Workflows are automated processes for completing tasks based on events and inputs in your database. By “listening” for certain conditions, workflows can trigger themselves on command. This way, by creating a workflow inside Zoho CRM tasks get done, without the tedious requirement of constantly making notes of your activities.
Workflows automate the creation of tasks, emails, and events based on pre-set scenarios, called “workflow rules”, occurring. When the condition is set, the workflow triggers, performing the tasks within the workflow.
Creating your first workflow
Workflows consist of two primary pieces. First, the rules, which trigger the workflow. Second, the tasks, that happen when the workflow is triggered. We’ll create a workflow moving from rules to tasks.
Creating Workflow Rules
- Navigate to Settings > Automation > Workflow Rules.
- Click the Create rule button in the upper left.
- Select a Module, which sets the scope for the rule’s triggers.
- Give the rule a descriptive name and description.
Once you create the workflow, next is the edit screen. This visual metaphor uses decision trees and organizational diagram symbols to help you program tasks in a sensible way. You’re essentially creating small, custom computer programs, which take data as input and produce tasks, emails, or events as outputs.
In the When section, select either Create, Create or Edit, or Edit. This will tell the workflow when to trigger: either on the creation of a new record or the editing of a new record. In general, Create is the more useful of the two options. Edit can end up firing the tasks too frequently and cluttering your list with tasks and are both irrelevant and unnecessary.
We’re working in Leads, so now we’ll decide which kinds of leads will trigger this workflow. If you’re working in a different module, you’ll see that these criteria change to match those circumstances. In our sample workflow, we’ve set some criteria that will cause the workflow to trigger when a client has the status of Pre-Qualified and Not Contacted, as well as an annual revenue above a certain threshold. Since these are the most actionable leads in our portfolio, we’ll want to get in touch with them quickly.
Once you’ve set the criteria and triggers for your conditions, you can click Next to proceed to the task-adding stage. This sets the actual events that occur when triggering the workflow.
Creating Workflow Tasks In Zoho CRM
Tasks are the events that actually happen when the workflow’s criteria are met. The two main options are sending email notifications or assigning tasks to Zoho CRM users.
With Instant Actions, you have the option to send an email or create a task as soon as the criteria are met. Also, you can schedule actions so they fire only after some set time interval between the workflow’s conditions and the action taking place. We will choose to create a task, which generates a new Task record inside the CRM and connects it to the appropriate task assignee. Then, whatever task notification policy you have set up alerts the assignee to their new assignment.
When you create a new task, you’ll have the option to fill in the basic data, like name and description. You can also set a due date using a few subtly different trigger points based on the status of the event itself.
The best tasks use dynamic rules that copy data from the associated records to the task. To accomplish this, you can apply “merge fields,” which are like variables that point to specific data from a record. Merge fields capture data from the associated records and display it within your task or email. Essentially, they suck important data out of records and paste it into the correct place of your data structures.
To access these merge fields, type a # and then the name of the field you want to access. As soon as you type the pound sign (#), you’ll see a dropdown menu appear which automatically filters the available fields based on your typing. When you select one of these, either by clicking on it or pressing Enter, the full name of the variable is auto-filled, surrounded by curly brackets, and preceded by a dollar sign. You can memorize and type these field names directly too, complete with their brackets and dollar signs. But it’s undeniably easier and more reliable to let Zoho CRM fill them in for you with the shortcut names, especially since the syntax could change over time.
Set the options for your tasks as you normally would. Make sure you assign the task to a user. A workflow is not finalized if it triggers unassigned tasks.
Useful workflow and automation examples
If you’re struggling with how to apply automation to your business, consider some of these common situations. While these examples sometimes need other solutions other than Zoho CRM’s Workflows. However, the good news is with Zapier’s integrations or Zoho Flow and Custom Functions, almost anything is achievable.
Bringing new people into the fold, whether clients or coworkers, requires a significant amount of clerical work. For most this process involves many tasks. Fortunately, they’re largely the same for every individual within the same class, which makes the task workflow-able.
Every onboard processing is different, but they include the same fundamental steps. You’ll need to examine your own process and draft a plan to begin your own automation. By examining existing processes and noting machine-reproducible steps, you can keep employees focused on actual work instead of repetitive button-pushing.
Successful leads go through various predictable steps as they travel from an unqualified to a client of your business. Since most of those steps involve substantial paperwork, we can save ourselves some trouble by creating workflows that take care of some of the more common steps, like changing lead status or adding information based on conversations.
By piping the necessary information directly into your records and careful use of offered integrations, an enormous degree of work can be pre-set or outright managed for you and your salespeople.
Requests and Approvals
For things like vacations, sick time, and expenses, you want some kind of approval loop. Even if that loop just involves notifying the relevant people when you’re planning a vacation, there’s some kind of “let us know” system in place at almost every business. These varied systems are often little more than mechanistic rubber stamps, so they’re perfect for automation.
You can even code special conditions that approve minor requests, like a single day off or an expense report below $50, but asks for your attention when more significant requests come through. This can be set up entirely through a Workflow using calendar events and emails based on the parameters of said event.
In businesses where forms play a large role, the data rarely lives solely on the form. In smart businesses, that data is plugged into another system, and the CRM is a great candidate. Rather than paying someone to tediously translate text from form to field, write a workflow that automates the process.
Zoho Forms provides the plug-and-play ability to take information from digital forms and plug it into the right boxes in your CRM. This can produce new records or tie information to existing records. Then, you can trigger workflows based on those records. Daisy chain them together, and you’ll have a conga line of automation going in no time at all.
When complicated but rare events happen, it can be hard to keep the protocol straight. And when legal and ethical compliance gets involved, systems can become hairy and incomprehensible to the common employee.
Let’s imagine you have a systems breach and attackers gain access to your digital files. Do you know what your policy is? Does your team know what your policy is? How can you make it easier for them to know the policy and act accordingly in uncommon but business-critical situations? Experience won’t’ help here: a given employee might only ever have one major crisis during their tenure.
To simplify the process, codify your incident response manual into documentation supported by several workflows and the appropriate integrations. Much of the important but tedious work can be taken off your specialist’s plate.
The Value of Automation For Your Business Through Zoho CRM
You can get the most value out of automation if you look for things that take significant focus but low brainpower, like adding tasks, updating fields, or data entry. Accuracy in these tasks is crucial, so they require attention. But they require minimal brainpower, so they’re boring. That’s exactly the kind of job you should automate: after all, they don’t make typos and they can’t get bored. If you embrace automation, you can free up your staff to focus on the creative aspects of their work and drop the daily drudgery into digital hands. Be sure to check out our other resources and guides on Zoho CRM for more tips on creating workflows.
This article was originally written May 8, 2019 and updated June 4, 2021.