Zoho Remakes its CRM System, Introducing SalesInbox and Launching Zoho Marketplace

In what the company is calling its largest upgrade to date, Zoho has revamped its CRM system, unveiling a new user interface, bolstered support for multichannel customer communications, new sales-related email capabilities, and the Zoho Marketplace app store.

According to Raju Vegesna, Zoho's chief evangelist, this week's update includes more than 50 new features in all. The most notable of these, he says, is the new user interface, which features a charting agent that was "built from scratch." Vegesna points out that within the new interface, every module has been redesigned to support an intuitive, user-friendly experience. A new timeline view is designed to give sales professionals a view of customer data, as well as any interactions these customers have had with their team, in one environment.

New activity-based filtering options allow users to view active leads, notes, and emails according to CRM-based criteria. Vegesna says that reps can use the filtering function to view, for instance, accounts that have opened an email that was sent in the past three days, or accounts in which notes were taken over the past week.

A Sales Signals feature aims to keep professionals informed about account activity as it occurs across different channels, and in communications that are not always relayed directly to the sales department. So if a salesperson looks up "a particular prospect or contact within the CRM system, all the activity across various channels is displayed," Vegesna says. "It could be a chat, it could be an email, it could be through the support system, it could be a survey the person may have responded to—that information is contextually captured here."

On top of this, Zoho has introduced Gamescope, "which is essentially gamification for CRM," Vegesna says. The addition is designed to encourage friendly competition within organizations, as sales professionals are rewarded with badges based on their performance in meeting various goals. The goals "could be based on the number of leads created, the number of deals closed, or the number of calls made," Vegesna says.

Also new from Zoho is the SalesInbox product, which is designed to help users prioritize their messages, as it classifies messages according to type by drawing from data stored within their CRM systems. "Typically, your email client is littered with emails from your colleagues, spam, newsletters, important deals—all of those together," Vegesna says. "It's a good idea to organize these closely." The system does this for a salesperson. For instance, columns might be labeled as "contacts," "not stored in CRM," "leads," or "colleagues," to help the user figure out where to focus her attention when new messages roll in.

Within the SalesInbox, sales professionals can also drill into the details associated with each contact to view information such as the sizes of their current and past deals, any calls they should be making, support tickets, or mentions on social media. Users can also take actions from within SalesInbox, as CRM updates appear within it, on a customer timeline that highlights their past activity. If the user's CRM system is connected to a telephony system, he can make calls directly from within his inbox.  

SalesInbox can also be configured to set up reminders and monitor the status of email responses. For instance, if a salesperson sends an email to a client and is expecting a reply, she can set the system to alert her if she hasn't yet received one. "It's an intelligent system to keep the salesperson on top of things," Vegensa says.

SalesInbox integrates with with Gmail, Exchange, Yahoo! Mail, Zoho Mail, and other standard email providers; the customer data can be imported either from Zoho or Salesforce.com's CRM systems.

While the SalesInbox is accessible via mobile devices, the functionality is slightly different; it excludes the column features, for example. Still, it does provide users with contextual information, as well as any activity filters and customer folders that they've created for their various deals.

For Zoho, Vegesna explains, these releases are part of an ongoing effort to deepen the functionality of its tool set and expand into a platform that will meet the needs of larger businesses. Vegesna says that Zoho—primarily known for providing tools to SMBs—has been extending to midmarket customers and enterprise customers; these customers "are requesting several features within the product, and these updates are a result of that."

To enable further extensions, Zoho has launched Zoho Developer, a program that grants independent software vendors and application developers the resources to create custom-built applications, as well as the Zoho Marketplace, an online store where users can purchase such apps. "The key thing is we're making the Marketplace available within the product, so you don't have to leave the CRM system to see and extend your CRM product," Vegensa says.

Zoho's launch partners for the Marketplace include Zendesk, Eventbrite, and SurveyMonkey, among other SaaS vendors.

According to Vegensa, Zoho has also opened two new data centers in Europe.  

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