Mobile CRM sees midmarket momentum

A series of software releases, partnerships and acquisitions is bringing mobile CRM technology to a wider range of organizations.

The use of mobile CRM applications is beginning to make acquisition of Sendia, a partner on its AppExchange platform that mobilizes on-demand applications. Both Salesforce.com and Seattle-based Entellium Corp. also recently released

Mobile seems to be the magic bullet for us. That has been the thing that makes it so successful.
Leslie Amberger
Vice president of strategic initiativesOption One Mortgage Corp.

"We'd been looking at [launching a CRM project] for a while," said Leslie Amberger, vice president of strategic initiatives at Option One. "Mobile seems to be the magic bullet for us. That has been the thing that makes it so successful."

Working with Vettro, a New York-based mobile technology partner, Option One extends the Salesforce.com application to account executives' BlackBerrys, allowing them to access CRM information when they're visiting with brokers. It has resulted in account executives fostering greater relationships with their brokers, by knowing -- while they're making visits -- who's bringing in what kind of business and how often. It's a big differentiator in financial services, Amberger said.

"That's one thing our customers like about us," she said, "we're out visiting all the time."

Mobile CRM is gaining acceptance and showing results beyond just giving salespeople ready access to email, but better things lie ahead, according to Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal of Stoughton, Mass.-based Beagle Research.

"There are a couple of markets for mobile CRM," he said. "A lot of people are focused right now on CRM for internal consumption -- I work for you, and though I might be on the road, I need to hook up to the mother ship for information. There's a lot of value to be had in those. Those aren't going to be the most important going forward."

The real opportunity, according to Pombriant, is in companies connecting to their mobile customers. While much of the early CRM efforts around mobile have focused on the "road warrior," the salesforce out on the road and to some extent the employees providing service to customers in the field, marketing is taking advantage of mobile technology as well.

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London-based Serenata Flowers already has its delivery drivers equipped with pocket PCs to enter information as they're completing orders and is now extending its email response system to Short Message Service (SMS) or text messaging. There is generally a greater adoption of text messages sent through cell phones in Europe, and Serenata's customers have expressed an interest in SMS notifications, according to James Saunders, head of e-business development.

Using the email response system from Redwood, Calif.-based Responsys Inc., Serenata is now establishing a system that will notify customers via SMS when a delivery is made. The company does about 300 deliveries a day, about half in the London area, and customers are eager to know when those deliveries are made, often calling in to the company as early as 10 a.m., Saunders said.

Currently, once a delivery driver finishes an order, he'll enter into his pocket PC whether it was a successful delivery, the address, whether or not he left the order with a neighbor, or other relevant information. That is then sent to the company's back office system and an email goes out to the customer informing him of the status of the order. It's cut back the calls into the organization for order tracking by 75%, Saunders said. It's also increased customer satisfaction. Net promoter scores (people who would recommend the company to a friend) have also increased to 75%.

The company is now adding SMS messages that give customers the basic information and directing them to the company Web site if they want more information.

With many customers sending flowers only on special occasions -- say, a mother's birthday or Valentine's Day -- Serenata is capitalizing on the information and delivery vehicle. Someone who sent flowers on a specific date with the note "Happy Birthday Mom" will now get a reminder and possibly a discounted offer in advance of that date the next year.

More advances are likely to come as mobile platform and CRM providers partner and consolidate, Pombriant said.

"Consolidation will probably happen around the merger of operating systems and standards," he said. "One of the issues we still have to grapple with is there are about five operating systems for mobile applications. There's too much money to be made by individual OS vendors yet, to see them throw in the towel and merge with anyone. I've got a feeling that the killer app will be somewhat dependent on changes to applications as a result of changes to Windows Vista."

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