Zoho Introduces Zia, an AI-Powered Sales Assistant

Zoho today updated its CRM system with Zia, an artificial intelligence-powered digital assistant that offers salespeople suggestions on the steps they should take to optimize their team and individual performances. Zia is the centerpiece of a number of improvements designed to increase sales reps' productivity.

According to Raju Vegesna, Zoho's chief evangelist, AI is a crucial advancement in CRM but one that comes with key questions. "How do you humanize it and simplify it so that the common man—whether [he is] a small business or enterprise user—can understand the technology?" Vegesna says.

Zoho's response to this challenge is Zia, Vegesna explains. The intelligent assistant operates as a female personality designed to communicate useful information in a funny, witty manner. The tool absorbs and analyzes company CRM usage data to uncover historical trends and surface contextual insights. It works to detect anomalies, make recommendations regarding changes to workflows, and automate routine tasks, such as customer follow-up motions.

According to Vegesna, Zia is capable of figuring out, for instance, when leads have stopped coming in from particular sources and when users should look into the problem to fix it. It can analyze deal history to detect pattern changes that indicate that a rep might be falling behind on his quota and suggest increasing the frequency of follow-ups. By studying customer interactions, the tool can also determine the best days and times to reach out to prospects. Likewise, it can pick up on repetitive tasks and write code that allows users to set actions in motion through custom buttons.

Vegesna notes that the system can immediately help sales organizations increase efficiency, but he concedes that "the more data [one feeds] into the system, the better it gets." While some tasks, such as proposals for productivity, can take a few days to optimize, others, like sales forecasting, might take longer to start picking up.

Zia is available as a feature for Zoho's CRM system, but the company plans to extend it across other applications and systems, including inventory and accounting, marketing, and customer support, Vegesna says.

Zoho today also upgraded its SalesSignals tool to keep salespeople informed about customer activity across touch points, including social media, surveys, and support tickets. The tool now integrates with third-party applications from the likes of SurveyMonkey, Eventbrite, and DocuSign, among others. SalesSignals now allows users to configure rules for lead scoring to help them focus on converting their most promising prospects.

Zoho's Blueprint feature, also included in today's release, is designed to help sales organizations build and implement processes that can be followed across entire teams.

Additionally, Zoho has released its PhoneBridge Platform, allowing for cloud PBX and call center management solutions to integrate telephony systems into Zoho applications. The company has partnered with 15 telephony vendors to give users a call management feature, including click-to-dial and automatic call logging.

"With Zoho CRM, the focus has been on a salesperson's productivity. From Zia to Blueprint to SalesSignals to telephony platforms, each feature is designed to make salespeople more productive," Vegesna said in a statement. "As our CRM platform deepens, we are increasingly seeing large deployments."

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