• July 1, 2009
  • By Jim Dickie, partner, CSO Insights

CRM in the Palm of Your Hand

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For the rest of the July 2009 issue of CRM magazine, please click here.

It’s been well over a decade since CRM vendors started to announce access to their applications via mobile devices. I’m not talking about getting your email on your handheld, or synching your contact list between your PC and your phone. I’m referring to remote access to data that resides in corporate systems.

Many of us have been waiting for the reality of mobile access, but the implementation rates have been surprisingly slow. When interviewing CRM project teams on the topic of why they’re not supporting mobile devices as part of their implementation plans, the feedback was that the form factor on the devices was too small, response time too slow, data access too cumbersome, etc. So where are we today in terms of adoption?

More than a thousand people responded to our 2009 Sales Performance Optimization study. Of the 72 percent who stated that they had formally implemented CRM in their sales organizations, barely a third were able to claim that they provided mobile-device data-access support. That means that only one rep in four can tap into corporate data on the road to help close deals. (See chart, below.)

However, based on feedback we’ve had regarding future plans, those figures should start to change noticeably. We’ve identified three primary factors contributing to the increased interest in mobile CRM.

Improvements in the devices themselves. The screens are larger and the displays are very sharp; the access times over wireless networks are improving; and the ability to multitask on the devices now exists. Reps can now talk to a customer on the phone and simultaneously access the CRM system via the Web to get an answer to a question. In short, the devices are simply more useful.

Increased sophistication among users. More sales professionals have grown up using technology (especially cell phones). I have three nephews in sales, all under the age of 30, and each treats his smartphone like an extension of his hand. They are constantly texting and checking email, and therefore open to leveraging a technology they have already embraced.

Applications and software that are finally worth using. A financial services firm showed me how its smartphones keep advisers up to date on corporate clients. As part of the CRM implementation, the firm has a Web-crawling service that continuously scours the Internet looking for stories or news releases involving key customers. When the service finds content that matches a set of rules on what the adviser considers important, it proactively sends an alert to the adviser’s mobile device so she can quickly respond.

A professional services firm developed a series of training courses its consultants needed in preparation for certification. In addition to hosting those courses online via the CRM system, users can also download .mp3 audiofiles of the lectures and play back the courses while sitting on an airplane en route to an assignment.

A technology firm has implemented sales analytics atop the forecast management module of its CRM system. The analytics software can detect any change in a deal: an alteration to the forecast; a shift in the close date; a reduction in dollar amount; a lowering of the probability rating of the deal closing; and so on. The system can then send a message to the appropriate sales manager’s smartphone. Apprised of the change, the manager can proactively reach out to the rep to see what help to provide to get the deal back on track.

Sales reps who are interested will find themselves amazed at the improvements in mobile devices, and real applications that improve effectiveness will combine to grow adoption of these tools in 2009 and 2010.

Jim Dickie is a partner with CSO Insights, a research firm that specializes in benchmarking CRM and sales effectiveness initiatives. He can be reached at jim.dickie@csoinsights.com.

Every month, CRM magazine covers the customer relationship management industry and beyond. To subscribe, please visit http://www.destinationcrm.com/subscribe/.

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