Zoho CRM Review
Zoho Corporation’s roots go back as far as 1996. They started in a vastly different world as an IT, networking, and telecommunications company. Since then, the focus has drastically shifted to produce business productivity apps, which have proven popular enough for the company to re-brand itself as Zoho Corporation more than 10 years after its inception. Today, they have offices worldwide, and are officially headquartered in Pleasanton, California. They have grown to employ over 3500 people, most of whom work from their original offices in Chennai, India.
While they have several edges over other software developers, Zoho has one distinguishing factor in its history that really puts it in a class of its own. Unlike the most successful software companies, Zoho has never acquired any venture capital, angel investors, or loans. They are entirely a bootstrap operation, having built a name for themselves completely under their own steam. While I find nothing wrong whatsoever with acquiring venture capital, I am very impressed by what Zoho has been able to achieve without it.
The software has set itself apart from its competitors as well. I have never found a CRM that is so feature-rich, and yet so reasonably priced. The ease with which I picked up Zoho CRM belied the power under the hood. It’s a muscle car with an economy car price tag. Having said that, not everyone needs a muscle car. Many entrepreneurs and small businesses would make better use of a slimmer, more straightforward CRM. There is a lot to be said for only buying what you need. To find out if Zoho CRM is right for you, read the full review.
Zoho was launched in 2005 with a web-based word processor, and they have added many other applications since then. CRM functionality was added somewhat recently, and CRM Plus, an inclusive product bundle with sales, marketing and support, was added in 2015.
Zoho CRM generously offers a free 15-day trial for each of their packages. A basic breakdown of their pricing structure is as follows:
- Free Edition:Free, up to 10 users
The full comparative details of their pricing structure can be found here:
Hardware and Software Requirements:
- iPhone: iOS 5.0 or later. Optimized for iPhone 5.
- Android: OS 2.2 and up.
Specific Size of Business (Or Company Size):
Zoho is capable of handling any size of business. Their pricing structure (see above) ensures that they can grow with your business, adding key features to stay relevant to your specific needs.
There are obvious incentives for upgrading to the next larger package, but for the most part, packages offer exactly what you’d want at the level of business they are geared for (i.e., it’s unlikely that you’ll need to operate in multiple currencies as an entrepreneur.)
Ease of Use:
The Good News:
- It does everything I can imagine wanting, but not in an oppressively industry-specific way. Some CRMs assume that they will be used exclusively by a sales team. This is an understandable assumption, but Zoho does not make this mistake.
- Upon logging in, you are not sent straight to a standard-looking dashboard, wondering what to do. The splash page is an easy-to-read launchpad to help you make instant progress. It has links to every aspect of the setup process, along with definitions of its own corporate terminology. There are three categories, with many options under them: Getting started with Zoho CRM (define Leads, Contacts, Accounts, Activities), Easy Setup for Administrator (add users and customization), and Personalize Your Settings (set time zone, customize colors, etc). However you want to go about setting up your business, this splash page is immensely helpful.
- Once you’re up and running, there is an ever-present floating icon on the left side of the window that shows recent activity and upcoming tasks. So no matter where you navigate, you can always get back to the latest activity. There is a “Create new” menu option which enables quick creation of most things at any stage of the pipeline. Documents, contacts, deals, leads, notes, events, and products can all be added without much navigation.
- The mobile app is beautiful. Organization is tidy, there is access to everything, and it is equally quick to navigate. It is easy to do all the basic features, and many advanced features. The mobile app won’t totally replace the dashboard, but will allow a highly mobile salesperson to check in at the office less often. Finally, the app has enough flair to not be mind-numbing, but not so much as to be distracting. I found it to be a very solid extension of an office computer.
The Bad News:
Zoho has made improvements to their email integration, document creation and tutorials, which were not quite as functional before. There’s still an issue with adding a new user as either a CEO or manager, but they get good marks for improving in other areas.
Even on their own website, Zoho’s list of features appears to be fairly standard stuff, with a few wonderful exceptions. The true beauty of Zoho CRM is in a few unique features, as well as depth and breadth of functionality.
- Inventory Management: track sales of goods and services. Includes Product lists, price books, vendors, sales quotes, orders, and invoices.
- Document library: Keep all of your documents in one place, and attach them to relevant customer contact.
- Automation: Define scripted actions for auto email correspondence, task creation, alerts, and lead generation via web forms.
- Customize your workflow: Make your Zoho Dashboard a seamless part of your unique workflow. Connect your clients with the representative best suited to handle their needs.
- Dynamic pipeline tracking: Get a detailed overview of your entire sales pipeline, including which stage a deal is in, full contact history, probability of winning, deal size, and even competitor information
- Social media connectivity: Stay informed of the latest updates and changes for your clients. Craft precisely targeted emails and marketing strategies based on up-to-the-minute customer information.
The mobile app has a few nice features as well:
- Set the mobile app to automatically display clients within a set range of you when you’re on the go. I love the idea of getting notifications when a client is nearby, enabling me to make a quick follow-up visit.
- Add, modify contacts on mobile app even when offline. Changes get synced the next time there’s a connection.
There are step-by-step instructions for importing your data from any contact manager that can export to a CSV file. Those instructions can be found here.
Integrations and Add-Ons:
With API becoming increasingly prevalent in the SaaS (Software as a Service) industry, the top developers are coding with compatibility in mind. Zoho is ahead of the curve in this area. In addition to some natural integration with their own fleet of productivity software, I also found these add-ons to be supported and advertised by Zoho:
- MailChimp: Email marketing
- ClickDesk: Live chat & help desk service
- Evernote: Comprehensive note taking app
- Google Apps: Google’s business productivity suite
- Pipemonk: Integrates with Quickbooks and other accounting software
- Contactology: Email marketing
- Wufoo: Online form builder
For further information on Zoho’s integration capabilities, see this page their website
Customer Service and Technical Support:
They offer 24-hour Mon-Fri telephone support for paying customers, for which there is a separate and dedicated telephone number. Customers using their free edition are limited to email support through their web portal, but can flag their communication with varying levels of urgency. The primary methods of customer support and self-service are provided below.
- Phone: 1-877-834-4428 or 1-615-671-9025
- Instructional videos
- Help Page: Includes webinars, web ticket portal, user guide, knowledge base, blogs.
I am somewhat less than enthusiastic about my own experience with their customer service. It may be that my account was flagged as a trial account (they do advertise better service with higher paid memberships) but it took nearly a week to get a response to a simple query that I submitted via web ticket. To be fair, I did not set my query to Urgent status. But when I finally got a response, my question was not even addressed. They offered to call me at my convenience, which sounds great on paper, but my convenience would have been better served with a simple email reply.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
Many of the negative reviews for the mobile app refer to the outdated UI and lack of intuitive design, which is debatable. The mobile app has a solid set of features and the design is pretty intuitive. While the mobile app doesn’t give you access to the full spectrum of features you’d find on the website, it’s still very useful. There are a few other mobile – related issues that users feel Zoho should address, such as app crashes and adding additional email features.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
Zoho Corp has an A- rating with the BBB and only six complaints in the last three years. The most recent reviews for the Zoho CRM mobile app haven’t been as great as those in times past, but Zoho still averages 4 out of 5 stars in the Google Play store with over 1400 ratings, and overall the app is full of great features. Zoho has made several improvements both to the app and to the way they do business in general.
- Mobile app standard for all editions. Use of the mobile app is standard for all editions of Zoho CRM, including the free version.
- Improved features and functionality. Zoho CRM now automatically updates leads onto the server.
Zoho seems to take security very seriously. They report that their facilities have 24/7 video monitoring, biometric access, and fire/flood/theft monitoring systems. Their network security seems equally top-notch, with advanced data encryption and intrusion detection systems.
It’s hard to argue with a CRM that offers the most functionality at the lowest cost. In fact, the only cheaper CRMs that I have found are free, but come with a commensurately limited set of features. Zoho CRM is easily the most bang for your buck. This is not to say that it is perfect. As a software reviewer, I am very sparing with a perfect 5-star rating. Zoho very nearly earned it, and I believe they may yet earn it without much travail.
Zoho CRM would absolutely make it onto my short list if I were developing my own business. And I would confidently stand by my recommendation if I advised an established company to look into incorporating it. The only cross-section of business owners that I would steer away from Zoho CRM would be first-time startups and mom-and-pop shops that do not require a lot of networking. Aside from those demographics, I heartily encourage others to check out this gem. You may discover a tool that you didn’t know you needed. Take it for a test drive and let us know what you think.