How to zohotize a global business

How to zohotize a global business

About two years ago, I had the pleasure of speaking with Elie Katz of National Retail Solutions, NRS, about how he and his team “zohotized” NRS. During this year’s ZohoDay24, I was happy enough to continue this conversation with Rene Selemi, director of retail operations at IDT Corporation, the parent corporation of NRS. IDT is a global provider of communications and payment services, headquartered in Newark, New Jersey. The company employs around 1,700 people.

You prefer to watch the interview? You can do it right from here.

IDT started to use Zoho around 7 years ago for its internal startup NRS. The scope was customer care with the objective of enabling the business to respond to quick and effectively to customers. IDT and NRS originally settled on Salesforce but after using it for about a year decided to move away in favor of Zoho as it was a better fit and faster to implement. Says Selemi “We had Salesforce for a while for about a year, but at the end we decided to go away from Salesforce and actually implemented Zoho. [..] It was a better fit [and] it was quick to implement. That was number one. We did it when minimum resources and we did it very fast.” This is very much in line with what Elie Katz told me two years ago: “the other implementation still did not yield results for his business in spite of mounting bills”. The two main criteria that IDT worked and works on, are functional fit and cost.

What started as a point solution has become the backbone for NRS since then and now covers processes “from the application process and approval all the way down to the credit application approval as well. […] The Next Step will be the implementation on the operation side and the last one is the selection process, shipping the equipment sending the equipment to the customers.”

As one can imagine, not every step of the implementation process went without a glitch. Interestingly, the biggest ones were not related to the implementation team nor technology or implementation process but found in the fourth category: people. Process and technology knowledge was readily available via the previous implementation and some very knowledgeable developer. Rene maintains that “some of the knowledge that I got from trying to implement Salesforce actually helped me when it came to Zoho. I think that one of the key things for you to actually Implement any CRM is organization, you have to be well organized, you have to be able, you have to know what you want to do, what you want to build; you want to know what is the goal”. He continues that “one of the biggest challenges was again people. They never used CRM before, so the users were a challenge, you know.” According to him, the solution to this challenge is threefold: Making things simple, so that people get comfortable fast, training, and key users who help optimizing the implemented solution. In IDT’s case, these key users have been recruited from the NRS business. “The NRS team became ambassadors for Zoho.”

Running it all out of one system helps NRS create effective and efficient processes for both, the sales, and the fulfillment organizations. But IDT is not yet fully there. NRS is “zohotized” and now the idea is to “zohotize” the complete company. “We want basically a one-pager, you know, people to go to one place, all the APIs, everything else connected behind it, whatever it’s not ready in Zoho, but basically have people you know in one place because it makes it simple.”

So, everything is hunky-dory?

Not quite. As I said and wrote in other places, a vendor-client-partnership is sometimes like a marriage. There are difficulties. The one thing that IDT really wishes to get would be an improved mobile app that better fits their needs. “There’s combination of a lot of different things, you know, offline, improvement of the field of the page, you know, something as simple as that, you know, we’re doing something called single sign-on. We want to be able to fit it right on the on the actual application”.

My point of view

This is a prime example for the values of long-term vendor-buyer relations where both parties invest and of tightly integrated suites.

Tightly integrated suites that are built on one single stack allow for fast and easy implementation cycles with small teams. This way the business achieves fast time to value and can concentrate on outcomes rather than managing a complicated integration process. Especially in times of SaaS, a short time to value becomes increasingly important, also for the vendors. They do not offer it at their own peril – as the case of IDT moving away from one vendor (which admittedly has a great product) to another one that proved to have a much faster return on investment.

The mutual investment is shown by Zoho’s by three things. First, by reasonable subscriptions that are combined with smart bundles. This, especially the latter, is something that many vendors can do, and do. Second, there is a significant investment into the implementation process. Other vendors offer a discount on the subscription fee for some time. Third, by listening to customers and make customer requirements part of their roadmap. This, again, is something that most vendors do. And, not to be misunderstood, it is extremely hard to do. No vendor can satisfy all customers at the same time.

I just love the term of “zohotizing” the business. It is a direct translation of Zoho positioning the prime bundle Zoho One as the “operating system for the business”. It also shows an emotional bonding of IDT personnel to Zoho. And, as I said and wrote before, tying positive emotions to one’s brand is extremely powerful.  Positive emotions create a lock in. A lock in that is not based on erecting exit barriers (or entry barriers for competitors) but on the feeling and knowledge that one is in the right partnership. A good part of creating this good feeling is to co-invest into the implementation instead of temporarily subsidizing the subscription fee.

Or in brief: It is better to make customers want to stay with a vendor instead of them feeling forced to stay because leaving prohibitively “expensive”.

Here we have a customer that wants to stay.