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Karen Schwartz 7 Ways to Increase Staff Productivity with Mobile CRM

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 By Karen D. Schwartz

Mobile CRM Software Can Do More Than Just Access Account Records

Companies have been giving laptops and smartphones to mobile workers for years, and while they do increase productivity, most companies are missing a lot of potential productivity gains. The way you deploy mobile CRM, the devices you choose, and the creativity you exhibit can all make a big difference when it comes to improving staff productivity.

We're talking about productivity beyond the obvious—the ability to manage and update contacts, send and receive email and documents, and access reports and other account information. We're talking about enabling faster, more accurate communication with both internal data and people and the customers your employees deal with when out of the office.

It's clear that companies value the potential of mobile CRM. According to the Yankee Group, the goal of nearly half of companies planning to implement mobile CRM is to increase the number of client touches, while 40% hope to improve communication and coordination among employees, and 25% want to improve innovation. The survey found that 56% of mobile CRM users are executives, 40% are salespeople, and 23% are field technicians.

Here are seven methods to improve staff productivity with mobile CRM:

  1. Upgrade your mobile technology. The laptop has fallen out of favor as a mobile tool, both because it's bulky and because it doesn't lend itself to sharing at a customer site. Because laptops take longer to boot up and are less user-friendly than other types of mobile devices, users tend to hold off updating or interacting with them until the end of the day or even the weekend, notes Barton Goldenberg, president of ISM Inc. a Bethesda, MD. strategic advisory. And because they hold off on updating them, the information gets stale quickly.

    "We did a study with RIM a while ago and found that there is greater adoption of mobile CRM, especially by field workers, when they don't use laptops," he says. "But when they use something like a smartphone, they start using mobile CRM daily or even hourly."

    Moving to the new generation of tablet, like an iPad, can make it even easier to use and more productive. "Salespeople use smartphones to pull information up before they see a customer—like contacts, hot issues and account information—but they don't allow you to really engage with the customer," says Sheryl Kingstone, a Yankee Group director. "With a tablet, you have the space and the access to pull up what-if scenarios and just pass them across the table, like a paper notebook." Kingstone says that she's seen improvements from 30% adoption of mobile CRM to 70% adoption by going to more functional and user-friendly devices like smartphones and tablets.
  2. Integrate with back-office systems. Traditional mobile CRM applications are great for contacts and account information, but can't necessarily access quotes, sales orders, outstanding invoices or product delay information. The only way to do that is to integrate back-office systems like ERP and supply chain software into the mobile CRM system. With those hooks, you can easily respond to customer questions like "Can you get me 100 units by Thursday?" You'll also know the customer's purchase history and outstanding and resolved customer service issues.

  3. Create applications with role-based user interfaces. With limited form factors, presenting just the right information is critical. A salesperson doesn't need access to the same information as an executive, and a field technician needs different information altogether. To make these user groups more productive, create different application user interfaces with different hooks into your back-office systems. A customer-facing caseworker might need to know what's going on with the latest case, while a field service worker needs access to his schedule and any cancellations or changes. The sales rep wants information on the accounts and sale opportunities she plans to visit today.

  4. Stay informed via social media. If you're going into a customer meeting and want to be fully prepared, check social media sites to find anything related to the customer or the situation. With the latest information at your fingertips, you'll be better able to close a sale or respond to a situation. Better yet, integrate social media into your CRM application and filter it to suit your needs, so the information comes to you instead of having to search for it. CRM software solutions such as's Chatter and SAP's Sales On Demand automate these type of social media feeds, while several other vendors integrate to third party social CRM tools.

  5. Take advantage of intra-office collaboration. Sometimes timing is everything. If a customer has a time-sensitive pricing request, for example, you can set up the mobile CRM system to create a workflow that requires an approval resource to answer you within a specific timeframe and if he doesn't, the request is escalated to a higher level. Collaboration also works with multiple users; if you are visiting a potential client and want to be prepared, you might have a conference call with several department heads in the company to discuss strategy. But if you use the collaboration tools of your mobile CRM, you've got customer data integrated with a collaborative whiteboard that everyone can contribute to and you can do it at the point of sale if necessary.

  6. Use mobile CRM to close the deal. If you have access to account information, customer information, and analytic tools, along with an appropriate mobile device equipped with mobile CRM, you have the tools necessary to make a real impact. If you can show a customer, for example, the impact of moving a retirement plan to specific funds and wirelessly send them the plan immediately, you're likely to accelerate a purchase decision.

  7. Use more of your mobile device. Explore your mobile device's features, and use them to your advantage. If you have a change in schedule, use the GPS system to reroute quickly. If you need to take photos to explain something to a manager back at the office or document a claim, use the camera to take the picture and the network to get it where it needs to go. If you need a signature, use Bluetooth to sync to a digital capture device. End

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Comments (2) — Comments for this page are closed —

Guest Denise Johnson
  I think mobile CRM has been slow to catch on in part because the market and IT shops have been surprised by the downfall of RIM and are cautiously waiting to see wether Apple or Droid emerge as the dominant new leader. The iOS and Droid operating systems and applications development or so diverse that no IT shop really wants to support both if they can help it. Perhaps HTML5 will become the lowest common denominator to support ubiquitous mobile devices, but I suspect this approach will be rejected by many mobile purists as it fails to take advantage of unique mobile operating system capabilities in both platforms.

Guest Jeff Whitman
  iPhones and Droids now deliver a user experience that is simple, social and just outstanding - and most CRM software systems have adopted these platforms. As we continue to see more pervasive high speed connectivity, falling bandwidth and device prices, advancements in battery life and seamless integration with customer facing business processes as part of CRM software systems, there is no question these devices and mobile CRM will continue to grow.


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It's clear that companies value the potential of mobile CRM. According to the Yankee Group, the goal of nearly half of companies planning to implement mobile CRM is to increase the number of client touches; 40% hope to improve communication and coordination among employees, and 25% want to improve innovation. The survey found that 56% of mobile CRM users are executives, 40% are sales reps, and 23% are field technicians.


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