Zoho has added an artificial intelligence (AI)-based virtual assistant to its customer relationship management (CRM) tool. The new feature, Zoho Intelligent Assistant (or Zia), is an automation engine designed to deliver unprompted, data-based recommendations to sales staff whenever they are using Zoho CRM. Think Microsoft Clippy but a lot smarter and much more helpful.
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Zia is engineered to detect system usage anomalies, suggest optimal workflows and macros, and advise salespeople on when to contact a prospect, according to Zoho Chief Evangelist Raju Vegesna. Zia generates suggestions based on a salesperson's CRM usage patterns, including what's been working well, what hasn't been working well, and what the sales rep can do to improve CRM use.
The virtual assistant lives along the right-hand side rail of your CRM tool. Zia updates based on new information that has been fed into the system to provide CRM users with data for better decision making. For example, Zia makes sales predictions based on previous earnings and targets to encourage sales teams to work harder to meet quotas. Zia then sends alerts to teams and users who have generated fewer leads than they had projected.
Perhaps the coolest feature is Zia's ability to make suggestions for task automation. For example, if a sales rep is consistently engaged in repetition-based data entry, then Zia will automatically create and recommend a macro for the user. If the user accepts the macro, then the system will create a less repetitious workaround.
Here's how it works: If you attempt to communicate with a lead, then you'll send an email and make a phone call. If you don't get an immediate response to either form of communication, then you'll log both actions separately in the contact's file. Next, you'll enter "Will call back in two days" into the file. That's three separate actions that typically work in concert with one another and almost always get entered into the CRM system simultaneously. Now imagine repeating this process for every one of your prospects and clients. To cut down on the data entry, Zia can create a macro in which all three fields are automatically entered at once rather than forcing your sales reps to re-enter all three fields every time a lead goes missing in action.
Vegesna said he envisions Zia becoming a platform to which third parties can add their own features and skills to enhance how their reps interact with a CRM system. "We have that in mind and we are developing with that in mind," he said. "Anyone should be able to create their own virtual personal assistant."
In addition to Zia, Zoho also unveiled a new CRM feature that allows sales teams to build custom business processes within the CRM system without having to enter any code or create business pathways. Blueprint is a drag and drop widget that lets administrators create strict sales processes from scratch.
Blueprint users will drag and drop tasks into a mapped out sequence, specifically designed for a business's repetitious sales procedures. The process automation is enforced by specific code that is automatically written by the system, and by users who create custom fields that are specific to each individual business process. "We're taking the existing system and applying automation rules and making it work," said Vegesna.
SalesSignals and PhoneBridge
Finally, Zoho has also announced the launch of the SalesSignals Platform, a real-time dashboard that notifies sales reps about customer actions, including social media posts, survey entries, and support requests, among other touchpoints. SalesSignal, which was previously released as a CRM feature, now offers an out-of-the-box integration with ten tools, including SurveyMonkey, Eventbrite, SMS Magic, and DocuSign. It also features an Open API, which means it can be extended to any third-party application where clients might be discussing your brand or taking sales-related actions.
In addition to SalesSignals, Zoho has also released the Zoho PhoneBridge Platform, a telephony integration builder for Zoho apps. Previously a feature inside of Zoho CRM, the PhoneBridge Platform is now used by 15 PBX vendors, and is open to third-party developers who can tie the platform into their software in order to provide better sales team oversight for call management, including automatic call logging and one-click dialing.
Working with Zoho
Zia will be available for anyone using Zoho CRM's Enterprise Edition and above. SalesSignals will be available across all paid plans. For those who've never used Zoho CRM, it's one of our Editors' Choice CRM tools, thanks to its sales-driven gamification experience, its deep integrations with other Zoho products, and its affordable pricing. Zoho CRM features a drag-and-drop widget design, global search, and a multiple-page layout option that offers deep customization. In addition to solid contact, lead management, and data filters, Zoho offers extensive reports that include data visualization and forecasting features.
Zoho offers a free package alongside four paid options. The free edition is restricted to 10 users, while the Zoho CRM Plus package starts at $50 per user per month for an unlimited number of users, including online surveys, advanced social media marketing and analytics, and even access to Zoho's email marketing platform, SalesInbox.