutOfOffice.com is a travel service provider specially curated for luxury LGBT friendly travel services. Established in 2016, founder Darren Burn describes the business as "the world's leading provider of LGBT friendly travel services." In 2018 they acquired TravelGay.com which is "the world's most visited LGBT travel platform with tens of millions of annual visitors," Darren Burn added.

With the business growing and an expanding customer base, they needed to up their game and smooth out any challenges they might face in their day-to-day business functions.

"With a global reach and customers based all over the world, it's important that we tailor our offering as well as store sensitive customer data securely," says Darren Burn.

The challenge

As a travel service provider, the two most important components of day-to-day business is the CRM and the booking system. Before they discovered Zoho One, Out of Office was using an off-the-shelf product which had an in-built CRM and booking tool. However, as with any off-the-shelf product, it lacked the ability to be customized according to their business needs. As Burn notes,"we found that we lacked control in being able to use the platform to grow and customize our solution for clients."

Apart from not being customizable, the tool posed further challenges as it didn't integrate well with the other tools that were being used. At that point, Out of Office was using several different products to run their day to day operations. These included Slack for internal chat, Mailchimp for marketing to clients, and a separate live chat engagement tool. Working with disconnected tools which didn't seamlessly talk to each other was complicated and time-consuming.

Another challenge they faced was not having the right analytical data at the right time. "We had no ability to analyze our data effectively," says Burn. And with a distributed customer base and different products on offer, analyzing the data for business insights is crucial for business growth.

This lack of scalability motivated Out of Office to look for a better tool than their off-the-shelf ones. However, while searching for the right tool for a travel business they discovered that most of the pre-built tools had the same basic issues. Burn sums up his quest for the right tool like this: "every tool would have meant compromise. It can do this, but it can't do that. And I didn't like the idea of compromising."

Burn realized the challenges of building their own tool and solutions from scratch. He also understood that they needed their own tool for long term stability and growth that would be highly customizable, easy to adapt and scalable with their growing needs. And more than just a single tool, they needed an ecosystem of products that speak to each other and work as a single organism. Out of Office needed a fairly priced bundle of unified apps and solutions which suited their specific needs.

Having set the criteria for their business needs, Burn found Zoho One to be suitable.

"I liked Zoho One's simple and fair pricing structure. We're a small business but we benefit from a wide range of products that if we were to buy in piecemeal would cost a lot more money" says Darren Burn.

The solution

After becoming a part of the Zoho ecosystem, with a bundle of much-needed apps and solutions from Zoho One, Out of Office built up an entirely custom-booking platform using Creator. This custom booking system fulfills nearly every requirement to effectively quote clients.

CRM handles the data management part of the day-to-day operations for Out of Office. This tool ensures all customer data is held securely and in an organized, easy to access way. CRM also enables them to correctly nurture each lead and implement customer touchpoints accordingly. "Now that we can customize Zoho CRM a lot more with Canvas, we are able to build more intuitive dashboards for our team" Burn notes.

Out of Office has switched their internal communication from Slack to Zoho Cliq. "We find it is super useful as a tool to celebrate success too - every time a sale is made we send a notification to the entire team on Cliq" says Burn. And, he continues, " having everything in the same ecosystem makes integration simple. It also means that we were able to ditch the Google Suite that we were using before and move our email to Zoho Mail and shared team drives to Zoho Workdrive."

Moving away from Mailchimp, Out of Office have utilized the marketing suite from Zoho for their marketing activities. They extensively use both Campaigns and SalesIQ to efficiently communicate with their clients. These tools, along with CRM and Analytics, have also solved their data analytics challenges. Now, they have the kind of insights into their business data that enables them to create effective campaigns, understand customer behavior on their webpages and establish communication via different touchpoints.

Talking about other products, Burn says " We started using Zoho Zeptomail recently to send transactional mails from our website. And we use Zoho Subscriptions on the TravelGay.com side of the business to manage our relationships with vendors and suppliers that want to advertise with us."

Looking forward

Burn says that by taking a step by step approach they have been able to integrate Zoho One into their business processes with ease. He points out how that approach has allowed the team at Out of Office to adapt quicker than an off-the-shelf solution would've provided. "When the pandemic hit it meant that we could easily tweak our system to cope with the challenges all travel companies faced around customer and supplier refunds."

Summing up his experience with Zoho One, Burn notes that while "it has been at times challenging with are so many options available to you, [he'd]advise people to think big, pause and work out how the products from Zoho can improve your workflow." And when it comes to the future of the Zoho ecosystem, Burn's is optimistic that it will be "wonderful!"

Here's a blog that elaborates on Darren Burn's experience with Zoho One