The Next Generation of CRM
Taking knowledge to the point of sales and service
For the rest of the September 2002 issue of CRM magazine please click here
This October a major initiative will provide sales and services teams with a computing platform that I predict will redefine the way we sell to and service customers. In addition, the ROI from CRM projects that leverage this technology will be mind-boggling. The new system is the pen-based tablet PC, which is actually a decade-old idea. Ten years ago the hardware wasn't fast enough, the software wasn't robust enough, and the communications capabilities were in the Stone Age. Fast forward to 2002 and the stars have aligned to solve all the issues defunked Go Systems valiantly tried to deal with a decade ago. Today's initiative is being championed by Microsoft, which has created a robust tablet PC operating system with a sophisticated handwriting recognition engine, gesture recognition, stylus drivers--all the components necessary to use a pen as the primary interface to your computer. Partnering with Microsoft are hardware firms including Acer, Fujitsu, HP, and Toshiba. Tablet PCs will come in two flavors. The first I can best describe as a laptop-size PDA. As with your PDA, you will use a stylus to interface with the computer, but the system will be a full-powered Windows PC, with all the documents, presentations, product specs, etc., you use to sell to and service customers, available at your fingertips. For users who still feel compelled to use a keyboard at times, some of the hardware manufactures are building convertible systems that will function in the same way as a normal laptop, but you will have the option at any time to pivot the screen and have the tablet start functioning as a pen-based computer. Why is this so important? Until now CRM systems were great for planning for or following up on a sales call, but they were virtually useless during the call. We have a wealth of information available in CRM systems, but it is all back at the office, inaccessible to reps when they are meeting with a client. A few years ago CRM vendors starting telling me how the PDA was going to solve that problem. I never believed it. The form factor was too small. Also, the software was Windows CE, which is close, but definitely not Windows. The tablet PC is the box your sales and service people will have always wanted. Two success stories prove it. McKesson, a medical products reseller, has been using a pen-based computing system to provide reps with a catalog of the 30,000 different products it offers. Using the system, reps can process orders, check order status, determine new products a customer might be interested in, and access product information--all with a few taps of a stylus on the tablet PC screen as they walk down the hall talking to a doctor. Reps using this system documented sales revenue increases of at least 20 percent per sales rep, and order margin improvements of 2 percent to 5 percent per order. Users also reported saving on average 10 hours per week in nonselling time by capturing information during the call on the pen-based computer. Chubb Insurance is another firm leveraging this technology to significant advantage. Reps using the systems during the pilot noticeably increased their competitive win rates and increased the dollar value of existing client renewals, because they had all the information they needed to be able to do the full client analysis during the call. Having the power of CRM available when you are with the client will allow us to take customer care to a whole new level. The success of the initial users of tablet PCs will dramatically accelerate its adoption. This is definitively a technology worth looking into. Jim Dickie is managing partner for Insight Technology Group, a Boulder, Colo.--based benchmarking firm that specializes in researching how companies are reinventing the way they market to, sell to, and service customers. Contact him at jimdickie@aol.com.
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