Zoho CRM, productivity, collaboration, and mobility tools

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I’ve recently revisited – and been impressed with – Zoho CRM. During the last couple of years Zoho has evolved from a somewhat drab little app largely favored by individuals, largely based on “price” ( free), to a comprehensive and appealing suite of applications that can support small and medium size business (SMB).

Zoho-CRM-feature-reviewZoho still has a free version, and like many other cloud “freemium” models, you can pay for more features. Zoho offers integrated apps that extend its capabilities with an impressive suite of applications, collaboration tools, and services for a small, per-user fee.

It’s All About Usability

Is Zoho CRM perfect? As I discussed last week, there is no one “best” CRM software. But what I can say is that Zoho is a great fit for many SMB who want CRM with extended capabilities at a reasonable price point. I found administrative functions very straightforward and rate overall usability quite high.

And, usability that enables more selling time is pure gold. Zoho demonstrates an understanding that salespeople want to spend their time selling and building relationships. Zoho CRM employs workflow features to streamline a sales rep’s daily tasks.

Extensive Application Integration

Here’s one example of integration that streamlines workflow:

After Google Business Apps have been integrated (a simple set up), Zoho helps you work with leads, contacts, potentials (sales opportunities) and tasks right from within gmail. Each email contains a footer that let’s you search for the contact’s record without leaving the email.

Gmail email footer - contact lookupIf a search doesn’t find the name, you can add it as a lead or contact  to your CRM database from within the email.

Gmail email footer - contact not found

Gmail email footer - add contact detailsOnce basic lead or contact details have been entered, create a task  . . .

Gmail email footer - create task

. . .or enter a Note, or create a Potential (sales opportunity).

Gmail email footer - create note task or potential

The Zoho database is updated, and all of these steps were completed without ever leaving the gmail screen.

Usability Meets Easy Customization

Another example of  a smart usability feature that contributes to workflow is to use dependent lists in pick list fields. Adding pick lists to database fields helps streamline data entry, as well as ensure consistency in data entry, search, and reporting.

Zoho fields support dependent lists, which relates the values from one field to another. Thus, after you’ve selected the “parent” field value, only the related “child” values will be available when selecting an item in the subordinate list.

Zoho-dependent-field-pick-list-feature

While this seems like a “no-brainer” kind of feature, what’s especially impressive here is how easy it is to map the relationships. I’ve tried doing this in MS CRM and, hours later, still didn’t have it functioning correctly. That could be an “operator error” but it’s an indicator of how convoluted the process was. In Zoho, it was a couple of minutes and done. Dependent lists can be incorporated into a Sage ACT! database, but it requires a 3rd party product (and 60 bucks a user) to get the job done.

All around, an A+ feature in my book.

Collaborate Like Crazy

Zoho provides all sorts of collaboration tools for you to use for internal and external communications, like online meetings, online support tools, and chat.

Zoho chat capabilities

 

Web Forms – Easy Peasy

Another small miracle of simplicity is the ability to create and embed web forms into a website. This gives the organization the ability to provide a sign-up forms for subscriptions and other calls to action. The form created for this series took a couple of minutes to create, although I did then spend some time to add a header and generally futzed around to provide a more consistent look and feel with the blog site.


CRM Series Subscribe form

Even though creating and implementing the links and forms takes a teeny bit of web design knowledge, it was simple enough to do within our WordPress Blog with the tools available there. Having a little HTML know-how to change color and font styles doesn’t hurt, but it’s far less complicated to create this form in Zoho than what I’ve experienced in other applications. And it’s a feature that isn’t included, or is complicated as hell, in other CRM packages.

I keep coming back to how easy it is to do stuff in Zoho. Granted, I’ve been providing CRM services for over 13 years, so I know what I expect to be able to do and kinda sorta know how it should work. But it also means I have a good basis of comparison; in other words, I know easy when I see it!

A Cavalcade of Features

Management wants sales reps to be effective, but they are also looking for operational efficiencies via integrated project management, campaigns, collaboration, selected services, and mobility tools.

Zoho-collaboration-apps

Zoho-business-apps

Zoho-productivity-apps

Zoho is Pretty Darn Smart

Part of the genius behind Zoho’s structure is that while it offers a broad range of apps an services, it lets the organization choose from among the suite of apps and use just those that meet their needs. Thus, neither the solution nor users are loaded down with unnecessary components.

Okay, Zoho is Smart Most of the Time

That’s not to say it wasn’t a bit confusing at first to understand what each feature does, how to implement or integrate them, and sort through a bit of overlap among some similar features. But, I found that with just a few hours of touring, it did come together and make sense.  A couple of areas where I think workflow is lacking is in creating and clearing activities and in quotations. For example, selecting an account or contact for a quote didn’t automatically pull in the associate address.  Not cool.  I’ll keep fingers crossed for QuoteWerks integration to become an option.

Feature Rich, Great Value

Nonetheless, Zoho is an exceptionally good value for the included features. The editions and associated price structure are:

Zoho Editions

Zoho Basic Pricing

Zoho Extras and Add on Pricing

As you can see, the ultimate cost of a Zoho solution comes down to how you construct it – which is, of course, based on your business processes and requirements. For a solopreneuer with minimal requirements, the free version may be sufficient. Even adding in big batch of the plugins and services, it’s unlikely that the cost for most business could exceed $35-45 per user per month;  many businesses will function just fine at the $12 or $25 pu/pm level, with perhaps just a project management or mobility addin.

You may find it helpful to work with a Zoho Alliance Partner to help identify the components that will support your business process (disclosure:  I was so impressed after reviewing the product that we applied for and were accepted into the partner program.) And a business advisor can help smooth out redundant efforts and streamline processes overall, so it’s worth a discussion to see how an experienced pro (like those found at On the verge!) can help you design a solution that enables revenue growth.

Now you Know Everything. Not!

While this is by no means a comprehensive evaluation of Zoho CRM, I hope I’ve provided insight into it’s essential character. If you’re interested in taking a deeper look into Zoho, you can get a free trial and test drive it for 15 days.

If you do trial the product, I recommend upgrading the trial to the enterprise version so that you can explore more capabilities (although not every feature is available in trial – for example I was unable to add multiple currencies until I transitioned to the paid version). But with access to more features you’ll be able to make a more informed choice.

If you found this overview helpful, subscribe to the series and get an look inside the most popular CRM programs.

Do you think that CRM is an important business tool? What features in your CRM help make you more productive?

Free Zoho CRM Admin Guide: Administrator Cheat Sheet

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4 Responses to “Zoho CRM, productivity, collaboration, and mobility tools”

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  1. Kevin Chieff says:

    Great summary of a great product. I didn’t know how tight the Gmail integration really is. Nor did I know about Dependent Drop-downs. Why would anyone go thru the challenges of buying, downloading, installing, registering and activating software when you can signup and be working instantly?

  2. Thanks, Kevin. You know, I didn’t expect to see that at the bottom of my emails and was pleasantly surprised myself! As I keep exploring the product, I keep discovering more cool things. Software in the cloud is definitely making more and more sense.

  3. Marianna Mills says:

    I have not used Zoho, so I can not say anything about this system, but I heard a lot of good reviews. We are a small IT company and use the product http://www.teamwox.com, you can try it, maybe it suits you. Or you can look for other systems.

  4. Marianna – looks interesting; I’ll take a look at it. Anything in particular you like best about it? Lindsay

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