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CRM Evolution '09 — Day 2: Mobile applications are bridging the gap between sales and CRM.
Posted Aug 26, 2009
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NEW YORK — As a former salesperson himself, Tony Busacca says he's intimately familiar with the field's most common question: "Did I make the sale?" And yet, at a Tuesday session here at the CRM Evolution conference, Busacca -- now a principal at On-Course Advisors -- challenged the audience to focus not on the sale, but on the information gathered as a result of the sale. More to the point, he said, companies have to focus on customer needs, whether or not those needs were satisfied by the sale.

That's the very nature of sales intelligence, Busacca told the crowd, and it must be aligned with CRM. Unfortunately, of the three main components of CRM -- marketing, sales, and customer service -- Busacca argued that sales tends to be the least connected. "Sales wants to exchange information," he said, "but only to the extent that it matters to the sale." Driven by organizations demanding greater intelligence, Busacca argued that mobile technology is finally poised to modify that behavior.

According to Busacca, three primary challenges occur when attempting to tie CRM to the sales cycle:

  • capture and validation of information;
  • synchronization of information with other departments and disparate data sources; and
  • timeliness of recording information.

Busacca suggested that the promise of mobile CRM is that it will enable real-time communication, from the point of contact to the point of utilization. Thanks to the increasing use of smartphones and complex mobile applications, he said, companies can now realize numerous benefits, such as increased brand awareness, new customer acquisitions, and decreased cost of service. Citing a survey his firm conducted in 2008, Busacca outlined the business-use drivers for adoption of mobile technology:

  • Improve customer service..................................59 percent;
  • Increase efficiency.............................................53 percent;
  • Increase profitability..........................................29 percent;
  • Create a globalized customer base......................19 percent; and
  • Become physically closer to customer..................18 percent.

Mobile has become so mission-critical, Busacca argued, that organizations should pursue a related initiative simply because the capability now exists. The effort alone, he said, can help produce the intelligence necessary to:

  • create new products;
  • expand markets; and
  • reduce expenses.

"The ability to access information, how you need it, and when you need it," Busacca said, "is probably the clearest definition of a mobile CRM solution." More important, in an age where the consumer is in control, any company that makes it convenient for customers to interact -- wherever and whenever the customers prefer -- will have a competitive advantage. "The greatest fear of a salesperson is walking into a meeting and being ill-informed," he said. Mobile CRM will address that concern with real-time communication.

It wasn't that long ago, Busacca recalled, that many people were skeptical of adequately conducting business over a mobile device. And yet, despite the economic downturn, high-tech market research firm Canalys reported in November 2008 that smartphone shipments in the third quarter of 2008 rose nearly 28 percent year-over-year. Busacca also noted that two-thirds of today's companies have expressed the intent to deploy mobile applications.

And yet, as Busacca acknowledged, mobile technology remains far from maturity, especially in the United States. Still, he said, there are continual advancements in the technology and in the applications being developed. As the reliance on mobile devices continues to bridge the gap between businesses and consumers -- and to blend professional and personal lives -- Apple's "There's an app for that" slogan is gradually becoming a reality.

With an eye to the mainstream future of mobile, Busacca listed several uses of the technology that are already available, if perhaps in limited use:

  • voice-to-text (e.g., transcription services);
  • voice queries paired with the global-positioning system (e.g., auto insurance provider Nationwide's mobile application with an Accident Toolkit); and
  • so-called "intelligent" hardware (e.g., connected to the personal data that lists you attending an all-day meeting, your phone automatically turns your phone on silent).

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CRM Evolution '09 runs through Wednesday in New York. Full coverage can be found here.

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top; to contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.

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