Companies with mobile workforces are increasingly looking to mobile CRM to increase productivity of their workers, streamline business operations and boost customer satisfaction. With mobile CRM, mobile workers have access to company CRM, enterprise resource planning, sales force automation or other back office software such as order management and accounts receivable through their browser-based mobile devices (BlackBerry, Palm, iPhone (News - Alert), any Windows mobile device, etc.).
This marriage between CRM software and the mobile network has been made possible through the advent of high speed mobile Internet access and, to a large degree, hosted software, or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS (News - Alert)). However, so far only a small percentage of companies are using mobile CRM (and many of those only on a limited basis), which means that it has the potential to see explosive growth over the next few years. Recent research from Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Compass Intelligence LLC suggests that businesses in the U.S. will spend roughly $9 billion on mobile applications by 2011, up from an estimated $3.8 billion this year. You can be sure that a large chunk of that money will be spent on mobile CRM.
Mobile CRM does much more than enable mobile access to email and text messaging. This is about access to real data, and the ability manipulate it in real time, as well as the ability to conduct transactions remotely. With mobile CRM, changes and updates made in the field can take effect in real time (or near real time) on the servers at the central office
. This “virtualization” of the company network means business information can be seamlessly shared across all channels, mobile or otherwise -- a huge leap forward compared to the clunky interfaces of the not-too-distant past. With mobile CRM, workers can share documents and have full access to their company’s CRM or ERP system while they’re in the field, at home, or traveling. Plus, depending on the software being used, management can get centralized, Web-based “dashboard” views of business activity and do real time analysis of the information which is coming from every end point, including the mobile devices.
But mobile CRM isn’t just about improving internal processes, it’s also about improving the customer experience. When a mobile worker is doing business with a customer, say, at their home or office, it helps tremendously if he has all of the customer’s information, past and present, right at his fingertips. The ability to, for example, get the status of an order, see past buying trends, get the model number of the last item purchased, or find out if a particular part is available at the warehouse, while in the field, while the customer is there watching, leads to a much more satisfying experience and, as a result, higher customer loyalty.
Leading the way in this new and emerging space is CRM solutions provider NetSuite (News - Alert). The company, which is seeing tremendous growth from it hosted CRM, ERP and e-commerce solutions, and is gearing up to go public, recently introduced SuitePhone, the mobile version of its increasingly popular CRM software. This powerful mobile software is now supported on Apple’s iPhone -- which is great news for executives and field workers looking to trade in the current PDAs for this exciting new mobile computing device.
To find out more about how today’s mobile CRM solutions work, the advantages do they bring to organizations, and what the key considerations are for organizations looking to adopt mobile CRM solutions, TMCnet recently interviewed Jay O’Connor, senior vice president of worldwide marketing for NetSuite. What follows are the responses to our questions:
What solution(s) is NetSuite currently offering in terms of mobile CRM?
NetSuite thinks that a mobile strategy is critical for today's roaming
workforce to remain connected with the real data they work with. The requirement for wireless connectivity surpasses the need to just access emails and send text messages; now the requirement is for access to real data and the ability to conduct transactions remotely. In addition, mobile device use extends beyond just sales representatives -- it is also required for field service staff, traveling health and home service providers, and many other professionals. Unlike stand-alone solutions for the mobile sales user, NetSuite is the first end-to-end business management software application in the SaaS industry that allows users to run all their key CRM business processes from their mobile devices. Users can place and manage orders, close transactions and sales, and support and service their customers via their mobile and wireless devices.
NetSuite customers have a variety of choices for mobile solutions for devices such as Blackberry, Windows Mobile and Palm Treo. With NetSuite on mobile devices, users can have access to the business application in real-time and run their business as usual while away from the office. Mobile functions for CRM users include:
--Creating new orders complete with product and service line-items as well as accurate pricing
--Generating quotes that can be emailed or faxed to the prospect and are ready for sales management approval
--Accessing complete historical background on customers or prospects including notes, tasks, calls, activities and opportunity details
--Creating new leads for later qualification and follow-up, as well as new opportunities that are instantly reflected in the forecast
--Managing daily activities such as calls, tasks, and meetings along with updates to notes and action items
In addition, as significantly, NetSuite recently announced SuitePhone, a capability that allows NetSuite customers to run business operations using the Apple (News - Alert) iPhone. The new SuitePhone capability provides native support for Safari, the iPhone and Mac browser -- and gives iPhone users the full ERP, CRM and Ecommerce functionality of NetSuite -- an integrated business management application used by thousands of companies to manage their businesses. Using SuitePhone, back-office users can use their iPhone to remotely access their financial functionality such as invoicing, accounts receivable, and payroll. CRM users can enter leads, file expense reports, view contacts, and even place quotes and orders. E-commerce operations can also be readily managed through the iPhone and NetSuite's role-based dashboards provide a bird's eye view of a business in real-time. The new SuitePhone capability and native Safari Browser support are available at no additional charge in NetSuite's new NetSuite 2007.0 release.
Thus, unlike stand-alone solutions typically targeted at only sales users, NetSuite is the first end-to-end business management software application in the SaaS industry that allows all mobile users to perform their key business activities from accounts receivable, to quote and order management, to closing transactions and sales, to customer support and service. With NetSuite now on mobile devices, users can have access to key data in real-time and from everywhere to run their business as usual while away from the office.
What are some of the major benefits of this (these) solution(s)?
We think wireless connectivity has become mainstream in today's workplace. NetSuite mobile users can:
--Maximize productivity of their mobile sales force
--Improve service with a 360° view of your customer - anytime, everywhere
--Enable out-of-office resolution on mobile devices
--Address customer requirements at the point of interaction
--Provide sales reps real-time, high-quality data for improved effectiveness
--Provide field service reps access to accurate, up-to-date information on issue status
In addition, with the iPhone, NetSuite users can run their entire business anytime, anywhere -- all aspects of NetSuite are visible, and all transactions can be accomplished through the NetSuite interface on the Apple iPhone.
When's the right time in the CRM selection process to start looking for mobile tools?
As soon as you have a distributed sales force, field service staff, or any employees that travel out of the office and need a wireless means of accessing their customer or transactional data.
It should be a key part of your buying decision. First you should consider whether the tool meets your most fundamental needs - does it give me anytime, anywhere access, is it an integrated system, is it easy to use, can I grow and scale with the tool, can I afford it, how much will my business benefit from this tool in terms of increase sales / increased productivity and efficiency/reduced cost/better decision-making ability -- and then check for whether the tool includes the other functionality which would help me run my business effectively.
What are the two or three most important ways CRM must be modified for mobile usage? Please explain the differences/advantages/disadvantages of each method.
We don't think that CRM applications should require modification to support the mobile workforce. However, we do think that planning for your mobile device integration does take some thought. Here are what we think are some top points to remember in creating a mobile workforce.
--Good mobile integration is a business tool, not just a communication mechanism (like the traditional cell phone). It is a way for your teams in the field to always have access to up-to-date customer data and to be able to address customer requirements at the point of interaction.
--Business data security cannot be compromised. Like any other computer access, you want to ensure that security is provided for users of mobile devices. In NetSuite, the same access rules and logon controls apply to wireless devices used in accessing your business data.
--360° customer data is essential. The mobile sales team needs to be able to reliability the most recent data on the customer - including the products or services purchased, the status of deliveries or returns to that customer, any problems or issues raised by the customer, and the status of his accounts. Does he have an out-standing product issue? Is he in arrears?
--Availability-to-Promise is a mobile requirement. Remote sales people need to be able to look into stock and tell if the item the customer wants is available. Likewise, field service personnel need to know if a part is in stock, on order, or at another depot location. As these discussions may well be had in person in front the customer, instant access to reliable data is crucial.
--Enable transactions. The empowered mobile workforce needs more than just data access - it needs the ability to conduct business from any location. The ability to place an order, close a deal, update a support record, post time against a project - done remotely through a wireless device - can shorten the lead-to-cash cycle, improve customer satisfaction, and result in the increased accuracy that ensues from immediate data submission.
Who are your target users and what's your market focus? If possible, give an example of how one of NetSuite customers (named or unnamed) is benefiting from the implementation of a mobile CRM solution.
NetSuite was built from the ground up to specifically address the needs of growing, midsize business across a wide variety of industries. We are a great fit in particular for companies who have between 20-1,000 employees, although many smaller and larger companies also use our product with great success. We solve these customers' needs by giving them one easy-to-use system to run their entire business with -- from CRM to accounting/ERP to e-commerce to inventory -- all available via the web. This solution helps these businesses make faster better decision, automate business processes, grow faster, and eliminate IT costs.
What would the mobile CRM tool that comes to dominate the mobile space do that the others didn't do? (What might end up being key differentiators?)
The ability to run your entire business, from accounting to sales to inventory to e-commerce, in real-time and easily through the phone to conduct transactions as well as check data (such as customer contact addresses, status of orders, and the like).
What features do mobile users ask for the most?
--Retrieve, update and take orders
--Manage cases, call reports, tasks and activities
--Bi-directional transaction processing
--View and edit customer records, opportunities, contacts, events and tasks
--Search Sales Orders by order number, customer name and/or sales order status
Ease of use and ease of setup are always key. The ability to manage sales, place orders, check support issues, access dashboards are also key demands.
What are the two or three mistakes you see companies making when selecting CRM tools?
The single biggest one is trying to run their mobile CRM in a single system while trying to run your other mobile apps through other systems. This results in wasted time, costs money, hurts the customer's experience with your company, and makes it difficult and cumbersome to access key accurate business information.
What are the next moves for NetSuite in the mobile space?
Stay tuned. Our mobile CRM and business application tools are already unique in the industry and we have many new capabilities that will be announced in the near future.