Mobile CRM is on a real growth tear. Last year Gartner predicted a 500 percent growth rate for mobile CRM apps. Also last year, C-suite executives responding to an IDC survey identified CRM as their most-wanted mobile app. There are many factors to consider when deploying mobile CRM technology, of course. Here are some of the main ones, as identified by experts:
Unlock the Doors
Many companies are understandably worried about mobile security. But those that let these concerns keep CRM completely in-house and non-mobile are going to miss the party.
"Companies that are using a legacy CRM system locked behind a firewall will struggle to deliver exactly the right amount of data or information and the most important transaction capability on the tiny screen of a smartphone or the small screen of a tablet," said Ted Schadler, an analyst at Forrester Research.
Understand Mobile CRM Use Case
It's important to consider, document and prioritize how mobile technology is going to be used within a company. For example, do users only need to view basic contact and appointment details or is more detailed information – such as transaction history or profile background – required?
"These scenarios will help inform both the type of device required (small screen or large) and the level of interaction required while mobile -- light reading or detailed reading and updating," said David Beard, CRM Principal, SageCRM.
Network Coverage Area and Connectivity
The coverage area of the network is another factor to take into account. If network reception is spotty in outlying areas where salespeople or field service reps will be operating, there may be no point in purchasing wireless apps which come with a whole host of bells and whistles to provide the latest data to reps in real time.
"Consideration should be given to whether usage will require any time of offline or any non-connected activity," said Beard. "You also have to watch out for field service usage within building basements as well as out of the way locations where data coverage may be compromised."
Mobile CRM's Cycle of Interaction
Beard said it is important to make the "cycle of interaction," the way in which users interact with a record in the CRM system, as easy as possible, whether on a traditional computing device or a mobile offering. "This means having simple and functional screen designs that adapt to the user's device choice, without the user having to adapt or re-learn," he said.
Mobile CRM and Data Replication
The traditional gap between mobile and desktop CRM has been the need for data replication. The lack thereof has led to a fall-off in the use of mobile CRM when it’s needed most: in front of the customer. This also leads to dissatisfied sales representatives, which can result in lower productivity in the field and lack of communication between headquarters and the rep.
"Mobile CRM implementation means convincing your salespeople that you’ve solved these issues in order to get everyone on board with the program," said Kamal Ahluwalia, chief marketing officer, Apttus. "Modern sales representatives require on-demand access to key contract and pricing insights."
How Much Application Integration Do You Need?
Some mobile CRM platforms are designed to operate on their own while others are part of a larger suite. And then there are standalone tools that offer integration with certain other applications. When deciding which mobile CRM solution to deploy for your business, keep in mind what you need the mobile CRM application to do. For some, little or no integration is good enough for what they need to accomplish. But for others, complete linkage with ERP and other enterprise apps can be the make-or-break point of success.
"Choosing a mobile CRM solution that seamlessly integrates with your financials/ERP, e-commerce, inventory and more will provide a clear 360-degree view of your customer directly on your mobile device," said Vishrut Parikh, director of Product Marketing, NetSuite. "A fully integrated suite of business applications can provide real-time visibility across your entire business, streamline operations and enable business growth."
Part of the Big Picture
Stephen Fioretti, vice president of Product Management at Oracle RightNow Cloud Service, pointed out how much mobile CRM has changed since it entered the popular imagination four years ago. Back then, CRM pioneers were introducing mobile initiatives that were largely distinct from, and adjacent to, the rest of the organization’s CRM strategy. That approach was novel and new and had some workability back then. But it won’t work well today.
"Nowadays you have to address mobile as part of everything you do," said Fioretti. "The majority of CRM professionals now see mobile CRM as a core element in their customer experience strategy. Mobile users and mobile experiences need to be treated as a standard part of your customer engagement program. This requires a comprehensive approach to CRM that is device agnostic rather than mobile focused."
Mobile CRM Is Not One and Done
Those choosing the right mobile CRM application and carefully implementing it may still ultimately fail if they don’t take into account the human factor. It's important to include a feedback loop to application developers so they can tweak the CRM app to satisfy user-specific needs. Jay Ivey, a researcher at Software Advice, provides two key questions that must be answered correctly for mobile CRM success: "Did you develop a successful adoption program? Are you continually tracking the impact of the technology on your success and adjusting as appropriate?"
Drew Robb is a freelance writer specializing in technology and engineering. Currently living in Florida, he is originally from Scotland, where he received a degree in geology and geography from the University of Strathclyde. He is the author of Server Disk Management in a Windows Environment (CRC Press).