Zoho brings Siri-like features to Zia tool as CRM Plus expands to serve customer support teams

Zoho Zia customer support
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Zoho on Thursday expanded its CRM Plus collection of software applications to include tools for customer service teams such as Zia, an intelligent assistant that uses voice recognition features much like Apple’s Siri to address critical questions or complaints.

Although Zia (which stands for “Zoho intelligent assistant”) has been available to CRM Plus customers for some time, it has mainly been focusing on activities such as lead quality scoring, trend monitoring, deal prediction and assessing e-mail sentiment.

According to Taylor Backman, senior evangelist at Zoho based in San Francisco, the latest version of CRM Plus will let Zia perform similar activities in customer support, gauging not only how happy or unhappy customers are but tapping into Zoho Analytics software, also launched on Thursday, to suggest ways of improving their experience.

“If you have a customer support team that goes from receiving 100 calls a day to 500 a day, you don’t want to learn about that after they’ve started flooding in,” he told B2B News Network ahead of the CRM Plus and Zia announcements.

By being able to talk to Zia as an iPhone user might ask questions of Siri, Backman said CRM Plus users will not only be able to serve more customers but improve the outcome. A “reply assistant,” for instance, will scan through an organization’s knowledge base to suggest or recommend  what a customer should to do solve a problem.

“This is not just a situation where the application is scanning an entire article. That’s not very helpful,” he said, adding that the tool will piece disparate support ideas together on the fly. “You don’t want to overwhelm customers with more than they need. You just want to answer their question.”

Besides Zia, Zoho’s enhancements to CRM Plus are intended to create a more holistic picture of what’s happening across sales, marketing and support teams, which Backman pointed out are historically managed in a siloed fashion.

“It’s made it difficult to integrate customer data and be able to offer superior experiences that businesses need to make better decisions,” he said.

CRM Plus will also feature what Backman described as a unified user interface, where customers can search across sales, marketing and support at once. The technology has also been designed to respond to free-form kinds of questions like, “Show me sales progression across 2018 by product,” for instance.

“No one speaks in SQLs,” Backman said, referring to Structured Query Language, a programming language used to manage databases. “We wanted to match the ways users are thinking and speaking and give them a way to use a conversational tone.”

Other announcements from Zoho on Thursday included richer analytics in its Zoho Social tool, as well as updates to Zoho Desk and Sales IQ. Backman said that while some organizations may have already deployed point products from other vendors in some of these areas, Zoho believes B2B buyers will see the benefit of a more integrated suite.

“This is built from scratch — we’re like the old definition of a tech company that writes a lot of code,” he said. “We’re not doing it with acquisitions and just stitching things together.”

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Shane Schick

Shane Schick

Shane Schick is the Editor-in-Chief of B2B News Network. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and was the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.