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Zoho CRM Review—An Independent Assessment

Zoho CRM Evaluation


Zoho is not your typical business software company. This software vendor focuses on the small business market, uniquely positions its CRM software among a broad suite of personal productivity applications and uses a freemium pricing model.


Zoho CRM offers the traditional customer relationship management software tenants of sales force automation, marketing and customer service as well as several ancillary business software modules. Zoho CRM is delivered in three separate editions in order to reduce barriers to acquisition and then provide upgrade options to progressive versions.


The CRM software user interface is simple and takes lessons from the benefits of consumer technologies. CRM software modules are organized in a tab metaphor and pages for leads, accounts, contacts, potentials (aka opportunities) and the like are simple columnar forms which use JavaScript to dynamically display expanded data set views. Interestingly, the forms highly resemble pages. Zoho places a premium on balancing web design with simplicity. According to CEO Sridhar Vembu, "We try to keep the browser in one tab for mental context and so the user doesn't have to hop around."


When accessing the CRM software, sales staff typically land on a splash or dashboard page which includes basic metrics of top accounts, sale opportunities, prioritized activities and the like. The dashboards display key metric comparisons, patterns, and trends in sales, marketing and support. Dashboard visualizations display two-and-three dimensional charts which are built using Adobe Flash.


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Account, contact and activity management cover the basic record attribute information. Accounts permit parent-child assignment to denote accounts and their subsidiaries. Something that will appear foreign to U.S. companies is that Zoho has renamed opportunity management to potentials management. Potential records support a 360-degree view of the opportunity and display related details, such as activities, contacts, products, sales stage evolution, attachments and notes. The opportunity record also allows the association of competitors, along with competitor product name, product code, manufacturer, support start and expiry dates, and strengths and weaknesses. Including competitor information at the opportunity record is a simple and helpful process, but amazingly very few cloud CRM vendors choose to support any type of competitive analysis.


For sales staff who create quotes or take orders, Zoho SFA includes quotes and sale order processing with integrated inventory management, item price lists based on customer segmentation, line item and order discounting, and simple tax calculations. Another unique feature is the Big Deal Alert. This is an automated alert notification based on the value of the opportunity record and configured using the Zoho workflow tool.


Like several competing SaaS CRM systems, Zoho maintains a separate leads database to retain raw data about potential individual prospects. These are often the leads that are garnered from trade shows, seminars, advertisements and other marketing campaigns. Zoho CRM functionality to support lead management includes capabilities to associate leads with other leads, convert leads to accounts, approve leads as qualified or setup lead assignment rules to automatically designate leads to sales staff—however, this last function only works when inserting lead records to the system, such as during an import process or when leads are captured on a website form.


Zoho marketing supports basic marketing capabilities with campaign profiles which identify simple attributes, target list creation with account segmentation, elementary budgeting, email distributions with response metrics such as open, click and bounce rates, mail merging and simple campaign reporting.


As with many other cloud CRM solutions in which marketing software does not garner the same focus as SFA, the Zoho marketing software is largely a campaign tracking function without advanced features or marketing process automation. The marketing software is missing some fundamental features such as PPC (Pay Per Click) or Adwords integration. As is the norm with SaaS CRM applications, advanced marketing functions such as digital marketing, anonymous website visitor tracking, lead scoring, progressive profiling, lead transfer and rich marketing analytics are not available.


For customer service, Zoho offers features such as case management, resource assignment, solutions lookup, incident escalation and very basic customer service reporting. Case entry is largely limited to the basics along with inventory identification and comment threads. Cases can be automatically created using the web to case form or from customer e-mails in Microsoft Outlook if using the Zoho CRM Outlook plug-in. While inventory items are integrated to customer support, more advanced inventory-based service processes such as item defect tracking, serial and lot tracking, warranty verification, service level agreement (SLA) compliance and return merchandise authorizations (RMAs) are not supported out of the box, but may be achieved with relatively light software customization.


Zoho competitive advantages include a low price, a freemium pricing model that offers users with a trial or starting solution, a solution that is fast to deploy and a breadth of integrated online productivity applications (Zoho offers over 20 other Zoho applications).


Top Zoho CRM weaknesses include very limited features, missing social media tools, weak workflow design tools for business process automation, the absence of an offline client, limited Platform as a Service (PaaS) tools for software customization or system integration, inconsistent customer reviews and a company with a questionable long term direction.


When evaluating Zoho CRM or identifying and recommending the most relevant and direct Zoho competitors for comparison purposes, we normally align the customer's specific company objectives to the Zoho CRM software functionality (to assess fit) and finally consider company size, user count, user types/roles, industry, geo-locations, internal resources, constraints such as budget and technical considerations such as system integration and software customization.


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  Zoho Corp.

4900 Hopyard Road, Suite 310

Pleasanton, CA 94588


Email: [email protected]



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Zoho CRM may be a good fit if:


Your seek a very basic and easy to use Sales Force Automation (SFA) system.


You want a low cost and quick to deploy CRM software solution.


Your company delivers projects or services after the sale, and you are looking for a project management module integrated with the CRM system.


You use Google Apps and Google Docs and want a CRM system that integrates with these online services.

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