The Importance of Choosing a Cloud Provider Who Listens to their User Base
When choosing a cloud CRM solution it is important to choose one that is run by providers who are flexible and who offer great support, and by 'great support' we do not mean they have to always get it right, but that they have to at least be seen to try to do so and offer users as many channels as possible to submit issues as well as feedback on functions they would like to see in the software.
Over the years we have seen many releases by Zoho in all of their cloud business software and much has been released as a result of listening to the requests made by their user base.
OK... we're the first to admit they do not always get it right and there will always be some disgruntled users out there who will say "No way, I requested this and that and it never got implemented"; it is not possible to please everyone of course, certainly not with more than 6 million users! It is however possible to shine through in other ways such as personalised support and call backs, to be seen attempting to support users and resolving issues on a one to one basis goes a long way too, providing a strong partner network with partners who are well trained in the products and also of course, developing software releases that the user base demands.
We're well versed in numerous CRM software and some providers are better at this last point than others. Salesforce.com is in our opinion the best CRM solution that money can buy but with a price tag to match; they are experts at developing what users want. SageCRM though, in our opinion, are still releasing more cosmetic bells and whistles that do not seem to really solve the real needs of many sales people we've spoken to, which in our experience is to reduce admin and working time to make more sales using rapid functions and mobile CRM. They seem to be filling a perceived need for stuff like more and more social integration, email marketing, without making their software necessarily any easier or faster to use, better reporting capabilities, or more cross browser and mobile friendly. These are just our opinions, SageCRM is excellent software too, and they have a superb communication channel direct to the Sage team, but we feel the needs of many users we have spoken to who use it are not always addressed in new features.
With this in mind we have summarised below the main Zoho CRM releases that were made public a couple of weeks ago as we feel they demonstrate very well how Zoho is listening to you, the users, and how they are trying hard to match their software to a wider variety of businesses, of all sizes.
In summary, the latest releases are:
- Territory management, which provides for better segmentation, forecasting and client management.
- Improvements to the existing Zoho CRM integration with social media such as Facebook and Twitter, allowing you to communicate through these channels from within Zoho CRM.
- Improved integration with Zoho Campaigns, the powerful email marketing solution from Zoho.
- Zoho Support, Zoho's online customer support (helpdesk) software, already integrates to Zoho CRM but now there is IVR, Interactive Voice Response and additional mobile applications for the iPhone and iPad to provide instant notifications to support agents. See more details on our blog.
- Perhaps the best of the latest releases is the 'custom module' feature, which allows admins to create custom modules that suit any type of business as well as extending Zoho CRM’s ability to integrate with external systems.
Improved Data Security and Segmentation with Territory Management
OK, so Salesforce.com and SageCRM have had this function for years, but they are typically aimed at the enterprise level companies who work over large areas and who can afford their license fees. Zoho CRM focused on other functionality as well as keeping their license fees to a price SMBs can afford and did not have this feature until now, the logic being that smaller business are less likely to use territories.
However in this day and age this is not the case as more business work online and physical distances are no longer barriers to doing business. After many users requested this feature Zoho listened and implemented it into their flagship product.
You can now organise your customers and sales staff into territories, providing for better sales management and segmentation, categorizing by locations, regions, divisions, industry groups, product makes, product models, etc.
Zoho CRM users can now make sales forecasts by the categories that they have defined, which potentially offers more granular sales reporting.
Importantly, the new territory management functions can also be used to improve data security as only sales people assigned to the territories will be able to see data within them.
Zoho CRM Custom Modules Provide Greater Flexibility to Match Any Business
After seeing a general demand for more powerful customisation functions the new Zoho CRM custom module function can be used to build customised 'modules' that specifically match your business. What that means is you can define custom fields, layouts, workflow triggers, create reports and associate this information with data in other modules such as accounts, contacts, leads, opportunities, cases, activities and campaigns.
For example, in the screenshot above you can see the module being created is named 'Apartments', which could be useful for a Real Estate business say, to store information about apartments that they sell or rent.
The result is, instead of overloading the sales (Potential) screen with this information, it can be kept in the new custom module and associated with the sales module and then have other functions related to it, such as alerts or other workflow or reports on apartment sold/rented.
Improved Social Media Integration and Communication
Whilst social marketing may not be for everyone, many users requested that Zoho CRM develop better integration to Facebook and Twitter. Zoho CRM has been integrated to these and LinkedIn for some time but the new features provide even better communication capability with these social channels.
Users can now review client communications from Facebook and Twitter within the Zoho CRM contact detail page, meaning all of the contact's posts on their favourite social channels will be captured for your sales, marketing and support teams.
We are also hoping that this exciting new feature will also be available soon for LinkedIn discussion updates and will update our blog once we know this is being released.
Better Integration to External Systems
More and more business are using a variety of cloud and on premise software for different parts of their business. The demand is to be able to link your business CRM software to these systems.
Zoho CRM has been able to communicate with external systems for some time now by utilising the webhooks feature which can be used to send instant notifications every time an event occurs in Zoho CRM.
The latest enhancements now mean Zoho CRM can communicate through workflow triggers so that information is pushed to external systems but the best bit is that it can also update the CRM record based on the data the third party application has pushed back to Zoho CRM.
So, for example, you could send customer and sales data after closing an opportunity in Zoho CRM to a third party accounting system that subsequently requests if the client has an existing balance then an order status is updated to pending authorization in Zoho CRM.
This integration also allows you to update data in other CRM modules.
Improved Email Statistics for Sales and Marketing
Zoho Campaigns email and social media marketing solution has long been integrated with Zoho CRM, but common feedback was that it was too 'high level' and needed to show more information in the Campaigns module of Zoho CRM to be of real use.
Well, Zoho listened and the new Zoho Campaigns to Zoho CRM integration feature provides a lot more information about your email/online campaigns, all from within the CRM allowing sales and marketing people to see the results of any campaigns without the need to be users in oho Campaigns itself
Territory Management, Custom Modules and Custom Functions are included in the Zoho CRM Enterprise edition.
With the enhanced social media features being available initially for the Enterprise edition and will be also available to Professional subscribers later on.
The enhanced Zoho Campaigns information is available in all Zoho CRM paid editions.
Whilst the media releases regarding the above latest Zoho CRM releases primarily push the fact that Zoho CRM is now aiming towards larger businesses as opposed to the Small Medium Business segment, which has been its bread and butter to date, based on the amazing ideas many small business owners come up with and innovative ways to streamline their businesses, and given the fact it is often much easier to instigate change in a small business, we still feel these functions will be as important to the 'little guys' as well as the larger corporations. We certainly hope so anyway.
So we feel, in addition to larger companies, SMB’s with complex, industry specific requirements will be willing to subscribe to the Zoho CRM Enterprise fee of US$35 (approx 21 GBP) per user per month and take advantage of small business license costs and enterprise functionality.
We hope that by detailing what Zoho have release lately based on a combination of expert analysis of software and CRM trends as well as, importantly, feedback from users, we have demonstrated the importance of choosing a software provider who really listen to you, the user.
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