Product review: Zoho CRM aims big, hits small
New Enterprise Edition delivers SMB-worthy features at a rock-bottom price, but key shortcomings make it a poor match for large sales and service teams
I was able to import existing records (CSV/XLS) and match my fields to Zoho’s – but transforming the data en route is not possible. The record de-duplication utility also proved handy as there is no checking for duplicates on record entry.
My home page offered anticipated features such as a calendar and task menu, quick links to recent items, and customizable data views (both tabular and graphical). I would prefer to receive alerts for calendar items and events – another missing feature.
In all, the browser-based interface was adequate. I experienced some buggy interactions with the back button (attributable to AJAX calls), and though inline editing is available for many fields, the constant page updates required for most tasks would benefit from some smarter AJAX injection or an eventual Adobe AIR desktop client.
One-click conversion of leads made easy work of populating accounts, contacts, and pipeline fields as sales opportunities advanced. Thanks to ample recordkeeping slots, attachments, activities, e-mails, and notes, as well as quotes, orders, invoices, and service cases could all be tied to records.
I found workflow rules to be easy to set up, though they don't go beyond basic Boolean operators. AdventNet could learn from the graphical workflow designer in SageCRM, and from RightNow’s tools to improve setup and breadth of workflow design. Nevertheless, I could create rules that assigned and advanced leads and cases on a per-user basis (if not yet groups) and I could create triggers that fired them when a record was created or changed.
Built-in forecasting supports quarterly planning and tracking with decent what-if scenarios. For the sake of clarity, I would like to see better separation between managers' forecasts and their direct reports'.
On the service side, case workers will find good access to account data and a searchable solutions base, though a few improvements would be welcome here as well. It would be nice to be able to search the solutions repository directly from the Case tab, rather than having to navigate to another module. E-mailing directly from within a case would also be helpful. And for the sake of customer satisfaction, open cases should be sortable by date created or days aged, and escalatable by time-based triggers.
Bells and whistles
I found reports and dashboards to be standard fare. The number of canned reports pales in comparison to what you’ll find in Salesforce.com, but all can be customized on most any data point and shared or secured. Reports can be scheduled for e-mail delivery, and exported to an Excel or PDF file.
I was able to add the Flash-based dashboards to my home page tab, giving me a heads-up view at login and the ability to quickly drill down to underlying data.
Although Zoho CRM offers no offline or mobile edition, the optional Outlook plug-in adds buttons to sync local contacts, tasks, and calendar data with the hosted app. I was also able to push e-mails (with attachments under 1MB) to Zoho CRM and associate them to existing records.