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Zoho CRM Software Independent Review

4 stars Average rating: 4 (from 183 votes)

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Zoho CRM Deep Dive Review

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

The app maker was founded in 1996 as a spin off from parent company AdventNet. Following the sweeping dot com cycle at the turn of the century the company expanded its product portfolio with platform solutions such as database search, information security, test-automation products, and finally an on-demand office productivity and CRM suite. In May 2009, Zoho's parent company AdventNet changed its name to ZOHO Corporation. By the end of 2011, Zoho CRM had acquired 25,000 customers.

The Zoho CRM suite began as an extension of a custom built helpdesk application by then parent company AdventNet. Interestingly, AdventNet was an investor in open source CRM maker vtiger (which itself began as a forked solution of SugarCRM). Zoho and vtiger are largely indirect competitors and often engage in a cross referral relationship as Zoho is a SaaS solution while vtiger is largely an on-premise open source CRM system.

The Zoho name is a play on small office/home office (SOHO) acronym, and delivers a recognition that both reinforces its customer target market as well as differentiates it from the enterprise software products of its parent company, such as the ManageEngine IT management solutions which are focused on global IT management.

CRM Suite

Zoho CRM delivers the traditional customer relationship management software pillars of sales, marketing and service as well as several complimentary business software modules. The company's target market is clearly the small and midsize business (SMB) market and Zoho CRM is delivered in three separate editions in order to reduce barriers to acquisition and then provide simple upgrade options to progressive versions.

Throughout the CRM suite the user interface is extremely simple and takes a lesson from consumer technologies ease of use. Software modules are organized in a tab metaphor and CRM record 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 Salesforce.com 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."

Sales Force Automation

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.

When accessing the CRM system, sales reps typically land on a splash or dashboard page which includes the standard metrics of top accounts, weighted sale opportunities, prioritized activities and the like. The dashboards are well organized, and graphically 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 technology.

Account, contact and activity management cover the basic record attribute information. Accounts permit parent-child assignment to denote accounts and their subsidiaries.

For a reason we can't surmise, Zoho has renamed opportunity management to potentials management. Potential records support a 360-degree view of the opportunity and display associated details, such as open activities, history of the completed activities, contacts, products, sales stage history, attachments, and notes. The opportunity record also permits associating competitors. The competitive analysis identifies competitor name, 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. 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.

For sales reps which create quotes and take orders, Zoho sales force automation includes quotes and sale order processing with integrated inventory management, item price lists based on customer segmentation, line item and document discounting, and tax calculations.

Sale pipeline and forecast reporting covers the basics, shows comparison to sales quota and percentage quota and can be filtered by closed amount, committed amount, best case amount and weighted pipeline amount.

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