Zoho Updates Its CRM App With Zia Voice Digital Assistant

Digital assistants such as Apple Siri, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa have brought voice recognition to the masses. Now business apps developer Zoho is bringing it to salespeople’s mobile devices.

CRM app

Customer relationship management software can be incredibly useful to salespeople because it keeps track of client accounts, suggests leads, and provides opportunities to upsell new products and services. But accessing and updating CRM data on a mobile device can be time-consuming whether it’s tapping through screens to find what you need or entering notes on a small mobile screen.

Zoho has now incorporated voice recognition to help streamline its Zoho CRM app. The new Zia Voice lets salespeople simply ask the app questions like:

“How much money did client X spend with us in January?”

Or  

“What new leads do I have?”

Or

“What is the best time to try and reach Bob Smith at Acme Inc.?”

and the Zia Voice digital assistant will respond. You can also use Zia Voice in text mode at any time if you don’t want other people to hear what your phone is saying.  

Just as Siri scours the web to find answers to queries, Zia Voice leverages the Zoho CRM app, which does regular analysis of a sales team’s interaction with clients, sales figures and spending trends.

“It’s conversational in the sense that when you ask Zia Voice to do something she will go down the list of things she can do,” Raju Vagesna, chief evangelist at Zoho, told eWEEK.

For example, you might start by asking Zia Voice to place an order, and she will ask for the customer name, what product, what quantity, what shipping method and so on, all carried out by voice command.

“But if you say, ‘Hey Zia, place an order for John Smith,’ it doesn’t have to ask you all the same questions if John Smith is already a customer in the system,” said Vagesna.

But unlike systems like Amazon’s Alexa, Zia Voice is not always listening and waiting for its cue. Rather, you have to tap the Zia onscreen button on your phone to activate it.

“In a business context, if you’re in a meeting discussing things that may be private, we’re sensitive to privacy concerns,” Vagesna said, explaining why the service isn’t always listening when the phone is on.

Zia Voice is available as part of the Zoho CRM Enterprise Edition, which, like other apps in the Zoho suite, is available on a per-user software-as-a-service (SaaS) monthly charge.

Zoho launched Zia, an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered digital assistant, a year ago. Zia for Zoho CRM gives salespeople proactive advice such as workflows and macros to streamline frequent procedures and tips like the best time to contact specific prospects. The product also can alert sales managers when performance goals are falling short and suggests sales prospects.

“Customer relationship platforms are transitioning into the next phase. The advancements in AI mean that SaaS vendors can now power their applications with ‘invisible interfaces’ and make them easier, more natural to use—and available without having to look at a screen,” said 451 Research analyst Sheryl Kingstone, in a statement “We see these advancements in AI and voice recognition leading the way into the next transformation of business applications.”

In a recent study by 451 Research, 45 percent of the digital leaders surveyed said they are looking forward to using a voice interface in the next 24 months.

Vagesna said Zoho is taking advantage of advances in voice recognition and hinted at more to come.

“Five years ago it wouldn’t be possible to do a product like Zia Voice at this level,” he said. “And five years from now this will look entirely different. For example, you’ll be able to ask Zia Voice to carry out multiple tasks in one query.”  

In addition to Zia Voice, Zoho also announced Catalyst, a platform for developers to create customized apps around Zoho CRM. As part of the launch, Zoho is releasing a software development kit for iOS, Android and web apps as well as a mobile device management product to help with the management and distribution of apps in the workplace.

David Needle

David Needle

Based in Silicon Valley, veteran technology reporter David Needle covers mobile, bi g data, and social media among other topics. He was formerly News Editor at Infoworld, Editor of Computer Currents...