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Zoho rolls out AI-powered customer management features amid slowing growth

AUSTIN-TEXAS:Chennai-based Zoho Corp. has overhauled one of its key revenue generators, its customer management software Zoho CRM, amid slowing growth in the enterprise tech company’s key US market.

The updates include the integration of AI-powered customer relationship management (CRM) analytics and support for businesses to use open-source AI models.

Zoho’s global growth has slowed despite it reaching an annual revenue run-rate of $1 billion in November, chief executive Sridhar Vembu told Mint on the sidelines of a company event in Austin, Texas. Revenue run-rate is an indicator of future performance extrapolating from current revenue. 

With its new software, Zoho is looking to undercut established enterprise tech companies such as US-based ServiceNow Inc. and Salesforce Inc., Vembu added.

Also read | Macro headwinds hit Zoho’s overall growth

The global CRM market was valued at $89 billion at the end of last year, according to market researcher Statista. Salesforce commands the largest market share, 22%. Microsoft Corp., Adobe Inc., SAP SE, and Zoho each have a global market share of 3-5% in the CRM market.

Breaking silos

Zoho’s new suite, CRM for Everyone, will allow sales teams to implement custom modifications for other teams such as solutions engineering, contract management, customer onboarding, and advocacy. 

Zoho said the new features will “improve visibility for every stakeholder” and reduce turnaround times in customer queries—a critical factor in the CRM industry.

“Traditionally, the CRM system has been built by IT and built for sales workflows,” said Mani Vembu, chief operating officer of Zoho. 

“Over the years, it has accumulated a wealth of customer context, but access to the CRM is strictly rationed, and teams are forced to operate on their islands with limited context,” he said. “We are looking to break down these silos… enabling different teams in a sales process to contribute by reducing CRM complexity.”

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Zoho, however, is not implementing sweeping AI integration, a factor that has been consistent in enterprise software adoption since the public launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in November 2022.

Sridhar Vembu said Zoho prefers contextually integrating AI tools and solutions into its CRM suite instead of using a broad-based approach. On Wednesday, Zoho announced that its enterprise clients will be able to integrate open-source AI models and build generative AI solutions on top of its CRM suite.

Strengthening data security

Vembu added that Zoho is working on developing its AI security models to ramp up data security. This will “allow customers to refine and create their own models, ensuring complete data privacy,” Vembu said in his keynote address at the event.

“We will train on publicly available data, and the customer data will be put to use only for their own purpose,” Vembu added at his address, maintaining that Zoho does not monetise customer data.

The AI-powered security models, however, are not ready to be unveiled and are still in the works, said Raju Vegesna, Zoho’s chief evangelist, at the event. Zoho has about 1,000 employees working on the feature.


(This correspondent is in Austin, Texas on Zoho’s invitation.)

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Published: 06 Jun 2024, 11:13 AM IST

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