Mobile CRM keeps enterprises moving in the right direction
Mobile devices are a must-have tool for manufacturing companies seeking an edge in today's business environment, as they allow field staff—in both the sales and service side—to keep business moving, no matter where they are, with immediate access to critical customer information. Advancements in network speeds, mobile hardware, and applications are making it possible to replace slow...
Mobile devices are a must-have tool for manufacturing companies seeking an edge in today's business environment, as they allow field staff—in both the sales and service side—to keep business moving, no matter where they are, with immediate access to critical customer information.
Advancements in network speeds, mobile hardware, and applications are making it possible to replace slow, bulky laptops with easier to use mobile devices for customer-facing field staff. And these devices can be deployed by any size company.
In fact, companies that leverage mobile devices beyond e-mail and phone calls are finding them to be true enablers of increased field productivity, with greater management visibility into field activities, and improved field sales results.
Mobile customer relationship management (CRM) provides anytime, anywhere access to customer and sales data—the critical information and processes that allow professionals to work at the pace that customers demand, in the format that sales and service people prefer.
Even in companies that lack a formal mobile strategy, employees are increasingly asking for mobile devices or bringing their devices to work with them, as they recognize the considerable advantages the devices provide. For instance, field service people realize they no longer need heavy ruggedized devices to access the customer information they need to do their jobs.
With smartphone prices declining—and the feature robustness increasing—both field sales and service professionals are eyeing BlackBerrys, iPhones, and other similar products as ideal tools for enhancing their personal productivity.
Smart business executives realize that the benefits of this improved productivity will flow through the entire business. They also realize that making sure mobile workers become as productive as possible requires more than simply ditching laptops in favor of smartphones.
Before that transition takes place, there needs to be an analysis of how the use of mobile CRM tools fits into the company's overall strategy for serving customers. There also needs to be an understanding of whether the corporate culture, i.e., the mindset of the field staff, is mobile-device friendly.
Finally, there must be some concrete goals established for use of mobile CRM. A well-planned, and properly executed, mobile CRM strategy will produce the following benefits:
1. Faster adoption of CRM solutions
People in the field don't always have time to access their laptop, connect to the Internet and complete a lengthy form to start an account, update a sales forecast, retrieve newly assigned leads and/or file a service request. Following a site visit with a prospect or customer, field staff can often forget the specific details of the meeting and/or fail to update the customer record before they return to the office. And the last thing they want to do after a hard day in the field is to update the CRM system from their home office.
Yet, for a CRM system to be a truly valuable business tool—facilitating better staff collaboration and giving executives better insight into operations—the information it contains must be current and complete. The always-on nature of mobile CRM lets people work on the spot, with little effort, while information is fresh, which results in greater user adoption.
2. Increased productivity for individuals and the business
Mobile CRM can reduce downtime by allowing field staff to be productive when waiting in a hotel lobby or in line at the airport. In between appointments, reps can update meeting notes, sales forecasts, and get directions to their next meeting. And when comparing the time and effort it takes to turn on a CRM application on a mobile device versus a laptop, there is no contest. Field staff quickly embraces mobile CRM because they can work on-the-go, rather than taking time out of their evenings to update notes and forecasts from the day, and prepare for the following day.
3. Improved forecasting with real-time updates
The basis for business intelligence and performance management is that the underlying data in corporate systems—such as CRM and ERP—are up-to-date and accurate. If the information in those systems suffers from deficient or outdated information, all the reports, dashboards and gadgets in the world won't provide meaningful business performance insight. When salespeople don't take the time to enter forecast and account updates from the field, large chunks of information can be out of date or simply missing. Real-time updates from field sales people using mobile CRM on smartphones with seamless synchronization ensure that management receives better information for decision-making.
4. Stronger customer relationships
With more information available via smartphones, field staff is no longer tied to the central office. They can move their "center of operation" to where the customer resides, enabling them to spend more time with customers, building relationships and closing deals. Sales and service people in the field equipped with mobile CRM are able to access and update customer account status immediately.
With mobile CRM, a field rep can also get real-time updates from colleagues about their accounts. As such, a sales or service rep in the field can see all customer information, including details of recent orders, service tickets or complaint calls that may have taken place at the office. Ultimately, this arms them with all the information that a customer expects the company representative to know.
A carefully considered mobile CRM strategy also will ensure that the company's staff is always equipped with the latest, state-of-the-art CRM technology, ensuring that its benefits never stop accruing.
Vivek Thomas is president of Maximizer Software, a supplier of CRM solutions
Real-time ERP inquiries available via BlackBerry devices
CDC Software, a supplier of enterprise software applications including enterprise resource planning, announces Ross Mobile v1.0, a new mobile application enabling users to perform real-time ERP inquiries via their Blackberry devices. The application helps increase the productivity of sales professionals and others by allowing them to obtain up-to-the-minute information regarding the status of customer accounts. It also allows executives to monitor the progress of key accounts remotely.
Information that can be accessed via the Ross Mobile application includes:
Accounts receivable aged summary;
Accounts receivable detail inquiry;
Order and shipping status.
Sales and other employees can check inventory availability; determine customers' credit status, monitor shipping status and view clients' pending orders and invoices. This access "should reduce administrative paper work, increase worker productivity, improve responsiveness to customers, and promote fast and informed decision making," said Bruce Cameron, president of CDC Software.
Ross Mobile is the latest of several product releases delivered in 2009 by CDC's product engineering operations in China and India.
"Our product engineering in these regions is a key component of CDC Software's global platform infrastructure that facilitates quick and cost-effective growth, both organically and through acquisitions," said Cameron.
Business software vendors join the mobile revolution
As users demonstrate the desire to turn cell phones and other mobile devices into business tools, software vendors are responding with a host of new applications for those platforms. The following stories highlight several recently introduced business applications that run on mobile devices.
The iPhone goes to work
Business software vendors debut applications for Apple's iPhone and iTouch; users respond favorably.
Software vendors are trying to turn Apple Inc.'s widely popular iPhone into a business tool.
This week, NetSuite, a supplier of a cloud-based ERP suite, and product lifecycle management (PLM) software specialist Dassault Systemes released applications for the iPhone.
Both applications also work on the Apple iTouch media player.
NetSuite says its applications deliver "on-the-go access to its integrated business management suite, including real-time dashboards that deliver key ERP, CRM, and E-commerce operational data."
The full range of functionality available on the NetSuite mobile applications includes:
NetSuite Dashboards including KPIs, report snapshots, trend graphs, scorecards, reminders, and recent records. The dashboards are interactive, allowing users to drill down and explore trends with the touch of a finger.
NetSuite Calendar with support for accepting or declining events and marking tasks complete.
Lead, Prospect & Customer records tailored to mobile sales, field service, and executive leadership, including access to associated contacts, marketing campaigns, opportunities, quotes, orders, purchase history, financial history, cases, and issues.
Productivity tools that leverage native capabilities of the device, such as click-to-call from any NetSuite record containing a phone number, click-to-email from any NetSuite record containing an e-mail address, and click-to-map (via Google Maps) from any NetSuite record containing a physical address.
Dassault Systemes is giving users access to 3D product models via the iPhone and iTouch. The Dassault application-called 3DVIA Mobile-allows users to search, share, and interact with the library of 3D models housed at 3DVIA.com , an online community that Dassault hosts for product designers and others seeking to share ideas.
More than 120,000 people have joined the 3DVIA community so far. Now, iPhone and iTouch users who register can search the thousands of models posted on the site. With just the touch of a finger, 3DVIA Mobile users may select, spin, pan, zoom and inspect 3D models in real time.
With 3DVIA Mobile, users can also enhance, or "augment," photographs with highly realistic 3D models from 3DVIA.com .
"At 3DVIA, our goal is to make it easy for people to tap into the power of 3D as a communication medium," said Lynne Wilson, CEO, 3DVIA, Dassault Systemes. "With 3DVIA Mobile, users can find cool, realistic 3D content from our library and immediately enrich their photos, right on the iPhone. They download and position the model on a picture for an instant 3D mash-up that blends 3D digital data with the physical world. It's both fun and viral because people like and want to share their creations."
As 3DVIA's content library continues to expand, and its current 120,000 registered user community grows, 3DVIA Mobile will further evolve as a professional collaboration platform, Wilson added.
Business users like the productivity boost they can get from these new mobile applications.
"This is a great release by NetSuite," said Elliott Rabin, President, Ridout Plastics Co. Inc. , a plastics manufacturer based in San Diego, Calif. "Access is very fast overall, and trend graphs are much faster than through a browser. From a CEO view, I can see my KPIs and can get top ten information quickly-by sales, customers, sales reps, etc. Like in a browser, the app lets me find a customer quickly through searching-and I'm one who loves 'recent records' for quick access to information. The iPhone application adds tremendous value to my NetSuite experience."
NetSuite for iPhone and iPod touch is available now for free at the App Store ( www.itunes.com/apps ).
Annual Salary Survey
After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.
The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.