Zoho Chat is dead. Replacing it is a more refined, customizable, extensible, and collaborative tool dubbed "Zoho Cliq." Cliq combines video- and text-based chat with Zoho’s unique software suite, which comprises 35 applications. Similar to Microsoft Teams, which puts chat and video at the center of Office 365, Cliq is a complementary tool that is best used when combined with Zoho One, Zoho’s all-in-one product suite, and ZIA, Zoho’s artificial intelligence (AI) engine.
Zoho Cliq is available today as a web or native app. The tool can also be used on Android, iOS, and yes, even Windows Phone apps. Cliq is available in two offerings: the Free plan and the Unlimited plan. The Free plan gives you access to unlimited users, more than 100 participants per channel, unlimited search, file sharing, and unlimited Zoho app integrations. The Unlimited plan, which Zoho said costs $2 per user per month (although the website lists the price at $3 per user per month), offers advanced permission control within specific channels, the ability to include users from external organizations, and other advanced features. Cliq is included at no extra cost as part of Zoho One.
When asked why Zoho felt compelled to re-enter a marketplace already dominated by systems such as HipChat, Slack, and Teams , Zoho's Chief Evangelist Raju Vegesna said he is confident that businesses will prefer using all-in-one collaborative tools such as Cliq and Teams rather than their standalone rivals HipChat and Slack. And for existing or prospective Zoho users, providing an integrated chat experience is a no-brainer.
“We always knew consolidation [of chat-based tools] was coming,” Vegesna said. “As a solo product, chat cannot exist. [A long time ago] it made sense to have individual products for word processing and spreadsheets, until Microsoft figured out a way to consolidate all of that into a suite. What happens is, the integrations [between third-party tools] increasingly become stale. Customers are going to realize, ‘I’m paying for email, I’m paying for chat, and I’m paying for web conferencing.’ When problems occur with one tool, [the tool’s support team] says the issue is with the other tool, and they kick you back and forth…Typical chat platforms require an integration that you have to host and connect to a third party. With Zoho, there’s no intermediary step.”
As you will see in the screenshots posted in this article, on a superficial level, Cliq looks and appears to operate exactly like Slack and its integration with Zoho One bears a striking resemblance to the way Teams jives with Office. I won’t use this space to rehash all of the incredible and useful ways collaboration tools function. For that, you can read our roundup (linked to in the first paragraph) or read each of the individual product reviews. Instead, this article will delve into some of the interesting Cliq-specific features and how they might be useful for you.
1Zoho Cliq PrimeTime
All of the major chat-based tools offer some form of video conferencing. However, Slack only lets you include 15 participants, even at its most expensive pricing tier ($12.50 per user per month). With Cliq PrimeTime, users are able to conduct video calls with up to 50 users (same as Microsoft teams). Although only two participants are capable of speaking and presenting at once, any participant within a PrimeTime session can click the “Request to Speak” button to be granted speaker privileges.
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Of course, if your squad just happens to be on vacation without you, then you can video chat with other individuals one on one by clicking the Video icon within the context of a private chat or alongside someone’s name in a group channel. Or, if you’re really pressed for time or not looking your best, then you can launch a voice call.
2Zoho Cliq Chat
Okay, so you know how I referenced the Zoho One integration earlier? Well, with Cliq, any chat conversation you’re having within the Cliq user interface (UI) is carried over to all of your Zoho apps. Think of it this way: If your "TV Shows" channel is discussing last night’s episode of Game of Thrones, then you won’t lose or have to restart the conversation when you pop into your Zoho CRM, Zoho Projects, or Zoho Campaigns UI (this also applies when switching from Zoho app to Zoho app).
In the context of Zoho apps, your chats reside in small windows at the bottom of the screen (similar to how Google places your chats at the bottom of Gmail). Want to banish a chat? Click the X button and it will be visible only within the Cliq UI.
(Dearest Reader: I don't have art for Fork Chats, so please enjoy this image of a few of the 100 new, animated "Zomojis" that have been created exclusively for Cliq. Now back to our regularly scheduled slideshow.)
Ever have a conversation in a channel that doesn’t need to include the entire channel? Cliq’s Fork Chats feature lets you create a new chat with a select group of team members from the point at which your conversation became tangential. Click "Fork Chat" and the chat history will start from the point where the fork occurred.
This is by no means a revolutionary feature; after all, you could simply start a new channel, copy and paste the tangent into the new channel, and boom, you’ve manually forked your own channel. However, this is a nice time-saving element that accelerates the speed of collaboration tool usage with just a click of a button.
4Zoho Cliq and ZIA
Here’s where Zoho’s foray into AI becomes really useful. If within the context of a Cliq chat someone recommends having a meeting or branching off into a new channel, then ZIA will process that known messaging language and automatically recommend a new group, or it will recommend creating a meeting invitation for everyone involved in the conversation at the moment. ZIA will even send a reminder to people ahead of the meeting.
Zoho is also working on a feature that will let ZIA find a time for the meeting, which is similar to how you can view everyone’s calendars in Zoho Mail and Gmail to see when an opening exists (except, well, this would be automated). This feature is not available at the moment and Zoho did not provide a specific date for when it would become available.
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