The Mobile CRM Roundtable Part 2
We return to our mobile CRM roundtable to discuss ROI, security, and future features
Last month, members of our mobile CRM roundtable discussed the benefits of using mobile CRM, why companies are switching, and where they're seeing a return on their investment. Click here to read part one. Mobile CRM can reduce inefficiencies, keep everyone up to date on sales and customer activity, and increase your employees' productivity in the field. In part two of our roundtable discussion, we'll see why mobile CRM is critical for organizations, talk about when you can expect to see ROI for mobile CRM, touch on security, and delve a bit into the future features these companies think they'll be providing customers.
Salesplace BlackBerry Edition CRM software keeps users dialed into customer information via BlackBerry devices. This application allows you to keep track of contacts, appointment schedules, and possible sales leads, no matter where you are—and features wireless sync capabilities for those time when you're off the connectivity grid.
Worldwide Director of Marketing and Business Development, Maximizer Software
Maximizer's mobile CRM solution enables on-the-road sales representatives to access sales forecasts and browse comprehensive customer notes and documents. The BlackBerry edition syncs with existing Maximizer CRM databases, allowing online and off-line browsing of customer records and the creation of new contacts. The mobile dashboard keeps users apprised of overall team performance, while one-click maps ensure convenient directions to your next appointment.
Senior Product Marketing Manager, FrontRange Solutions
FrontRange's GoldMine CRM software manages information about customers, including contact and company details, meeting and call notes, email transactions, and day-to-day activities. GoldMine business functions manage marketing automation and sales-force automation, as well as customer service and support needs. GoldMine Mobile Edition for BlackBerry helps users manage their mobile CRM needs through an easy to deploy, secure, and easy to use mobile platform.
Vice President of Sales, TenDigits Software
TenDigits' MobileAccess is a platform for the Microsoft Dynamics CRM business software package. It works alongside Dynamics to provide a familiar look and feel, and provides mobile CRM capabilities that include multi-window navigation and mobile application integration (email, web browser, and phone). MobileAccess' bi-directional synchronization capabilities allow users easy access to cached data while offline, and ensures that business information on both the mobile device and office database is always up to date.
President, J2X Technologies
J2X's Handheld Contact software allows wireless synchronization with Sage's ACT! customer management database, ensuring that contacts, notes, customer history, calendar entries, and action items are up-to-date. This secure solution increases users' face-time with customers while reducing dependence on the home office. J2X has also built over 25 custom BlackBerry applications since 2001, and offers mobile expense management (ExpenseLog Pro) and mileage tracking/reimbursement (MileageTracker Pro) solutions.
iEnterprises' Mobile Edge application extends existing applications, allowing wireless users to access key information from anywhere. Mobile Edge works with existing CRM systems such as Siebel, NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics, SugarCRM and Lotus Notes, providing a secure, easy to use, and highly configurable mobile solution that reduces downtime and empowers more users to utilize CRM more frequently in an effort to meet their clients' needs fully and efficiently.
BBCN: Let's start with a few pointers for selecting a mobile CRM application. How should companies decide what solution to use?
SP: I think one of the things that makes mobile CRM extremely powerful is if you can provide flexibility within the tool itself. A smart investment is to look for a product that has the flexibility to be configured. Within SalesNOW, you can add unlimited custom fields to any record type. An administrator with 500 sales reps in the field can add a new field, right from the backend website. And that field is pushed out to all the users' BlackBerry® [smartphones] immediately. Thirty seconds later the reps are now entering and updating a field that didn't exist until then.
FR: Our clients' biggest concern is integrating the BlackBerry platform with their on-premise CRM application. They need to capture all those emails and activities that the BlackBerry device does so well, and couple it with their online CRM application. In the past, you had your online CRM world where you were managing your clients in one database, and you had the mobile world, which was sending out emails and activities for your clients, but the two were separated. Now we're providing mobile CRM features and functionality on a BlackBerry device.
BBCN: What stakeholders should be involved in the decision-making process? Besides field staff, who benefits from mobile CRM?
SP: The head of marketing, the head of the sales team, the head of the customer service team: they need to do business analytics. They need to understand how effective each of their reps are. Your front-end tool, whatever it is, needs to feed your back-end tool, so companies can really take a look at their business intelligence, and start to make decisions on how they move and operate. Using mobile CRM to collect data, organize it from the field, and give the field access to data immediately, the sales reps and the customer service people have what they need to get their job done, and the executives and the management and even the local management have all the reports available to them, so they can make their business decisions.
BBCN: What setup and training are needed before reps can use mobile CRM? Is it less than if they were only using a desktop CRM solution?
J2X: It can be as short as 10 minutes. There are two components to our solution: a Windows application that's installed on a computer or server that's running their ACT solution. That piece is what extracts the data and information out of ACT, sends it through our synchronization service, to an application on the BlackBerry [smartphone]. The BlackBerry installation is a 60-second, over-the-air process. Once that's completed, then they're ready to start receiving their CRM data on their BlackBerry. So it's really straightforward and simple.
BBCN: You've talked about time savings, which many companies count as part of their return on investment. How soon do you think companies can start seeing a ROI on their mobile CRM solution?
MM: From a qualitative standpoint, CRM on a mobile device has quickly shown a significant time savings. Our customers are able to say, “You know what, these guys are actually saving half an hour to an hour a day.” One client is saying that their salespeople are saving so much time every day that they've upped their sales quotas and sales targets. That's pretty big.
FR: Each situation is different, but we're finding that as far as Goldmine Mobile or a mobile CRM application goes, ROI typically happens at three to six months out, sometimes a little bit shorter, depending on the industry.
BBCN: What are the benefits of mobile CRM from a security standpoint? People carry a lot of proprietary information on their smartphones.
10D: That's one of the beauties of working with BlackBerry: we leverage the security that's already inherent in the BlackBerry and BlackBerry® Enterprise Server platform. Once you're past the device password, you have access to email, to CRM. And third-party applications can't leverage any external storage on a BlackBerry, so we're using only the 64MB of RAM on the device, which is encrypted, so you can't crack it. So the data on the device is protected, the data transmission is protected. You're getting the exact same high level of security you're getting for email. The reason customers have BlackBerry, more often than not, is security.
BBCN: Related to that is the need for dedicated IT support. What type of IT support is needed to keep mobile CRM up and running?
J2X: If they've installed and are running ACT, they can install our solution. We find that a lot of people just do it themselves. If there's an IT department, they'll probably handle that, mainly because they're running ACT off of a shared server or a dedicated server. In that case, IT is often involved because the application's installed at the server level, rather than on an individual's desktop or notebook computer.
FR: With any mobile application–it doesn't have to be mobile CRM, it could be mobile ERP, mobile finance, mobile ordering–it has to be easily installed and easily deployed out to those road warriors. Because otherwise you're placing a burden on the IT people. You essentially have 100 servers traveling all over the world on little BlackBerry devices, because you have 100 mobile sales reps. Given the increasing amount of infrastructure an IT manager has to manage, we want to make it as easy as possible for them not only to manage it but also deploy the application and easily secure it.
BBCN: How about working in mixed environments—working across different platforms?
10D: Because our partner is Microsoft®, we have to support their mobility platform as well. The benefit to us is that international companies might use BlackBerry in the United States and in Europe they might use Windows Mobile. But they only want one CRM mobility solution. Our solution allows for both from the same implementation: you can have a mix. In fact, you could even switch. If ten of their Windows Mobile users switch to BlackBerry, there's no licensing impact. They just reallocate the license. It's just a slight administrative task.
MM: With our solution, we have the Windows desktop component, the web access component, and the mobile component. So we usually talk to a prospect or client about the makeup of their customer-facing staff. “Customer-facing” being sales people, customer-service people, and marketing people. And then, of course, the executives and managers. Some industries are pretty heavy in terms of field salespeople, so with those kinds of organizations we would ask them about what kinds of technologies their field salespeople are using.
BBCN: Can you give us some examples about what people are asking for, beyond perhaps a typical mobile CRM solution?
10D: The other day a customer said, our guys have six appointments a day, and sometimes one of their customers cancels. Now they have two hours available. They've got potentially thousands of people they can call, and they want to fill that time. They'd like to be able to use a combination of CRM and mapping software to identify the closest 20 customers to them, or all the customers within a five-mile radius. They want to leverage the GPS capability of the device and send instructions to CRM to run that analytic and bring back a list of all those potential clients.
J2X: People are looking for information about their customers. Now, what information they're looking for varies drastically. ACT can support up to 72 fields of information, so that's different data sets about that customer. They can select from a whole range of things that they may want to know. We have people that sell electronic fences using this application. So they're looking for information about when that wireless electric fence was installed, they're looking for maintenance information, even product level information about what was sold and how it's to be serviced.
BBCN: What's one segment that's surprised you by growing, and taking on mobile CRM?
SP: Banking, financial, medical. Medical sales professionals and financial sales professionals are extremely well-paid, and their time is very valuable. Especially when you get into enterprise implementations, the end users are often highly paid, highly skilled individuals. They don't have time to waste. Their sales reps are selling million-dollar equipment. Every call report or piece of data that rep enters is extremely valuable, and will affect projections and important business decisions. We've done a lot of work with government, too.
SP: It just totally shocks me when I see the types of different people who realize mobile technology can help them. Anyone from artists trying to coordinate their schedules to one-man or one-woman companies. If you look at the small- and medium-business segment, the diversity is staggering.
FR: Anybody nowadays who wants to provide better customer service, internally or externally, is adopting a mobile application. Why? Because when you're performing customer service, you're typically doing that in front of a client. And especially in a down economy, one way you differentiate yourself from the competition is in your level of customer service.
BBCN: And what changes can we expect to see from mobile CRM soon?
10D: Most people don't use mobile CRM to the degree it could be utilized today. There may be information that's not in CRM but that's contextual or associated with CRM. Shipping information, inventory, accounts payable, accounts receivable: they're not housed in CRM, they're in their other ERPs, but they're related and there are very specific points they want to pull out. We're already doing this with some of our customers; I can see this being expanded.
J2X: I think in the short term our customers are asking us for integration. By integration, they're looking at how the mobile CRM works alongside other things that they have available on their BlackBerry [smartphones]. The most common and obvious are calls, emails, and mapping. For example: I go to a trade show. I don't want to have to send emails pushing out to people, “I'm at this trade show, let's meet.” I want to have that information fed to me automatically. So while I'm there, I'm getting real-time information about my contacts' whereabouts, their activities, even what meetings they're attending.
FR: We're really looking at doing automated processes and adding the mobile aspect to it–ordering books or obtaining forecasts. So now, for example, the mobile person isn't writing things on a notepad or a piece of paper, going back into the office, and handing the order or the invoice to someone else to enter it into the system. Instead, they're initiating that process from the mobile device itself.
BBCN: And in the long term?
10D: Forward-thinking and visionary companies, wherever they can see the opportunity to enhance productivity and enhance uptime in salespeople, will want new things from mobile CRM. And either companies like us will think of them in advance, or the customers will come to us and say, this is our challenge, can you find a way to make it work? It's not a static industry; it's always evolving.
SP: Document management is a big thing for the future of CRM. With document management, an insurance adjuster in the field can take a picture with their BlackBerry [smartphone]'s camera, upload it, and store it as a document right in that case file. All they needed was their BlackBerry. People are saying, wow, you've got a camera in the BlackBerry now, you have all these additional features; what else can we do?
MM: One thing we'll definitely be focusing on is having both an online and an offline application. You'll store your CRM records on the BlackBerry or the BlackBerry's SD card, so that information is available even if you're out of range or on a plane. Customers really like that, particularly in B2B manufacturing sales, your salespeople are often in rural areas with spotty coverage. They need to have that data available to them even if there aren't enough bars on their phone, so to speak.
- Visit the participating companies at the links provided.
- Check the BlackBerry Business Resource Center for webcasts and whitepapers.