One of the pieces that made [CRM] fall into place was the wireless component.
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Fast growth had Cingular Wireless in a communication void.
Cingular has grown through conglomeration and acquisition, as it combined the cellular networks of multiple telephone companies. They themselves were also growing through acquisition, taking on new regional operations. As a result, communication with reps was often one-sided at best, with little to no feedback on leads or deals.
Creating a common platform for field sales coordination was a priority, coinciding with a broader sales management change that included territorial realignment and commission restructuring.
Cingular rolled out a CRM strategy to its B2B sales organization some time ago, but it was the company's mobile sales deployment that captured the true value. "We had originally rolled out Siebel 6.3 SFA to our direct sales force...but we have a very mobile sales force, always out of the office," says Bill Stapleton, Cingular Wireless acting director of business sales operations. "One of the pieces that made [CRM] fall into place was the wireless component. [Reps] don't always have the ability to find a landline to sync up their contacts."
Rollout was somewhat slowed early in Cingular's deployment by incomplete matches between Cingular's wireless data capabilities and the handheld platforms that operated Siebel's wireless solution. Since then, Cingular has expanded its GSM wireless network through growth and acquisition, and the RIM BlackBerry 7280 device, which can run Siebel, offers functionality for all Cingular's cellular data markets.
The wireless deployment began in the second quarter of 2003 and has extended to 1,200 users--all but a small fraction of the B2B sales force. Rather than rely on laptops, which are sometimes considered too bulky for sales calls, Cingular decided to use BlackBerry devices. The BlackBerry implementation of Siebel supports the majority of Cingular's functionality, and keeps contact information in the customer database, where it belongs, rather than on index cards and scribbled updates.
Stapleton, who led the company's Siebel project, says that user adoption for the new form factor was no challenge. "They were pretty adamant when we were going through sessions with the field on enhancing the client-server version of the application: 'If you can get this on a handheld, adoption will take care of itself.'"
Cingular's payback has come from substantially improved follow-through on leads, and in turn, better visibility from the field for sales management. "Most of the managers are managing their teams and reps on a daily basis, rather than looking at month's end or a rep coming in and updating once a week," Stapleton says. "It's almost a real-time capacity."
While hesitant to attribute results strictly to the mobile CRM effort, Stapleton says Cingular has achieved its primary goal of putting its field sales force in more meetings, and more productive meetings, more often. "From a productivity standpoint many of the reps we speak with can plan out their day better and have the information they need," he says. "And if you can contact a customer the same day with a lead, you have a better chance of winning that deal than if you let it sit two or three days."
Cingular has not yet decided whether the program will be expanded to the acquired AT&T Wireless sales force, but at the parent company handheld CRM has shown its worth both as a sales and a marketing tool. Sales reps have found that a quick refresh of the Siebel application while on client sites turns into an impromptu product demonstration. "[Prospects] see our reps doing it and get very interested, and want to see how to wirelessly enable their own companies."
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