How to “Zoho-matize” a business

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During ZohoDay 2022, I had the chance to have a longer conversation with Elie Katz, founder and CEO of National Retail Solutions, NRS.

if you do not want to read too much but prefer watching the edited interview, you can do so here.

NRS was founded in 2015 and has  since then grown its customer base to more than 17,000 retail stores across the United States. NRS is a part of IDT, a provider of communications and payment services to individuals and businesses. The business provides POS and payment processing software, focusing on small, independent retailers, who want to not only survive but also thrive in a big box environment.

The NRS POS system is built to help stores organize, attract customers and increase revenue; it includes a loyalty coupon program and other bells and whistles.

An important point is the NRS outside-in philosophy, which is defining its own success as a result of making its customers successful by being able to address their needs.

The challenge that Elie, his business, as well as the parent company, needed to support requires quite sophisticated own customer service and sales software; there is a widespread salesforce to be supported along with a good number of very different customers with disparate needs and service requests. The team learned early on that it needed a CRM system.

This system was originally supposed to be implemented on a well-known platform – that remains unnamed here. The reason being that it was already being implemented at another branch of IDT. This system needed many third party tools and consequently the implementation dragged along at considerable cost, without showing adequate progress nor success, although it was continuously worked upon. In essence, Elie and his team were not able to run their business adequately. 

Entrance Zoho, after doing a little own research, a then not so well-known vendor.

This was five years ago and, according to Elie, not an easy change to ask from his management although the other implementation still did not yield results for his business in spite of mounting bills. Being an intrapreneur, he took up the responsibility for his business and started with a point solution to support customer service. 

Since then, he has been on an ongoing journey to “zohomatize” his business, the first four years “playing catch up” with the existing needs and pain points, initially with the help of only one intern. In the meantime, NRS and IDT are able to leverage the breadth and width of Zoho’s offering, with an internal team of 6 people, as opposed to working with an external consultancy.

For both, Zoho has become the vendor of choice for any issue to be addressed, either directly or via partner solutions or even custom development. Within five years, NRS and IDT have made Zoho the operating system of their businesses. All applications are either Zoho, or integrated with Zoho, be them internal applications, partner applications or custom applications. Although there are still a lot of custom solutions and integrations, Zoho is coming up with a Zoho solution to new requirements, or with a partner solution right out of their ecosystem. All of this, while keeping the cost reasonably low, even though there are more than 700 people using the system now – 300 salespeople and more than 400 independent distributors. In Elie’s words: “I am very comfortable”. 

What NRS and IDT have achieved is digitalize their business. The companies have removed all non digital customer-facing processes and moved all main processes to a Zoho backbone. This includes integrating a sophisticated custom internal accounting process. Another example of valuable integration and automation includes a voice bot that allows NRS to trigger different actions from making sure that issues got handled successfully, via incentivizing service employees via customer feedback, general customer satisfaction right through enabling cross-selling capabilities via simple four simple questions. Responses are routed to the appropriate Zoho system, tickets are created and routed as necessary to the sales and service teams. Employees can get rewarded via a gamified rewarding system that is based on the responses given by the customers. 

So far, the only requirement that could not yet be fulfilled is a commission handling that supports the different sales channels, which is something that NRS is told that Zoho is working on. The accounting is still custom and will likely stay custom. 

Asked for next steps, Elie maintains that as long as he continues to get the service levels that he experiences, he will continue to “zohomatize” his business. “Finding a cheap CRM is no good, right? If it’s just a cheap CRM that doesn’t address your needs, you need to do something else”. He feels good with Zoho and will continue to address his needs one by one by collaboratively working with Zoho in order to make sure that his customers’ needs are addressed optimally. He wants to continue to make sure that excellent customer service and care is given to every single customer and prospect. 

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