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Zoho CRM: Is It The Solution Your Business Needs?

It’s hard to know exactly what every customer wants. Some expect personalized service and attention on a near-daily basis, while others are content with being left alone until a crucial conversation is needed. Regardless of the type of customers that your business has, it’s important to have a way—scratch that, many ways—to reach them.

Scattered emails, customers that use various chat applications (not the chat app that your company supports), and phone calls to and from personal lines may have gotten the job done in the early days of your business, but these communication channels no longer cut the mustard as your business grows and expands.

One solution that businesses have enlisted is a part of the Zoho suite of software products: Zoho CRM.

Zoho CRM: What You Need To Know

Zoho CRM offers businesses a customer lifecycle management solution that allows prospects to be tracked through the sales funnel, with some automation to do some of the heavy lifting. Zoho CRM offers competitive customer relationship management capabilities, but does it offer everything that a full-bodied ERP software solution can?

Let’s look at the positives and negatives your business may face when choosing Zoho CRM, and how and why other alternatives may be a better fit for your business and its unique needs.

ERP business management software solutions

Pros Of Zoho CRM

Many businesses are familiar with the Zoho suite of products. Zoho has over 40 apps in total that perform a number of different functions. Zoho Desk, Zoho Recruit, and Zoho Meeting are just a few of the many products that Zoho offers. 

For Zoho CRM in particular, there are a few areas where it stands out among the competition. G2, a leading software review source, lists Zoho CRM’s data import & export tools among its top features. Also, its contact and account management functionality is one of the areas that it functions the best. 

As for the price of Zoho CRM, it’s affordable for businesses of any size. Zoho CRM offers a free trial, and its plans begin at $14/month per user. However, this base plan doesn’t come with all of the features that the enterprise plan offers. The Zoho CRM enterprise plan begins at $40/month per user. Some CRM bundle subscriptions go as high as $69/month per user.

Cons Of Zoho CRM

On its own, Zoho CRM is a powerful customer relationship management tool. From a brand with a worldwide presence, the tools it offers provide value to customers and its easy-to-use design feels comfortable for those who may not fashion themselves as inherently tech-savvy.

One of the most glaring downsides of Zoho CRM is not about Zoho CRM itself, but about the Zoho applications as a whole—while each individual module is powerful, functional, and affordable, getting the most out of Zoho requires using and paying for any number of the Zoho suite of applications. 

In other words, the price and complexity of juggling various software packages can really add up. For small and growing businesses that require multiple users on the system, this cost is often too high to justify. Instead of a single, all-in-one business management software platform that handles everything from accounting, projects, and time management in addition to CRM capabilities, Zoho has essentially split up these features among its 40-odd modules.

zoho crm alternative

While this is ideal for some larger organizations that only need one or two modules to accompany their existing, legacy software solutions, it is less than ideal for smaller organizations that are in need of a complete business management software solution.

Beyond the cost of deploying multiple software products, Zoho CRM falls short when it comes to customer support satisfaction. G2 reviewers have ranked Zoho CRM’s quality of support at 7.5/10, which is below the CRM industry average of 8.6/10. Capterra—another leading software review site—lists a 4 out of 5 rating for customer service.

Zoho CRM: Will It Work For You?

While Zoho CRM offers competitively priced and intuitive CRM tools, it falls short when it comes to offering other vital, non-CRM-centric features that provide immense value to small and growing businesses. For those that are extremely budget conscious and looking to get the most value out of their technology stack, there are some Zoho CRM alternatives that are worth looking into.

Further, many reviewers acknowledge that while Zoho CRM functions well, getting a hold of and receiving valuable help from the Zoho customer support team can often be difficult.

Striven – The All-In-One ERP Software

Projects, operations, tasks, and HR benefit from software solutions. And in today’s world, most companies need a software solution compatible with today’s landscape of working remotely. Having CRM software on its own just isn’t enough anymore, either.

The Zoho family of products contains modules and add-ons to accommodate all of your business needs. However, unlike other all-in-one business management software solutions such as Striven, expect to pay for each additional module and piece of functionality that you’ll need. With Striven, you have all of the tools you need to succeed in one place, together and simplified. No need to worry about paying for add-ons or bloated software that simply doesn’t fit your business needs. The best part? You can try it for free.

Managing Customer Relationships With Business Management Software

Some types of businesses have customers, some have clients, and some have both. Maybe your business refers to its clientele as something else entirely. However you refer to the humans handing you a form of payment in return for your goods or services, it’s always crucial to build, maintain, and—when necessary—repair the relationships you have with them.

customer attraction and retention with business management software

One of the best ways to do that in our modern, largely-online world? Utilize business management software to enhance the overall sales pipeline, from lead generation to point of sale and beyond. 

It’s not just CRM capabilities that play a role in this process. One of the advantages that business management software brings to the table in the world of cultivating customer relationships is that there is the opportunity to gather data beyond simple contact information and buyer intent.

By utilizing prior accounting metrics, productivity reports, and other types of data gathered both from customers and employees. You’ll be able to make more informed decisions throughout the entire lead generation, sales, and retention pipeline.

How To Enhance The Sales Process

Centralized Information

The key to attracting customers is all about having the right information at hand. It’s not just about having one lead’s email address and a record of what specific form they filled out, it’s about everything else. 

Beyond this individual’s basic information, what data is available to you? Are you able to quickly see if this person had a prior interest? Are their interests in line with the current trends you’re seeing within your products/services? Are you able to take advantage of quote-to-order functionality to keep everyone in the loop about the status of the sales process?

Each company in every industry handles its sales processes differently, but regardless of the specifics, it pays to have accurate, timely information on hand.

In 2022, overall customer relationship technology usage increased from 56% to 74%. As businesses shifted to an online-first approach more rapidly than ever, having enhanced access to customer data was one key contributor to success.

customer relationship management. people sitting on a CRM cloud

Automated Email Campaigns

Small business owners are always pressed for time. There are never enough hours in the day to get everything done. (Spoiler alert: there never will be.)

On top of that, wasted time and inefficient planning are among the biggest issues plaguing the average small business owner. According to one study conducted by Inc. Magazine, small business owners waste an average of 21.8 hours per week. In addition, 49% of working professionals have never conducted a “time audit” to fully analyze, understand, and improve how they spend their time.

automation business management software

Though there are a vast number of ways that business owners and employees can increase their overall productivity and efficiency, automation stands front and center as the most helpful piece of the puzzle. In this case, automation is utilized to effectively reach prospects and customers while you are able to dedicate your time and energy elsewhere.

Easily crafting emails in a code-free interface, utilizing lead scoring capabilities, and creating drip campaigns for each specific revenue stream that your business manages will help alleviate the stress of manually tracking prospects and sending individual marketing emails.

Built-In Accounting Data

Data is at the heart of every good decision. When it comes to the value of managing customer relationships via an integrated business management system, it pays to have the best data available at all times. In this case, the most important data is often the financial data.

Not every fast decision is a great decision, but great decisions that are able to be made fast are always the best decisions.

Being able to provide customers with accelerated invoicing and payment channels, accurate price forecasts that are derived from up-to-date inventory and work orders, and a better understanding of overall buying trends will help empower your sales force to increase their closing rate and leave customers satisfied.

How To Stay Connected To Your Customers

Customer Portals

Yes, the initial sales process is important. However, customer retention, if managed properly, can be even more financially rewarding than any individual sale.

The probability of selling to a new customer usually falls between 5 and 20%, depending on the specific nature of the industry and the products or services offered. However, when it comes to existing customers, this number dramatically increases—selling to an existing customer usually carries a success rate of 60 to 70%.

Combined with the fact that 55% of millennials claim to be more brand loyal today than 39% of consumers aged 35 and up, a focus on customer retention has to be a long-term priority for every business.

One thing that the modern customer desires is a personalized experience with the ability to retrieve information anytime, anywhere, on any device. With advanced customer portal technology that’s built into the best business management software platforms, you’ll be able to achieve both of these goals. 

Customer portals provide up-to-the-minute service updates, open up a line of communication for questions or concerns, show a detailed payment/shipping/order history, and provide an opportunity for customers to know their needs are being personally attended to.

Chat And Discussion Boards

Staying connected to others is important in all aspects of life. It helps us learn, grow, and achieve goals that we would have not been able to accomplish individually. It’s easy for a coffee shop to flourish as a catalyst for connection and community—it naturally brings people together, bonding over the sweet tastes and aromas of their favorite drink and acts as a natural societal meeting point for people that want to bond, vent, and commiserate.

Well, not every business has the luxury of having a product that is so universally ingrained into the cultural fabric of society. For other businesses, it takes a little more work, creativity, and technology to bring people together.

Self-service help is often the first choice of the modern customer. 91% of customers surveyed would use an online knowledge base if customized and tailored to their needs.

crm software business management

Though it can’t replace the coffee shop, the internet and its countless mediums of communication are effective at creating conversation around a central topic. Your customers will always have questions, and there will be some that have already found answers to these questions. While your business will always be prepared to field questions, it provides a benefit to establish a community chat board where people with common goals and inquiries can talk amongst each other. Two heads are always better than one. 

Feedback And Surveys

We know that customer complaints run rampant in today’s digital age. Some lack context, some are unfair, some are simply vulgar, and some are brutally honest. (Yes, positive feedback exists on the internet, too.)

As much as positive feedback is appreciated, it’s equally—if not more—important that customers be able to give direct feedback on the negative experiences they have. It can help your business continue to learn and improve after each and every sale, shoring up the areas where service, quality, or communication may have been lacking.

4 characters completing a survey

Customer engagement tools both let the customer know that their relationship is valued and provide an opportunity for them to give you invaluable feedback. Your business should be able to automate surveys to be delivered at specific times (i.e. after a sale, after a refund, etc), and provide customizable form fields where customers can choose “1-10” style ratings or just enter their own text.

Wrapping Up

If it seems like customers are more demanding than ever, you wouldn’t be wrong. Nearly 59% of consumers worldwide say that they have higher demands and expectations in regard to customer service than they did just a year ago.

In an increasingly competitive environment, it’s important to utilize the tools that give you the biggest competitive advantage. By maximizing the capabilities of business management software, you’ll be able to attract more customers, retain more customers, and overall improve the products and experiences that help you maintain a healthy bottom line.

How CRM Software Can Kickstart Your Sales

Post-it notes, notebooks, filing systems, Rolodexes, and spreadsheets. They all have two things in common: they’re used for storing information, and they don’t share very well. They don’t talk to one another, and passing them to the next person sometimes requires interpretation. They’re like kids working on a group project with the same basic instructions but entirely different ways to tackle their part.

Stressed office worker with too much demand on thier time

They’re highly individualistic when it comes to customer profiling. Your sales agent might use:

  • a post-it to jot down their lead’s new address from a recent phone call. 
  • a filing system or a Word document to hold information on each client’s purchase or interest. 
  • a spreadsheet with manually-entered vendor information they obtained at last month’s conference. 

And your employees will also record their customer data using a style that may not transfer well to someone who needs to know: you. The group project leader.

Your services or products themselves take many routes to obtain new clients. Word of mouth, search engines, any advertising you may deploy, social media, and partnerships are all avenues for building your professional community. But where does that information get stored at the customer level?

Consolidating Your Customer Profile

Isolated information from these methods fragments your customer profile. And as your client volume scales upwards, things become more complex and more difficult to track without a centralized solution. 

No matter what type of growing small business you manage—service-based, manufacturing, distribution—you need a way to track that information. You need to: 

  • qualify and manage your prospective leads, and hit your sales targets as your presence grows. 
  • find a way to provide a personalized experience to each client by rounding out their data in an easily-accessible format. 
  • access hub where your lead sources, prospective customers, your existing clients, and their needs reside. 

You need a CRM, short for ‘customer relationship management’ software system.

But if you’ve never used a CRM, how do you know what to look for?

Key Functions of CRM Software

As Jason Kulpa writes in Forbes, a CRM system “creates a simple user interface for a collection of data that helps businesses recognize and communicate with customers in a scalable way.” CRM systems are built for client management and engagement.

crm software funnel

Here are some of the key functions of CRM software:

  • Puts your customers’ information front and center, allowing you to target their interests and give them an experience tailored to them.
  • Helps your sales team prioritize their leads and determine how complex their approach needs to be for each potential client.
  • Allows management to see how sales agents are performing, and where they need direction.

In order to know which CRM software will be useful for your company, it’s important to evaluate your business’ unique challenges. For a small business, your main set of challenges usually begins with the sales pipeline. Some questions you should be asking:

  • Where do each of your leads come from? 
  • How much time do you spend sending out emails to prospective clients?
  • Where do you keep your notes on each client’s preferences?
  • How do you track your sales?

These and other topics are important to identify and discuss with your team. Talking with your employees about their needs and doing your research will help you move forward with CRM software in a way that leads to a more efficient sales-client relationship.

CRM: a Gateway to Standardized Communication

The best CRM systems integrate across silos to meet the needs of all relevant departments, operating as part of a larger system that can do more. Yes, your sales team is the main user of your CRM, but how often does your entire team need access to related data?

Take service-based businesses for example, in which task management is routine. In real estate or property management, the services you provide clients in relation to a sale factor into your CRM needs. 

customer relationship management. people sitting on a CRM cloud

Some examples:

  1. As a realtor, you may need to stage a home in order to make the sale. You’ll have specific tasks that need to be addressed before the home can be considered ‘staged’: remove or decrease personal items of the owner. Rent furniture and/or plants to give the property the right look and feel for prospective buyers. Work on the home’s curb appeal to create a welcoming atmosphere during the open house.
  2. As a property manager, you may need to schedule a visit to replace the hot water heater in one of your client’s properties before they can obtain a tenant. When a new tenant signs a lease, you may need to need to remodel a feature of the bathroom or rekey the doors. And members of your team will need to respond to ongoing maintenance requests to keep those tenants.
  3. These tasks may or may not be done by the same people over time. So if you’re still taking notes on paper and using a filing system to keep tasks or larger projects organized, you’re doing your business a disservice. You’re in sore need of centralized communication.


crm software

Clients and tasks require you to have an accessible database of knowledge in order to attain a higher level of sales functionality. They also display the need for cross-functional software with features that address reporting, accounting, and project management.

So is CRM software right for your business? If you’re a business and you want to kickstart your sales in 2020, the answer is yes. 

This article is part of a series on CRM software. Stay in touch to find out more about CRM, its uses and functions, and how it can help your business grow in 2020.