With consumers increasingly turning to mobile devices for information and demonstrating an overall obsession with getting information anywhere they go, and workers equipped with mobile appliances for on-the-road sales and service calls, the need for mobility has been seeping into the business landscape for more than a decade.
Every year, it seems, one CRM expert or another declares that we’ve finally reached the “Year of Mobile,” or at least touts mobile as “the next big thing” (yet again). Despite the industry’s best efforts, however—and its most fervent wishes—mobile CRM strategies and solutions have yet to reach the level of maturity these experts keep promising. Plagued by multiple platforms and operators and incompatible applications and devices, vendors and companies have tough decisions to make to go mobile.
And yet the inevitability of a mobile workforce is all too apparent. According to the research firm IDC, the global population of mobile workers surpassed the 1 billion mark this year—approximately 25 percent of the workforce.
According to The 2010 Computing and Communications Benchmark report by Nemertes Research, approximately 11 percent of companies state they employ people whose mobile devices are their only computing device.
And those devices are increasingly sophisticated: In just the first half of 2010, 119.4 million smartphones were sold worldwide, according to IDC—56 percent more than the number of units shipped during the first half of 2009.
But what steps should a company take to stay ahead—or even keep up with—the mobile curve? Ask enough companies to describe their “mobile strategy,” and it quickly becomes clear that there’s no cookie-cutter answer. One business may think its mobile effort comprises providing workers with the tools and applications they need to work anywhere.
Another company may define mobile CRM as away to delight its customers through the channel of their choice.
As devices evolve, many companies may find that tablet-style devices better suit their needs. Whatever device, platform, or application type companies so choose, one thing’s for sure—mobile represents a significant disruption to the desktop computer and to the
When it comes to mobile strategies,organizations often take different approaches. To illustrate some of them, the following pages showcase examples from three very different businesses: an insurance firm, a hotel chain, and a large retail company. Each of these
enterprises views the mobile space differently—not just in terms of how mobile affects its customers, but also how the technology can add value to its business.
TECHNOLOGY KEEPS ON TRUCKING
Two years ago: I’m a truck driver looking for trip insurance. The provider I called for coverage requires that I print, sign, and fax a few forms back today. Since I’m on the road all day, that’s a serious logistical problem for me. I’ve got to coordinate a place and time—maybe a convenience store a few hundred miles down the line—where the insurer can fax me the form. When I get there, I just hope I can remember to sign in the right places and provide the correct information before I fax it back and hit the road again.
Today: Signature? No problem. With an iPhone application custom-designed for insurance, as soon as I find a highway rest stop, I can access any documents in real time and have them back to my insurance agent in a flash.
Two years from now: What the heck is a fax machine? I control everything from my dashboard, using my mobile device’s voice capabilities and augmented reality screens. No waiting for me. Time is money.
Truck drivers are obviously mobile—but not in all senses ofthe word.When it comes to truck drivers’ usage of smartphones and mobile applications, they aren’t exactly ahead of the curve.
For 1st Guard, an insurance company geared specifically to truckers, the mobility aspect has presented both a challenge and an opportunity. When 1st Guard took on a new line of liability insurance products, the company knew it would have to do something about the mobile dilemma.
The liability protection requires that signed election forms come back from the truckers. “They are on the road, away from home and most devices,” explains Dan Ribar, 1st Guard’s chief information officer. “You can’t just fax and expect a trucker to get it back to you right away. Before coverage is bound,the law requires that 1st Guard receive a signed form—and compliance regulations vary from state to state.
The old-school way of doing things, Ribar says, was to walk truckers through their options over the phone. When they chose to begin coverage, 1st Guard agents would then ask for the trucker’s whereabouts. “It’s, ‘Where are you going to be in 30 minutes? Why don’t we fax it to the truck stop in El Paso,’ ” Ribar explains. Oftentimes, a trucker will get the document, sign it, fax it back—and then keep driving. “At least half the time,we get the fax back and we’ll take a look at it and he checked the wrong box,” Ribar says.
The process would then start all over again. “You can see how it can snowball into this huge amount of legwork,” Ribar says. Plus, truckers want to be driving and making money—not waiting around for faxes and paperwork to go through. “It was a natural fit to look for an electronic signature solution,” Ribar says. “Over the mobile device is the best way to do it.”
So, 1st Guard investigated Web-based and mobile-sanctioned signature solutions in early 2010 and eventually selected DocuSign in August. “All roads pointed at DocuSign,” Ribar recalls. “The implementation was incredibly fast.”
Instead of faxing back and forth, 1st Guard now asks each driver, “Do you have a smart device? If so, pull off the road for a moment to check your email.” Truckers can sign the form electronically and send it back over the mobile network. The form then comes through 1st Guard’s system, eliminating the extra steps and drastically cutting the time to insure drivers. “Now, with use of a mobile application, it’s minutes as compared to hours and days to get a signed document back,” Ribar declares.
The biggest challenge has been educating the truckers on usage and the benefits of going mobile. “Adoption of smart devices is pretty slow with truckers,” Ribar admits. “We fight the technology fight.”
In addition to DocuSign,1st Guard has released its own free trucker iPhone applications. One called Trucker1 gives drivers instant access to their insurance documents. It’s like holding your truck insurance ID card in the palm of your hand, Ribar says.
The application also connects to social media sites, allowing, for example, a trucker to “road tweet” his location. Truckers can also keep family members in the loop by sending location alerts through email, Facebook, and Twitter. Released in September 2009, Ribar says uptake has been slow but steady.
On the heels of Trucker1, 1st Guard also released an application called AheadofMe, which connects to a driver’s GPS to pinpoint where the trucker will be in a given amount of time. This is particularly helpful if a driver needs to know the exact locations of upcoming gas stations, for example, within the next hour. Ribar reports that both applications have gotten about 1,500 downloads from 1st Guard cus-
tomers and others.
The 1st Guard team tweets, blogs, and monitors the Web every day. Courtney Wilson, director of marketing and corporate communications, jokes: “1st Guard is a technology company that happens to sell insurance.” She and Ribar insist that 1st Guard will continue at full speed ahead with its mobile strategy. They have begun hosting “Technology for Truckers” webinars to educate them on the benefits of mobile applications, for example.
Also, to drive usage of its mobile applications, 1st Guard actually gives its customers discounts for using them. “It opens up a bidirectional conversation path with that trucker,” Ribar says. “If he has a mobile device, now we have another way to communicate with him.”
MANDARIN ORIENTAL HOTEL GROUP:
HOSPITALITY EXTENDED ACROSS THE NETWORK
Two years ago: I can’t wait to check into my hotel room so I can browse the room-service menu and place an order for dinner.
Today: Gee, I’m hungry. Since I’m in a taxi with time to kill, why not browse the hotel’s dining menu on my mobile device to decide what to order when I get in?
Two years from now: Wait for dinner? That’snot necessary. I’ll just thumb through the hotel’s interactive dining menu from my smartphone and place my order with a few clicks.
Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group (MOHG) knows its guests who frequent the hotelier’s 26 hotels and resorts worldwide are savvy and connected consumers, according to Christoph Oberli, MOHG’s vice president of e-commerce.
When MOHG found itself in the market for a new content management system (CMS) in 2007, it chose SDL—with help from interactive agency Siteworx—not only for SDL’s reputable CMS solution, but also for the possibility of incorporating mobile technology in the near future.
“In 2007, mobile marketing was in its nascent stage for our industry,” Oberli says. Although MOHG wasn’t ready to implement a mobile site alongside a brand new CMS, Oberli kept his eyes open to the developing use of mobile technology. Two years later, MOHG began developing its mobile strategy, starting with plans for an interactive mobile site. “Throughout 2009,which was a challenging year for hospitality, we were looking for ways to enhance our marketing capabilities and mobile was the obvious route,” Oberli explains. “We liked the idea of giving new and existing customers yet another touch point to be in contact.”
MOHG’s mobile strategy involved developing a rich and interactive mobile-compatible site that would provide guests with much of the same content (and deliver on the same branding and messaging) available on the hotel’s existing site.
“Our guests are increasingly interested in the tools oftechnology to simplify their busy lives,” Oberli says. “We wanted to provide another level of service so they can get information from us when they’re on the road. Therefore, the mobile site needed to become an extension to our brand in the mobile space.”
The implementation took close to six months. “Our internal design process is thorough and rigorous. Once our conceptual development and design plans were final, the actual implementation was relatively quick.”
Oberli reveals that with the mobile site, MOHG has calculated that it broke even just six weeks following the launch. MOHG is steadfast about metrics—tracking traffic, visits, and consumer engagement on both its HTML and mobile sites. It also keeps a close eye on what mobile devices it should be optimized for—Apple’s iPhone leads the charge among the MOHG clientele.
Looking back, Oberli is thankful his company waited to jump into the mobile space. Back in 2007, although brands were beginning to develop mobile Web sites, he remarks that they were often extremely simplified HTML versions and fairly flat. “We felt we could provide a better mobile experience for our guests,” he says. “We waited a little bit longer and, therefore, brought something to market that was true to our brand.”
By November, MOHG expected to have an iPhone application that will provide an even more interactive experience. Available through the iTunes Application Store, Oberli says the application provides real-time reservations, detailed hotel information, destination guides, and more.
Based on his experiences at MOHG, Oberli offers some helpful advice for businesses looking to implement a mobile strategy: Be true to yourself. “Mobile is just another channel of communication,” he says. “It’s important that they first and foremost set their objectives and come up with a strategy in line with the brand.”
Customer Service Can Be Fast, Personal, and Wireless
Two years ago: Ugh, I waited on my furniture delivery for four hours today. In anticipation of its arrival, I rearranged my living room—and my entire day. When it arrived, the delivery men had no clue what I had ordered and they had to call the corporate office three times to find out what paperwork I needed to sign.
Today: Thanks to a sleek Web service by my furniture company, I was able to choose an hour delivery slot for my new couch. When they arrived, they seemed to have a good grasp on what I ordered—they even knew my name!
Two years from now: I watched my couch being delivered from the warehouse to my front door with an augmented reality tracking application. The team knew the exact dimensions of my front door and knew exactly which way to carry in my furniture so as to not leave a mark. Twenty minutes later, the truck is gone, and I’m relaxing on my brand new couch.
Arhaus Furniture is committed to making customers comfortable—not only when they sink into a cozy sofa but with every customer interaction, including furniture delivery. With 34 retail locations in 13 states and a catalog delivery business, Arhaus must deliver a lot of furniture in a comfortable amount of time. According to the 2010 Cost of Waiting survey, 69 percent of Americans have waited at home for something in the past year—and 21 percent of consumers have chosen to shop or subscribe to a competing company based on their in-home appointment experience. Arhaus, aware of how damaging a poor in-home appointment experience can be to customer satisfaction levels, turned to technology for help. After partnering with TOA Technologies in 2004 to establish a customer appointment management solution, Arhaus has seen its customer satisfaction numbers skyrocket (from 81 percent in 2001 to 96 percent in 2010).
“One of the biggest things we heard was that we didn’t communicate with customers enough the day of the delivery,” says John Roddy, senior vice president and senior logistics officer at Arhaus. “Before it was left up to the driver, there was no good way to do it or check up on it.” With TOA’s ETA solution, Arhaus is able to pinpoint the time a driver will reach a customer’s home. Through automated phone calls, the retailer makes sure its recipients are continually in the loop.
A recent TOA upgrade has enabled Arhaus to improve the customer experience even further, by letting customers choose a time frame for delivery, and even adding a little security and reassurance by providing customers (a large percentage of whom are home alone at the time of delivery) a photograph of their delivery person for verification purposes.
Six years later, and with stellar customer satisfaction results to demonstrate the success of the solution, Arhaus is turning to mobile solutions to continue its seamless customer experience and better empower truck drivers. In November, company drivers began using Apple iPad tablets to track deliveries and engage with the TOA system.
“We’ve been planning to go paperless on trucks for a few years, but I wasn’t happy with handheld devices on the market,” Roddy says. The iPad, with a larger touch-screen keyboard, is easier for larger fingers to use, he adds. The iPad roll-out will begin in the Cleveland area. The rest of the fleet (52 drivers) will receive their iPads in January.
In addition to working with the TOA system, drivers will have access to Google Maps and GPS and traffic applications. For Arhaus, it’s just one more step to ensuring its customers have excellent experiences.