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Zoho's (news, site) Raju Vegesna took time to guide us through the latest features of the company's cloud-based CRM suite.

 

Zoho Puts It All In The Cloud

Zoho has been winning over users with its ever-increasing range of small and midsize business apps. It started out with office productivity, then moved into collaboration and now has a well-rounded suite of larger-scale apps for bigger businesses. With apps to rival most players on the desktop or web space, Zoho is now busy tying them all together to offer an integrated one-stop-shop service for its users.

Offering its services for free to small users and at competitive pricing for larger workforces, Zoho launched its CRM solution around two and a half years ago. Regularly updated since then, it was the focus of a virtual tour by Raju Vegesna. Suitable for sales, marketing and support tasks, it has all the features you would expect of a CRM and a few more.

CRM Always On The Go

Zoho CRM offers tools for salesforce and marketing automation, customer details and inventory management plus forms and reporting to access all that data. Of the three CRM versions, the Professional edition is proving the most popular, Zoho is generating revenue as users upgrade from the Free version (for three or less users) while the Enterprise edition is attracting business up to around 1,000 employees, showing that the company isn't just appealing to little companies, impressed by the cheery logo.

Zoho is also listening to those users and is heavily integrating features into the CRM. Some criticisms of first reviews for Zoho CRM were complicated setup and limited security. User import features will address the setup issue, allowing users to pull contact data from other sources while field-level security settings have improved the security.

Playing Nice With The Neighbors

Other early additions were email support for Outlook and Google Docs. Zoho is well aware that users are constantly migrating from or using multiple systems and is happy to support them all, adding support for the widest range of other apps as frequently as it can.

One of the newer features is Copy Customization. This allows Zoho users in different companies to share some or their system-level configuration as they start working together. So, if your company starts dealing with another business who can make use of a subset of your contacts, then you can make them available.

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Copying CRM systems and data is easy with Zoho
 

The Social Scene

As with most other packages, Zoho is introducing a range of social features. Zoho mail contacts can be directly imported into CRM with email messages, and can help create templates for email campaigns. You can view emails from other members of your team to the same contact and Zoho Chat is integrated (using groups -- so conversations can be focused), mail, chat, Docs integration -- with Google Calendar support, and quickbooks. Phew!

All that integration works the other way too. Zoho is one of the most popular applications for offer on Google's Marketplace. While further improvements will include tweaks like Zoho Sheet View enabling users to edit multiple contacts at once.

Increasingly, mobile working will play a more important role, and Zoho is stepping up to the challenge. There is a mobile version of Zoho CRM currently available for all smartphones and an iPhone App Store version of Zoho Docs. So it's not too hard to envision an iPhone or iPad specific version of CRM.

Cram in Some CRM

Zoho's CRM is available for US$ 12 per user/month for the Professional edition or US$ 25 for the Enterprise version that has added features like mail merge to Zoho Writer, data depuplication and case escalation rules, that larger companies will need.