CRM Reading Lounge: The Essential CRM Guide

Mobile CRM Purchase Considerations: This article is an excerpt from our free CRM Essentials ebook series.

Before we get into the details of Mobile CRM, here’s an interesting finding revealed by Aberdeen Group Benchmark Report released in October 2010.

“While not all companies deploy sales mobility, those that do, outperform those that do not across a myriad of measures, including overall team attainment of quota, lower sales turnover, as well as better year-over-year growth around revenue, customer renewals, deal size and CRM adoption.”

What is mobile CRM?

Mobile CRM means managing your CRM using a cellular, or “mobile”, device. In other words, with the help of any of mobile device, i.e. a smartphone or a tablet, you connect via its wireless network to your CRM so that you can access and update customer data.

An ideal mobile CRM application lets you do everything you do using your laptop or desktop computer PLUS some advanced features, e.g. using GPS data, capturing photos or recording voices, and then uploading them directly to your CRM. Some CRMs, e.g. BizzCRM, Karma CRM and Zoho CRM, offer native applications that need to be downloaded and installed on the mobile device while others e.g. Insightly CRM, offer a mobile-friendly website for their CRM.

Mobile connectivity for the uninitiated

Everyone is aware of the speed of modern communication systems and the ease of access to them. As a result, your customers want answers faster and they are not always prepared to go and find them on the Internet for themselves. Often, if you are there in person, they want the answers and information from you – in real-time. The technology is available in the form of mobile devices and wireless connectivity for salespeople to do more than queries when on the road. They want to be able to enter orders and contact details, and change orders or contact details.

Why mobile connectivity is important for you

The two primary reasons why mobile CRM is important are because the power has shifted to the customer and because your field staff wants to be able to access the CRM system from wherever they are when they are out on the road.
In the first instance, power has shifted from the supplier to the customer because the Internet has:

  • widened customer reach in terms of suppliers
  • provided easy-access to social media which allows customers to exchange information about service levels – sharing their experiences with millions of other people globally, and doing it in an instant.

The result is that your customers expect better and faster service from you. Secondly, your field staff want to be able to access the system from customer premises, or from a coffee bar or diner when they are out on the road making their rounds. They want to be able to:

  • check inventory availability
  • confirm order status or progress
  • order spares for on-site repairs
  • access knowledge bases
  • enter new client details, or enter orders while in front of the client to create a good impression.

A 2010 paper in the Forrester Wave series, by Forrester Research, Inc., says:

“Mobile CRM is a must-have capability. Organizations have invested for more than a decade in CRM solutions. However, mobile workers often still do not have the necessary information at hand to sell and to serve customers effectively when they are away from the office, so interest in mobile CRM solutions is high. Virtually all CRM vendors now offer mobile solutions as extensions of their applications to fill this gap. Despite the growing maturity of mobile CRM solutions, business and IT leaders will still be perplexed by the complexities of the different mobile options and architectures.” (Forrester Research, Inc. 2010)

A possible problem for mobile CRM is with network coverage in some buildings and in rural areas. Mobile CRM is great in principle, and in practice, as long as staff are able to connect to the CRM system. What is probably the biggest problem arises when staff cannot connect and then store the new data or changes on their mobile device for later update. Sooner or later, they are going to want to update the CRM system with the changes stored on the mobile device. But what if the data on the CRM system and/or in the email address book has changed in the interim? How does the system handle synchronization of data between the fileserver and mobile devices when data on both have been modified? Generally, you are faced with two possible events when a synchronization conflict occurs.

  1. You get a warning message about the conflict and have to make a decision about which change to accept. This can be bad enough for one or two conflicts, but if it is a series of conflicts, you’re likely to lose data.
  2. You get no warning from the system about the conflict and the system decides which change is the most recent or most valid. This is a dangerous situation for your data integrity. The result, at best, is likely to be lost contact details and frustrated staff.

This potential problem is still a thorny issue ten years after the concept was first raised. If mobile CRM is important to you, look very closely at how the CRM system handles synchronization.

Major benefits of Mobile CRM

  • Take your office with you, wherever you go
  • Mobile CRM gives you the edge over competitors that are not using Mobile CRM with prompt access to accounts, sales deals, service cases, and schedules while on the road
  • Going to a meeting but don’t know your customers that well? Mobile CRM comes to your rescue again as you can build customer intimacy by reviewing the entire history and up-to-date customer details
  • Mobile CRM, by offering 24/7 access to customer information, reduces your staff’s downtime and increases productivity
  • It also increases sales forecast accuracy through real-time updates from your field staff
  • Features native to mobile devices give you the freedom to do things you simply can’t do otherwise i.e. taking photos, recording videos and voices, monitoring and using GPS data, voice calling the contacts and so on.

What to look for in a mobile CRM solution?

Choosing an ideal mobile CRM solution isn’t easy, and any mobile CRM won’t do. In fact most applications are a far cry from a solution that offers optimal user experience, high security, and organizational manageability. Here’s the simplest advice to choose a good mobile CRM by Grant R. Jay, Director of Carrier Partnerships:

“For the most part you want to make sure the user experience and application works with your business scenario, either a small one user or up to an enterprise group.”

To make sure you don’t regret your decision after purchasing a CRM for its mobile capabilities, keep the following factors in mind before you pick one:

  • Employee buy-in: No matter you’ve a few users or a large team, buy-in is really important. If your employees do not feel comfortable using the application, they won’t use it. So make sure you get their input.
  • Ease of use: The more user friendly an app is, the more productive it will be. It should have a simple, intuitive and uncluttered interface.
  • Ease of deployment: How long does it take the software to be downloaded, installed and fully functional? Is on-going support required, and if it is, what’s the associated cost? How easy is it to manage users? A good mobile CRM should need no or minimal IT support.
  • Security: Depending on the needs of your business, other factors can have a higher or lower importance, but security is important for all types and sizes of businesses. Your mobile CRM should satisfy all security concerns, because it will be manipulating sensitive customer information such as credit card and social security numbers, via relatively less secure wireless medium.
  • User experience: How your employees feel about using a particular mobile CRM is the key to efficiency. It will highlight the empirical, eloquent, and valuable aspects of your team’s interaction with the software. It’s quite possible that user experience might change over time, so make sure your team has used the system for quite a while before giving a verdict.
  • Advanced feature set: What are the extra benefits your mobile CRM brings to the table, e.g. capturing headshots and uploading to your CRM, recording voice, voice calling or video conferencing with your customers etc.?

What mobile devices are supported?

Mobile CRMs support a wide range of mobile devices including smartphones and tablets. Since these devices aren’t fully-fledged computers, make sure the CRM you choose has been optimized for these processor and screen sizes. An ideal approach would be to extensively test all of the mobile devices your employees use during the trial period offered by the vendor.

5 tips to get the most out of your mobile CRM

Once you choose your mobile CRM, it’s time to utilize its benefits to the fullest:

  1. Train your users, don’t think they’ll figure it out by themselves. If you don’t train them, the users will take more time to learn it on their own. On top of that, some people will never be able to grasp the system fully unless it’s briefed to them.
  2. Use the latest mobile devices because vendors always update their software to support the latest models. Older devices not only degrade performance, but can also become a serious security threat.
  3. Classify your key mobile use cases according to the task and activities your workers will need more frequently.
  4. If your CRM allows, limit data fields so that users can only access the most relevant info. It increases data security and also avoids the common trap of downloading every record – that is a sheer timewaster.
  5. Analyse how incorporating a mobile CRM into your business has affected the overall performance of your team.

If you haven’t considered mobile CRM for your business, you are already late and you need to think about it, pronto. And when you do, make sure you give it the proper planning and deliberation it deserves – jump the gun and you might very well end up frustrated. Provided you use it sagaciously, at the end of the day it can boost your productivity and sales well beyond your imagination.