Fast-track your digital transformation with Zoho CRM

Sridhar Vembu, CEO, Zoho Corporation 


The way we do business has become digital through website, social media, emails and mobile apps. Waiting times have been drastically reduced with self-service, and customers prefer real-time engagement with businesses. The internet has accelerated this digital transformation of customers and selling is all about delivering a good customer experience. Customers expect real-time attentiveness and personalisation: you need the right technology and the right methods to make that happen.

You should be able to connect with customers wherever they are, using any of your favourite tools and communication channels. Your notifications also need to be in real-time so you can react immediately when prospects interact with your business, read your emails, or engage with your brand on social media, all on one platform. Every piece of data that you collect from these multiple customer touch-points is needed to add context to the sale.

Zoho CRM provides that personalisation and timely service by connecting the channels of communication you use, your sales software and your customer data into a holistic customer experience.

Zoho CRM also includes Zia, the advanced conversational AI assistant that builds better customer relationships and improves your sales. Zia analyses the sentiment of customer emails to identify the tone of the conversation. Zia also identifies the best time to contact customers – when they are likely to be the most responsive to you – from your digital engagement with customers. Not only that, but Zia keeps your customer info up-to-date by enriching your database with verified and accurate data. All you need to do is “Ask Zia” by chatting with her on desktop, or calling her from your mobile app to access information quickly, even without navigating inside Zoho CRM.


Improve your sales by delivering exceptional customer experience, and fast-track your business with Zoho CRM to sell smarter, better and faster.


Video Transcript:

Welcome to Business Reporter's digital and data economy campaign hosted by The Telegraph Online. Writing in Forbes Magazine, Blake Morgan says that the customer experience will face a transformation in 2018, and this is due to a change in approach taken by decision makers. For too long, the c-suite and stakeholders have been overly focused on triumphant quarterly reports instead of the long-term goals. Morgan emphasises that companies need to build a personal and trusted relationship with their customers to beat the competition.

How is it possible to manage so many conversations? There are dozens of boxes to tick for each customer, and with millions of individuals, this must be scaled up with smart software, handy interfaces, and machine learning. What does the right technology look like? This is what we're going to discuss today with Sridhar Vembu of Zoho.

Good morning, Sridhar.

Good morning.

So in the Forbes article, Blake Morgan talks about the importance of time in customer relationships. She says that "time is the most important commodity. Personalization aims to respect customers' time." So in an ideal world, how do personalization and time affect the customer relationship?

So when you look at the customer today, there is so much going on in their own life, in their own business, all of it. So when a salesperson calls on them, they ought to respect that-- that there's so much going on and I am not their priority as a salesperson. We ought to respect that fundamentally. If we understand that, we will do better. If we prepare ahead of time-- we know the context of what we are going to talk about, the context of that customer-- we can do better. So that is the key to engaging the customer in this new era. Respect their time, respect their space, and respect their context.

So obviously what you describe is the ideal situation, but so many organisations still fail. Are they failing because they're not implementing the right technology, or is it the methods?

It's a mix of both. So first, you ought to have the internal organisation culture that respects other people's time-- your customers' time. And also, you have to empower your people in order to be respectful of that. Then you have to engage the right technology so that they are empowered to know everything about an interaction with a customer before they begin that engagement. So it's both our culture and the technology that's important to this. Sometimes organisations get only one part of it right. They sometimes throw technology at it and hope to solve the problem. But it's also-- the human element is very important here.

But how do you strike a balance between the two? How do you know what's right?

When you get this right-- when your organisation is working well and the technology's working well-- your customers tell you that. Right? They are engaging with you in various channels. They are telling you that you are doing something right, and the word of mouth spreads. So that is how you know that you are hitting it. It's not only metrics. You can measure these things. You can-- all the scores, all of the metrics going the right direction-- but it is also the word of mouth that comes your way.

So what if a CEO says to you, well, I've survived so far without having to revolutionise the customer experience. Why do we need to change? What would you say to that?

The customer has changed. The world has changed. Look at where the customer is spending their time today. It's on all the online platforms, all of the-- their whole time has shifted towards the digital platforms. They are on their smartphones. They are on the online platforms-- in the cloud. All of this. And if you don't address them with the right context or cross all of these channels-- and learning about all the engagement from them-- and if you don't correlate across these channels, then you are not serving them right.

So what you describe obviously needs a strong CRM-- knowing when to best contact the customer. How to liaise with them. How do you do that at Zoho?

Particularly, a strong CRM that is multichannel-- that engages them in all of their channels-- in a holistic way. So that it brings that particular context of the customer across a variety of engagement channels. So to give an example, a customer could have tweeted about your product or asked a question on Twitter, and now you are responding to it from your CRM. And you also have to make sure that this response reaches the customer and it reaches the Twitter audience, because they are not only speaking to you. They are speaking to their followers. And when we respond to that email, we also now have to make sure we respond to the tweet because it's also going to their followers.

So all of these you ought to do and do it promptly-- do it within, like, maybe minutes or preferably within an hour of a message coming around. With the full context, that same customer maybe would have approached you in customer support-- or in chat. Any of these media. And you ought to correlate that with the tweet that came around and give out relevant contextual response, and still promptly. So that's what really-- is the technology that enables you to do all this.

So how do you do it?

And we provide the technology-- the application-- the technology-- to do all of this. We first monitor all of the channels. We give you the relevant contextual information. We correlate the information across all of these. And we have the AI, Zia, to correlate all of these and make sure that you understand what is the best time to contact this customer. What is the full context of that customer engagement. That's where the technology of our CRM technology comes in.

And how do you measure performance?

Every interaction-- everything that we do-- it's everything that you, as a sales person or a support person, who is tracked on everything. We have SLAs on this. We have dashboards. And we also give you-- from our AI, Zia-- it learns about all these interactions. It flags anomalies. For example, there's this interaction is going on too long. There is something wrong here. Maybe you are not actually getting this right. All of this. So it automatically escalates it. So that means that when an interaction goes on too long-- when there is like three or four repeated-- that means maybe the customer is getting frustrated. It does sentiment analysis. All of these come together to give you the full context so that you can respond in an appropriate way to that customer.

You mentioned Zia. That's your voice technology. So how does that work? Can you just--

Zia is our AI-- artificial intelligence-- for all of our technologies. And it started out in CRM. Recently, we added the voice capability, so that-- in our CRM, you interact with our CRM and all these databases through voice commands. It's much like Alexa works. In this case, it is purposed towards the sales and customer support interactions. That is our Zia Voice.

OK. So how easy is this to use? The Zoho CRM. All of these things.

We have designed it with user experience in mind. It is easy to set up. It's even easier to use every day. And we also provide the voice interaction, which is the first conversational interface to a CRM in the world. And we provide that so that people on the go can interact from their phone with the voice command. And you can get all of the contextual information quickly. You can pull it up. It's exactly the way the consumer technologies work, but brought for the first time in the full business context.

So you mentioned AI, automation, machine learning. These seem to have hijacked the sales and customer experience. How do you see the customer relationship evolving in, say, the next five years?

All of the technology-- we provide all the technologies, but still the human-- the customer-- is at the centre of all this. Because we are not selling to machines. We are not supporting machines. Ultimately, we are selling to and supporting human beings. That's something that no organisation should ever forget. That means that we should treat the technology as an enabler of better customer experience-- the human experience. And that has to shine through all of this. And so all of these technologies-- what it allows us is to respond promptly-- respond with full context-- so that if, say, two or three different salespeople or support people are interacting with the customer, you still have the full context. And you still understand the sentiment involved. You still understand this customer is happy. This customer is getting frustrated. All of that the tools can provide. But ultimately, the human has to take this forward-- that relationship forward. That's something that should never be forgotten in all this.

How do you maintain that human element?

That is organisation culture. Ultimately, it comes down to the culture of an organisation. So you have to keep that in mind. Are your people empowered to provide the best experience to your customers? That's something that every CEO should ask themselves.

Well, thank you so much, Sridhar. It's been a pleasure talking with you.

Thank you for having me here.