In our latest edition of Zoho Stories that inspire, I’m joined by Director Eileen Keane and CEO Justin J Smal, from Monread. We trace their stories from how they started Monread, their discovery of Zoho as an all-encompassing solution and their growth to become the leading Zoho consultants in the UK and Ireland.
Ani: So let’s start at the beginning—tell us about your lives before Monread.
Eileen: I am an Electronic Engineer graduated from the University of Limerick and began my career by designing electronics at Philips in Holland, and then migrated to product marketing of one of the first Internet based hand-held devices, the precursor to what we have today. In my new role, I immediately needed contact management and, at the time, there was no solution that was right enough—and that’s when I met Justin.
Justin: I have been an entrepreneur for a long time and I was running operations and finance, but found CRM more interesting after implementing a CRM solution in 1995 for over 50 seats for my then organization. Eileen & co-founder Leo Moore just founded Monread and I had a vision as to how CRM would evolve, although this evolution took time. In 2001, I officially joined Monread and have ever since consulted for all types of companies, including blue chips and SMEs.
Eileen: We started Monread, 20 years ago; delivering on-premise CRM, help desk and payroll solutions in the UK and Ireland as well as custom solution developments and integrations and building a market leading payroll solution & accounts integrations.
Ani: Was that when you encountered Zoho?
Eileen: By 2009, we could see that the market ahead was surely going to be in the cloud—we were actively pursuing an alternative to Salesforce and took time to evaluate every player in CRM before we zeroed in on Zoho. Monread too had grown with a considerable roster of contacts, and to be honest, there was no all-encompassing solution for their specific needs—till we found Zoho.
Justin: Indeed! By early 2012, we were delivering Zoho solutions in a very big way, and the results we were seeing, as well as our own experience, convinced us that Zoho was the perfect solution for companies migrating to the cloud, while delivering on their business requirements.
Ani: Interesting! Tell us a little more about Monread as a firm
Eileen: We are a complete Zoho shop, we use Zoho products extensively so while meeting and pitching to customers it puts us at a better position than other consulting firms because we have real life experience on the products that we offer as solution. Right now, we have expert Zoho consultants working out of the UK, Ireland and the United States and a dedicated local help-desk for our Zoho clients
Ani: How were you convinced of the dynamic nature of Zoho as a solution?
Justin: Like I mentioned earlier, I had a vision as to how a CRM should be. In any organization, I believe, everyone should be ideally selling. It’s not just the salespeople; everyone must be speaking the same language and to enable that, there needs to be a highly customizable system which can seamlessly exchange data. I could see that Zoho was that.
Ani: Great! You have a lot of consulting experience with blue-chip companies and SMEs, do you focus on any particular industry?
Justin: Ideally, we cater to every industry, because every industry needs sales and marketing in some way. But we have served industries like aerospace, technology, manufacturing, education and services. A fair bit of consulting also goes into firms which have existing ERP systems, and our expertise goes into designing integrations for their legacy systems.
Ani: What were the challenges, particularly in Ireland and the UK?
Justin: There is a noticeable difference between them.In Ireland, people look towards the US for a lot of things, including technology and are early adopters, so the market had an interest for cloud products from the start, but what was lacking initially was high speed infrastructure.
In the UK, the challenge was different—it wasn’t about the technology, but more about finding the right solution for the right customer. In other words, a problem-solution fit.
I’ll expand on this answer a bit and tell you what the major challenge is now—over the years there has been a flooding of the markets with SaaS products.
Eileen: Salesforce too has a big presence in Ireland, which is a both positive and negative. Negative because we are always competing in the region. Positive because there is a greater awareness of what CRM is and people are always willing to listen to alternatives. Even more so once they learn how attractive the Zoho proposition actually is!
Justin: We see that there is a lot of switching by the customer from one vendor to the other, this happens because the customers are locked into year-long contracts at a discounted price; but during this lock-in period they realize that it isn’t the CRM solution that they wanted.
What’s in favor of Zoho is the ever-growing arsenal of integrated apps, the functionality of these apps, the competitive pricing, and you will never be asked to pay more if a contract runs out or functionality changes. In simple terms, with Zoho you get an an awesome bang for your buck, backed by the ethical grounding of Sridhar Vembu (CEO & Co-founder of Zoho) which permeates the entire Zoho organization.
Ani: How do customers appreciate the importance of a CRM consultant?
Justin: Sometimes people don’t realize the importance of a consulting partner when figuring out how to differentiate their options. It usually starts with customers trying to do the implementation of a CRM themselves, and this takes a lot more time than they initially envision—and then they turn to us for expertise.
We advise, we suggest and then bolt the solution together quickly and efficiently, sometimes with the assistance of Zoho, enabling the customer to focus on what matters: running the business and generating revenue.
Ani: Since you mentioned the right solution, what’s your approach to providing the best choice for your customers?
Eileen: We always take the extra effort to learn the customer’s business thoroughly and better understand their goals and aspirations during the discovery phase of the engagement. Most of the time, if they don’t have the processes in places, we create them from scratch.
Justin: Yes, we also draw upon 20 year long experience in sales, marketing, finance and operations and we then present to them a customized Zoho solution which will help them. Our process can be broken down into a four word mantra: discover-build-launch-support.
Eileen: Extensive consulting also goes into organizations which have existing ERP systems, and our expertise goes into designing integrations.
Ani: We’ve discussed your approach to consulting, but could you give us a specific instance where your consulting expertise has made a marked difference in a customer’s business?
Eileen: One of our customers is a leading hardware refurbishment company which advocates IT reuse across Europe. Their finance departments, which also handled inventory and invoicing, was not working harmoniously with the sales team. Ever since we created a solution for them using Zoho One, they have reported an amazing save on direct cost savings, to a tune of 68%, and because of the improved inventory management they’re also showing an increase in sales to a tune of 39%
Ani: That’s a huge impact! Could you also let us in on your plans for this year?
Eileen: Our 2019 calendar has got two segments on our radar—SMEs and the enterprise markets.
For our enterprise clients, we plan on bringing Zoho One to their focus. Many Zoho One pilot projects are already in the running, where we’re working closely with clients to customize and optimize the product to their market.The next phase, would be to roll this solution out in different countries.
In the SME market, we’ll continue to focus on Zoho CRM and the Finance Suite. Efficient solutions at economic pricing are a no-brainer in the SME market, making Zoho CRM and Books a natural fit into their sectors. We’ve also planned Zoho Books public training courses that are aimed at bookkeepers, accountants, and financial controllers.
Ani: That’s a lot to look forward to in 2019, and I’m sure there’s a lot of training that you guys undertake—tell us about that, too!
Eileen: We recently became a Zoho Certified Training Centre, and started the year with a Zoho CRM Administrator Training Course in Dublin.
This public training course was a great experience and was well received by the delegates. They were immersed in Zoho, away from their office, and the session had an amazing response with requests for many more courses.
This shows great promise and we’ll be launching a full schedule of training on Zoho CRM, Zoho Finance Suite, Zoho Desk, Zoho Campaigns, and Zoho One for SMEs in Dublin, Belfast, and the UK.
Ani: I’m sure that the training would be very useful, any final thoughts as we draw this session to a close?
Justin: Real CRM should be that any contact, through any channel, should be managed effectively and an organization has to ensure that the customer experience is as enjoyable as possible – easy, informational, solution focused, and with the least amount of hassle. By delivering the right customer experience via a well-defined CRM Strategy, underpinned by an all encompassing CRM solution, a lead becomes a customer-a customer becomes a supporter and a supporter becomes a champion.
I believe that Zoho One can deliver true CRM for any organization, big or small, at affordable prices without compromising functionality.
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