Analyst Perspective: Mobile CRM Solutions
By Jeff Goldman
This is the fifth in a series of in-depth interviews with industry analysts, discussing their perspectives on key issues related to BlackBerry devices.
Sheryl Kingstone is the director of Yankee Group's enterprise research group, focusing on key trends in marketing and sales effectiveness and customer-centric processes, as well as the evaluation of CRM application and delivery strategies. She was awarded the CRM Influential Leaders Award in 2006, and was the first female to be inducted in the CRM Hall of Fame.
Kingstone says there's currently an enormous amount of opportunity -- and already some initial success -- in the mobile CRM market. "The users of the Salesforce product have the ability to download the application, either for free or a more sophisticated application that they pay for -- then you've got some other SMB apps on the low-end side, like SalesNOW," she says.
Inevitably, these applications are most appropriate for mobile workers. "Where I've seen mobile CRM really have a lot of success has been with the salespeople that are remote... they've had a Siebel in the past or a Salesforce.com, and they're completely mobile," Kingstone says. "That's when the take rate of the actual CRM application becomes higher."
The point, Kingstone says, is that these types of solutions just don't work on a laptop, particularly for mobile sales reps. "Sales force automation... has been notoriously a failure, because you can't use the application -- it's always on your laptop, which is locked away -- and then every Friday night you go and you enter all your stuff in," she says. "So the quality is awful, and the take rate of the application is only because you've got someone banging on your head to enter information."
In comparison, she says, a mobile device can transform the user experience. "When you put more information in real time, and when you put more information at the hand, on the fingertips, the actual, usable, good take rate of it goes up to 70 percent... It does make a huge impact on the usability of the application," Kingstone says.
Still, Kingstone says companies that implement a solution
like this need to keep the inherent limitations of mobile devices in
mind. "Really understand what the processes are that you want to
mobilize, and don't try to cram everything into one process," she says.
"Don't cram everything onto the device."
Mobile middleware from companies like Antenna Software
, Kingstone says, can be key to integrating a mobile CRM solution with a company's other applications. "I prefer that type of solution for a salesperson, actually, because it's process-oriented and goes across multiple different applications that a salesperson uses," she says.
The more integrated the functionality, the more useful these solutions become. When a call comes in to a user's BlackBerry, for example, "I could have that telephone number tied to an account, and it could trigger, 'Do you want to log this into Salesforce (or Siebel, or whatever it is)' -- and then you hit 'Yes,' and it's done," Kingstone says. "So you're really lifting a lot of the manual processes and automating them, which is massively important for a customer-facing salesperson that needs to be in the field."
No matter how useful the app might be, Kingstone says, most salespeople don't spend their day only using a CRM application. "They potentially have pricing applications, they have order applications, and that's the way they work," she says. "So it's even more critical to have a mobile middleware play for a salesperson than it is for even a field service person."
Crucially, Kingstone says, most enterprises seem to have a good understanding of the potential of mobile CRM. "CRM happens to be one of the most strategic applications to mobilize -- beyond email... and it's still in its infancy, so it will have a large take-up still to come," she says.