CRM-as-a-Service enables mobility

By Gari Johnson*
Tuesday, 03 August, 2010

‘Traditional’ customer relationship management (CRM) - meet client, determine demand, head back to office, determine stock/seal deal - no longer suffices when time is of the essence. CRM imperatives today require customer information and business intelligence ‘on the go’.

Sales representatives will only use an application if it is easy to use and works the way they do, simply and intuitively. Crucially, the proper tools and networks need to be set up to facilitate this transition to ‘computing on the move’, while not compromising on enterprise-grade CRM services. Here are some principles to consider.

Enterprise data structure

Mobile applications require nuanced thinking about enterprise data structure and security. Effective user adoption is the greatest ROI challenge. Data structures for the mobile salesforce should follow the philosophy ‘less is more’, making ease of use paramount across structured and unstructured data, and collaborative communications like social media.

Crucially, consider how the data structures can interoperate natively and harmoniously with the device and its data in any connection state. For example, when pulling up a contact lead within a mobile CRM application, our sales rep should be able to ‘tap’ the phone number to automatically dial out; upon ending the call, a ‘call note’ screen can surface for her/him to jot down thoughts.

She/he must be able to view and interact with information regardless of place of data store. For example, when searching contacts, she/he views a master list that includes locally stored contacts co-mingled seamlessly with a ‘real time’ pull of contacts from a CRM on-demand system. The device’s native functions (eg, tap to dial) should work the same for all of these contacts.

Actualising the ‘mobile sales assistant’

The sales rep’s world commonly involves a chunk of time performing tasks like managing appointments and connecting with customer contacts. Simplifying data structures and enabling native interoperation with device, plus data-store independence, should provide an instantly usable but powerful ‘mobile sales assistant’ capability without concerns about data synchronisation or multiple data sets.

With one click, our sales rep should be able to view account team information and customer contacts; communicate through call, email, text message; or even get driving directions! She/he should also be able to gain insight into the day’s schedule, contacts, tasks; access recent/frequently viewed items; and access store-and-forward capabilities to ensure sales productivity when out of network coverage.

Pre-programmed automated prompts can remind her/him to follow up or enter notes at the end of a conversation, ensuring vital information is stored locally or saved to the backend CRM application in real time.

The organisation benefits from being able to run analysis on data coming into their systems from the field. Crucially, this analysis should be able to encompass historical data available in a data warehouse pre-integrated with a CRM on-demand system. Benefits include being able to run detailed trend analyses or products or interactions that can inform business decisions, shifts in tactics or even strategy, or quickly structure customised targeted marketing content or activities for particular customer leads.

Secured mobility

Security is another challenge for our mobile sales rep. Besides phishing or social engineering attacks, losing a mobile device has big repercussions!

Organisations must include IT and network management to allow for resource planning and monitoring of end-to-end on-demand-specific application traffic, to ensure availability and performance expectations. A mobile CRM solution should be able to talk web services to a CRM on-demand application over a secure https connection with industry-standard 128-bit encryption. Data access within the mobile CRM application should automatically mirror a user’s data access rights as configured in the CRM on-demand application for that device’s owner. The mobile app could also store locally only the last 10 most recently viewed records for each record type. Corporate-enforced best practices like device lockout, reporting of lost/stolen devices and CRM password resets definitely help minimise or fence any breaches of data access.

The provisioning of the application to the mobile device should be completely automated for updates, with our sales rep just needing to click a link to have the app delivered over the network. Once authenticated with username and password, she is then ‘live’ and ready to access the CRM database.

The ultimate aim is to allow our sales rep access to rich industry-leading sales, service, marketing and analytics functionality wherever she has access to the network, or at point of customer engagement to shorten the sales cycle and close deals while on the go.

*Gari Johnson is General Manager, CRM on Demand, ANZ, Oracle Corporation

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