Zoho Support: Big Business Customer Service for Small Business Budgets

Zoho, one of the pioneers in cloud computing solutions for small and medium businesses (SMBs), has added a new customer support management application to its line up of 20-plus cloud-based collaboration, communication, business and office productivity solutions.

Zoho Support helps streamline the process to create, capture, process and manage support tickets. Zoho has combined its own experience with an internally developed support system with that of its sister division, ManageEngine (also part of Zoho Corporation) to build Support. ManageEngine has been providing commercial help desk and support solutions for the past four years to a stellar list of large enterprise customers–giving Zoho a lot of stress-tested experience to draw on.

Zoho Support lets you create support requests in four ways:

  • By manually enter information while on the phone
  • Via emails that come to you
  • From a website from that you create
  • From self-service capabilities which you can embed on your web site, which enable both you and your customers to monitor and track the request in the same real-time view.

Other modules in Support include a knowledge base, dashboard and reporting, and integrated chat.  Zoho will add capability to initiate and track support requests via chat in the near future.  Support also has a contracts module so that you can set service level agreements (SLA) for different support plans, specifying things like response times, hours available, etc. It also features a workflow module to create rules to automate escalation, resolution and other processes, and is integrated with Zoho CRM so that sales and support teams can easily share customer information.

Like other Zoho offerings, Support is offered in a freemium model (pricing here). The free version gives companies the ability to  create up to 25 support requests a day, but limits the methods by which you can initiate a support request, and lacks more advanced functionality such contracts and workflow. Support Professional, priced at $12 per agent per month, includes all of the functionality except contract management, and the Enterprise Version offers everything for 24 per agent per month.

Notably, Zoho will also introduce an alternative pricing structure for Support which should be very attractive to many small businesses. As I discussed in my post, Prescription for Subscription Fatigue? Time for New SaaS Pricing Models, the cloud/SaaS per user, per month pricing model has hardly changed in the past 10 years! Although the model been a huge leap forward from packaged software in so many ways, vendors have not taken the next big leap to more innovative pricing models.

While per user per month pricing for an individual solution may seem quite reasonable, subscription fees can quickly get out of control for many small businesses as they start adding more services. This is because most people wear many hats in a small business. In fact, the same person may be selling at 10:00, taking a support call at 1:00 and checking inventory at 5:00.

Zoho Support’s alternative pricing, which should be available within a month or so, is based on requests, but doesn’t limit the number of users. So for instance, if you buy the middle level, Express 100 for $49 per month, you can create up to 100 requests per day, and have an unlimited number of agents handling those requests.

I expect that many small businesses will welcome this more creative and flexible approach–and hope that it will motivate other cloud vendors to create their own pricing innovations.

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