Zoho CRM Professional Edition

Zoho’s collection of online tools has seen quite an improvement over the past few years. In some ways it is even comparable to the powerful and sophisticated Google Docs. Their Customer Relationship Management is not quite up to standard, but the Zoho CRM Professional Edition does offer a very affordable system which is particularly useful for Google Apps users as well as current Zoho clients.

The free version includes automation for customer support, marketing and sales, including Web forms, forecasting and reporting. The Professional version comes with increased options such as management of inventory, workflow, security and custom data, for $12 a month per user. For $25 a month per user, the Enterprise version also includes data manipulation tools, autoresponders and Web tabs.

Zoho CRM

Zoho CRM

While some vendors might need the extended capabilities of the Enterprise version, the Professional offers the best value for money for most small and medium businesses. The price can go up significantly if you need to opt for the plug-ins for Office, Outlook and Zoho Mail – these can cost you an extra $3 to $5 per user monthly. You can however at anytime choose to downgrade, upgrade or cancel services, and the cost is still reasonable in comparison to other CRM apps such as Salesforce.com Professional, at $30 a month per user.

The layout of Zoho CRM Professional Edition is not particularly exciting, but it is simple to use and very customizable. In fact, to use it to its full potential, you’ll find yourself needing to customize it heavily right from the start. You can place data sets in module form anywhere you like, and there is also the option of the three Potential Dashboards.

You can track contacts and accounts through specific organizations, set up unique customer accounts, and manage leads and potential leads. Information can be imported from Excel, VCF and CSV and converted to usable data. Where Zoho CRM Professional Edition really comes into its own is in the use of Web apps: information collected from customers on your web site can be automatically compiled into a Zoho CRM contact.

You can assign returned URLs (such as thank-you pages) and assign leads to sales reps on a geographical basis. Support and trouble-report tickets can be done in the same way. It is all cloud-based, using simple HTML code to incorporate the forms into a web site.

Other particularly useful functions include templates for simple e-marketing campaigns, and functional integration with other Zoho products. Zoho’s Meeting allows you to broadcast to the multiple customers’ screens, or even use remote administration for troubleshooting. At mobile.zoho.com/crm there are Android and iPhone- formatted sites, and the Blackberry version is in development.

Although Zoho doesn’t match products such as SugarCRM and Salesforce.com for sophistication, it is far more affordable. And for detail-oriented small and medium businesses, it is certainly a smart choice.

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