This story was originally published on June 2, 2011, and is brought to you today as part of our Best of ECT News series.
The idea of taking CRM into the field has been around for a decade — long enough to lull many people into ignoring it in favor of newer, flashier and more social ideas.
But this isn’t the time to take your eye off mobile CRM. The technology is about to emerge as a force that will boost adoption, increase the abilities of field personnel, and do so without requiring a back-breaking effort on the part of your IT department.
I know what you’re saying: Haven’t we heard all of this before? Well, yes. But mobile CRM’s time is nigh. Here are three solid reasons why the next 12 months will see mobile CRM in ascendancy:
1. Handheld Hegemony
In 2010, the number of “smart” handheld devices surpassed the number of laptop computers in total shipments for the first time. As the devices have matured and grown in capabilities, an increasing number of tasks have moved from the laptop or desktop computer to handhelds. The arrival of the iPad and tablet computing has accelerated the move toward smaller, data-consuming devices and away from larger, content-creating devices like laptops.
Because these devices are often purchased by users as consumer devices, rather than by businesses as business tools, CRM is never the first application used on them — and that’s a good thing. When your organization is ready to take CRM mobile, your users are very likely to be comfortable with mobile applications running on the mobile platform of their choice. This diversity of platforms has been a problem in the past, but today that takes us to the second reason mobile CRM’s time is here.
2. Support the Platform, Whatever It May Be
Vendors have caught on to the fact that trying to provide support for selected handheld devices is, for business purposes, the same as providing no support for any handheld devices. The variety of devices that needs to be supported is driven by the user, not by the business or the CRM vendor. Providing limited support is a great way to blow holes in user adoption rates and jeopardizes and mobile effort from the outset.
In the last 18 months, smart vendors have caught on to this and have gone hard at developing support for all the leading platforms, often adding a “thinner,” browser-based version for less popular platforms. Notepads helped force the issue.
Truly smart vendors are coming to the realization that mobile is not an add-on — it’s a key part of how CRM is used, and as a result they’re reducing or eliminating extra charges for the mobile components of their CRM offerings.
3. The Changing Roles of Sales and Service
Managers of contact centers have long heard that service is the new sales. That metaphor shouldn’t be confined to your contact center; anyone in your service organization, including your field service staff, needs to be a part of this changing trend. If that’s the case, they need access to CRM information, and more importantly, they need a way to input information into the CRM system.
Giving field service personnel a laptop and a laptop-based CRM system and expecting them to enter data into it at the end of the day would be an act of fantasy. But these workers are already dependent on handheld devices to do their jobs, so augmenting their tasks with some CRM record-keeping in the field is a distinct possibility.
Mobile CRM is an inescapable reality for another reason. The next generation of sales and marketing workers will have grown up in a wireless world. It will not only be the way they prefer to work, it will be the way they learned to work. Not going mobile will limit your capabilities while also exacerbating CRM adoption issues as these younger employees enter your workforce. Given time, the term “mobile CRM” will go away — it will be a given that any CRM application worth its salt will have a comprehensive mobile component to it.