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Zoho Review

Best Overall CRM Software

A Business News Daily Review

Product and service reviews are conducted independently by our editorial team, but we sometimes make money when you click on links. Learn more.

Easy to implement, intuitive to use and inexpensive to adopt, Zoho CRM is our 2018 best overall CRM software.

The original Zoho Office Suite launched in 2005 with an open-source programmed word processor. Today, the SaaS company offers individuals and businesses affordable tools for custom app creation, accounting, document management and, of course, customer relationship management.

While larger players in the CRM industry have just started offering small business versions of their enterprise software solutions, Zoho has always been focused on the small business set, which means its tools were built with SMB users in mind first, not as an afterthought. Zoho's tools carry the reputation of being easy to implement and equally easy to use; they're not just for companies with massive budgets or extensive in-house tech support.

Zoho CRM software offers lots of functionality at a competitive price point. While the customization options aren't as extensive as those of some other CRMs we reviewed, there are still a lot of ways to tailor Zoho to meet your needs. Plus, everything within the Zoho ecosystem is built to work together, so if you require tech tools beyond the scope of CRM, you can build out a comprehensive business solution with relative ease.

To understand how we selected our best picks, you can view our methodology, as well as a comprehensive list of CRM software, on our best picks page.

Editor's note: Looking for information on CRM software for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our sister site BuyerZone connect you with vendors that can help.

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As with any software implementation project, the more customization you require, the longer the process will be. In general, though, Zoho CRM is easy to implement and use. The fact that it offers a free version for up to three users makes it an accessible choice for very small businesses, especially those that have not used a CRM before. Plus, the massive and highly comprehensive catalog of online documentation covers every step of the customization and implementation process.

Once the initial setup is complete, Zoho CRM is highly user-friendly. Like Zoho's other business apps, its CRM module feels modern, clean and intuitive for end users. The icons in the upper right corner offer real-time notifications like those in social media, so it's easy to check emails, chats, upcoming events and tickets without navigating away from your primary task. The recent activity and upcoming task tracking also makes it easy to stay productive. The mobile version of Zoho CRM is simple to use too, with great built-in features like the ability to check in at specified locations, pull leads based on geography and scan business cards.

 

If your business already uses other Zoho products, such as Creator or Mail, you may want to consider investing in Zoho One, an all-in-one business ecosystem that includes Zoho CRM, Zoho Creator, Zoho Mail, Zoho Books (for accounting) and Zoho Desk (for helpdesk functionality). In addition to providing SMB users a one-stop SaaS solution, Zoho offers a bevy of click-to-install extensions through the Zoho Marketplace, where you'll find big names like Twilio, Citrix, Adobe, Zapier, Google AdWords and Slack, plus other Zoho products and customized vertical products for specific industries.

The lack of coding involved in setting up many of the integrations and the constant expansion on the part of Zoho (the company recently partnered with LinkedIn to create the LinkedIn Sales Navigator) make this CRM a great match for small businesses that want lots of functionality at an affordable price.

Zoho CRM was built with small business users in mind, and the pricing structure reflects that. Like most SaaS solutions, Zoho CRM offers tiered subscription levels, but unlike many other companies, it allows users to pay on a month-to-month basis (no contract, but a slightly higher rate) or on an annual basis for a lower rate. Each price listed here is billed on a per-user basis. While many free extensions are available for Zoho CRM, some third-party integrations, advanced customizations, and additional storage or backups are extra.

  • Free: The free version of Zoho CRM is a great place to start if you have three or fewer users and aren't familiar enough with CRM software to know exactly what you'll need. It includes basic lead, contact and account management, but you can only build out one workflow module and only have access to 10 email templates and one report. That said, excellent collaboration tools like group calendars, chatting and folder sharing are available in the free version.
  • Standard: At just $12 annually or $18 monthly, the Standard Zoho CRM subscription delivers excellent value for small business users with typical CRM needs. Features like sales forecasting, reminders, mass emailing and customized dashboards become available at this level. It also includes more on the analytics front, with 100 custom reports, and better admin tools, with the ability to create up to 20 groups and five hierarchy rules.
  • Professional: The Professional tier is the next step up for Zoho CRM users. In our opinion, it's the best fit for most SMBs. This level costs $20 when billed annually and $30 when billed monthly. It includes features many growing SMBs require, like full email integration, workflows and macros, unlimited record storage, and Google AdWords integration. This level includes significantly more customization options, like up to 150 custom fields or modules, 10 custom links modules, up to 500 mass emails per day, more workflow rules and conditions, assignment rules, and unlimited custom dashboards and reports.  
  • Enterprise: The most popular subscription tier, according to Zoho, is the Enterprise level. At just $35 per user on an annual basis or $45 on a monthly basis, the Zoho Enterprise CRM is significantly less expensive than other SaaS solutions for enterprises. Some key features of the top level are Zia Voice, a conversational AI, multi-user portals (an excellent feature for large organizations), mobile SDK and app distribution, and more sophisticated analytics, including predictive AI. Users can also accept multiple currencies, parse emails, create more custom modules and buttons, create more workflow rules, send up to 1,000 emails per day, and create auto-responders.
  • Ultimate: The Ultimate subscription level is only available for purchase on an annual basis. You must reach out to Zoho for a price quote for this level.

One of Zoho's best characteristics is that it's easy to use out of the box. This isn't a stodgy old business tool with a clunky interface; it's a streamlined cloud product that's ideal for users of varying skill levels. The admin controls are also simplified, so you don't need an experienced software admin to maintain permissions, which is a major boon for small operations.

When you log in to your account, you can navigate using the menu at the upper left, which includes intuitive choices like SalesInbox, Home, Feeds, Leads, Accounts, Contacts and Deals.  In the upper right corner of the screen, you can keep an eye on your notifications in real time, so you don't have to click away from your primary task to respond to an email or action item. The dashboards in Zoho CRM are also well designed, with appealing color palettes, clear labels and a familiar design.

The only major complaints users seem to have when it comes to ease of use is that implementing some third-party systems requires touching the API. If your business has specific legacy products or third-party software that must integrate with your future CRM, make sure you inquire about the process in detail ahead of time. 

Zoho CRM does a lot right when it comes to customer service. Whatever training program it implemented for customer service representatives is working, because everyone is uniformly friendly and attentive. The call routing could improve, though. It takes too long to get a hold of the right person, and the process feels outdated. Plus, Zoho only offers 24-hour customer service during the workweek, which may prove challenging for businesses that operate seven days a week.

For users at high subscription levels (Professional and above), there is an alternative: the customer self-service portal, which allows direct helpdesk ticketing and tracking. It would be great if this was available at all tiers, or at least as an optional add-on for an additional fee, because it could probably alleviate the phone bottlenecking issues customer service seems to have now. Users who have access to the self-service portal can input their own tickets and track them in real time.

Zoho also offers something called Premium Support, but it costs an extra (undisclosed) fee and is only available at the Professional and Enterprise levels. Zoho is unclear about what is included or what the price range is for such a service. This is noteworthy because Zoho CRM is significantly more transparent about which features are included at which subscription level than other CRM companies we reviewed. Rather than listing tiers of customer service, with no explanation as to what differentiates them, Zoho would do well to simply and clearly make the options known to users.

All this said, Zoho CRM still offers better response time than many other CRMs we reviewed, including our overall winner, Salesforce. Zoho does not ignore requests for service, and technical questions are consistently routed and satisfactorily answered by knowledgeable employees. 

Even though Zoho's CRM has the feel of a lightweight SaaS solution, it packs a punch in the features department. Not every feature is available at every subscription level, and third-party integrations may cost extra if you don't already use the services you're integrating, but Zoho's bevy of features is still impressive. These are the features small businesses like most about Zoho CRM.

  • Zoho marketplace extensions: Very few affordable SaaS CRMs have a comprehensive repository for extensions and integrations, but Zoho does. The Zoho Marketplace boosts the functionality of Zoho CRM by allowing you to add on free and paid extensions, many of which require no technical skills to implement. With paid and free extensions covering categories like IT and administration, finance, analytics, productivity, and marketing, you can effectively build out your own custom CRM.
  • Documentation: It's not a feature of the CRM specifically, but Zoho's online documentation is so comprehensive, specific, organized and easy to follow that it qualifies as a special feature. Step-by-step guides on downloading extensions, webinars, e-books, admin and user guides, integration guides, and an active online community of users make it easy to get answers to your technical and organizational questions.
  • Artificial intelligence: Zoho CRM is one of just a few SMB-focused SaaS CRMs that offer AI-driven features. Zia, Zoho's proprietary AI, offers "predictions on trends, anomalies, conversions, and deals closing." At the advanced level, Zia can even offer insights into the best time to contact different customers, set auto-reminders for you, and analyze the tone of customer emails to inform the best responses. Zia Voice, which is also part of the AI suite, allows your in-house users to access CRM information through the conversational assistant (like Siri or Google Assistant).
  • Telephony: For streamlined call dialing and automatic call logging, Zoho offers single-click dialing directly from the CRM system. Once you've integrated telephony, anytime a user views a contact card, they'll have the option of click-to-call. The telephony feature also has built-in reminders so you can set future callbacks, and the automatic call logging means it's easy to see customer info and conversation history. Call analytics and reporting round out Zoho's telephony features by offering valuable data visualization and custom feedback on your customer service.
  • Customer and vendor portals: The customer portals in Zoho CRM allow your business to communicate with your most valued customers in a new way. Your customers who are granted access to customer portals can do things like browse catalogs of products and services, view invoices, and place orders without contacting a salesperson directly. Likewise, vendor portals allow your most trusted vendors to communicate with you directly in the CRM as well as view invoices and transactions.
  • Collaboration tools: Zoho CRM is jampacked with collaboration tools that are ideal for small teams. The built-in document management system gives users access to a shareable central library for documents, pictures, music and videos. Access privileges make it easy to lock down sensitive materials and only share certain items with certain team members. The calendar feature is also great for collaboration; groups can share calendars, and individuals can maintain their own directly within the CRM.

Zoho CRM gives small business users the best of both worlds; it's inexpensive and easy to implement, but it offers far more functionality than similarly priced products. Zoho's other business apps are equally SMB-friendly, which means you can build out a customized cloud suite as your business grows and your needs expand.

While Zoho CRM does not have the customization options that Salesforce offers, it still allows users enough options to make the CRM their own, making it suitable for a wide variety of industries.

Zoho is a massive company with sales teams in 11 countries, and when you need to get in touch with a live person, you feel the size. It's not unusual to be on hold for up to 10 minutes at a time, or to be transferred multiple times for simple questions. On the upside, once you get through, everyone is friendly, helpful and diligent about quick follow-ups. While customer service is certainly a concern, for the price point and built-in functionality, Zoho is a strong choice.

Yes. Zoho CRM has lots of resource training videos available online. Zoho's training videos are organized by topic and include user-focused subjects like "Adding a Lead to your CRM" and admin topics like "Adding users and creating profiles."

Yes. Zoho CRM offers a Mail Add-On that makes it easy to integrate your existing Gmail account with your Zoho CRM account.

Yes. Zoho CRM is compatible with Google Docs and it only  takes a few clicks to integrate it. If you don't want to use Google Docs you can store your documents directly in Zoho's online file storage system.

Ready to choose a CRM solution? Here's a breakdown of our full coverage:

Editor's note: Looking for information on CRM software for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our sister site BuyerZone connect you with vendors that can help.

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Mona Bushnell

Mona Bushnell is a New York City-based Staff Writer for Business.com and Business News Daily. She has a B.A. in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College and has previously worked as an IT Technician, a Copywriter, a Software Administrator, a Scheduling Manager and an Editorial Writer. Mona began freelance writing full-time in 2014 and joined the Business.com team in 2017.