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Mobile CRM Blends Sales And Service Roles For Greater Competitive Advantage

By Darc Dencker-Rasmussen, SAP AG


In a world where margins are shrinking and enterprises of every size are streamlining their organizations, the need to build profitability and grow revenue has never been greater. Customer satisfaction, visibility to customers' needs and the ability to respond to them in near real-time becomes a critical competitive driver. With more satisfied customers, an organization can better grow margins while lowering the cost of service and improving cross-selling and upselling opportunities. But today's economic realities are putting pressure on companies to maximize their existing workforce, making it difficult to hire new workers in sales and service organizations. With this in mind, companies are looking for new ways to remodel their organizations for productivity gains ' particularly by blurring the lines between sales and service roles. By extending the use of customer relationship management (CRM) applications to the edge of the enterprise via mobile devices, organizations can creatively expand their workforce to deliver outstanding customer satisfaction, achieve financial performance objectives and considerably boost competitive advantage.

New Options For Customer Service
The results of a recent study of 1,300 global corporations reveal that the top-three perceived benefits in implementing a mobile enterprise solution are customer satisfaction, employee productivity and operational excellence. New mobile CRM applications on devices such as Blackberries, smart phones, PDAs and tablet PCs can blend employees' roles as much as they blend communications and services ' giving companies new options for improving customer satisfaction, productivity and financial performance.

Traditionally, the service organization catered to the vital after-sales needs of a customer, including deliveries, installations, upgrades, repairs and other activities that often require deep knowledge of a company's product. Companies with an outside sales force are looking for ways to keep the sales pipeline fluid ' capturing new leads and converting them into well-qualified opportunities they can close quickly and efficiently based on good customer information.

Mobile CRM can transform the service technician into a real-time lead generator as well as a sales person for appropriate products such as consumables, product add-ons and peripherals, as well as services such as service extensions and extended warranties. How often does a company have the opportunity to interact directly with its customer? In many industries, the service call is often the only contact for months and sometimes years; it is a moment of truth that should be leveraged accordingly. The service technician has the opportunity to identify a customer who might be going into a buy cycle for a replacement or who is considering another purchase; it is here that the opportunity is presented to capture the perfect lead. Often the service technician is viewed more as a trusted advisor than a sales person and will, therefore, get better access to lead information about purchase considerations, often discussing the pros, cons and alternatives.

Capturing this information and converting it into a well-qualified lead, on which a fully fledged sales person can follow up, yields the highest and most reliable lead-to-sales conversion rates. The key is the ability to capture all that information on the spot in an easy, natural and efficient manner, then relaying it in real time to the sales organization.

Mobile Cross-Selling And Upselling
Here is where mobile technologies can help. In addition to capturing leads to pass on to a sales organization, the service technician is ideally suited to sell appropriate products and services such as consumables, product add-ons and peripherals. In many industries, it is the consumables, spare parts, peripherals and add-on services that yield the highest margins. What better opportunity than during a service visit to help the customer understand why your products are better suited to his or her equipment and/or needs, and have the ability to take orders on the spot, providing convenience and leveraging the moment of truth. All of this is particularly applicable in the field of sophisticated machinery, such as medical devices, film-developing equipment and printing and copying equipment, as well as plant equipment. It also applies to service technicians for consumer durables ' such as the washing machine or dryer. The service technician has the opportunity to identify a replacement lead, someone who needs or wants to replace his or her old machine ' critical in an industry that depends on repurchase rates as a key to success. Furnace repairmen, cable providers or any other service technicians who service consumers in their homes have a similar opportunity to open the door to new sales opportunities. Using a mobile handheld device, a cable provider can cross-sell a customer on high-speed Internet after installing cable, and quickly initiate and complete the sales cycle on-the-fly, right in the customer's living room. Without mobile CRM, the lead might be lost or possibly followed up days or weeks later, when the consumer's interest has waned. Mobile CRM can afford enormous competitive advantages by helping service teams gather relevant and timely information in the heart of the action and give the sales force the opportunity to do something about it before the competition does.

These moments of truth can also be leveraged to build better, more competitive products while building enormous brand loyalty. Take the example of sonogram (medical ultrasound equipment) service technicians, well-versed in the operation of sophisticated machinery. These technicians have a unique opportunity to gain insight and recommend improvements to their employer based on daily interactions with sonographers, doctors and others offering feedback on the equipment. Without mobile CRM capabilities, this valuable feedback might only be stored in the technician's head or, in the best-case scenario, jotted down on a piece of scrap paper.

Traditionally, there has been no formal way to capture this information, but mobile CRM applications enable service personnel to capture information on the spot and relay it to a knowledge warehouse in real time, at which time it can be utilized by product development teams to enhance future products.

With this information, it would even be possible to identify which doctors, for example, had recommended certain product enhancements, and when these features are added into the next model, those doctors could be notified that their input had been incorporated into the design. While the same suggestion may have come from hundreds of doctors, each one would feel that his or her idea had been the impetus for the product design. The satisfaction and pride associated with this sense of connection to the new product would spur an instant viral marketing wave, and doctors would tell others in their professional sphere about this new product. In markets where word of mouth will often make or break a product, this kind of customer intimacy is a supremely effective competitive weapon.

Capturing, tracking and delivering the intelligent data is the role of the mobile CRM system. In this case, mobile CRM drives product innovation and turns the sales technician into a conduit for greater customer intimacy, market insight, long-term customer loyalty and a lethal competitive advantage.

Creating Sales And Marketing Champions
For beverage and similar companies, with thousands of delivery distributors, mobile CRM can transform delivery personnel into sales and marketing champions. For example, a delivery driver for a major beverage manufacturer is responsible for all touch points in a store: stocking the storeroom and floor shelves, providing signage, interacting with the store owner or manager, etc. Using mobile CRM, this service-oriented individual becomes a new front-line salesman for the company by easily taking orders on the spot, gathering feedback on the performance of particular product lines, cross-selling new products and promoting new offers and marketing collateral ' all of which require minimal action or follow-up by the retailer. By expanding the delivery service team's previous focus of solely delivering and arranging goods to also include spontaneous customer service enhancements, mobile CRM empowers these front-line representatives to generate new sales opportunities and increase customer satisfaction. In an industry where margin pressures are enormous, this approach effectively wipes out the need for a separate sales force driving around parallel to the delivery vehicles, a concept that easily ports to many other industries.

All of these examples demonstrate how mobile CRM can expand the capacity of a workforce and afford greater competitive advantage without added HR costs. Not only are service teams taking on new roles using mobile technology, but with mobile CRM, sales are being made before the competition even knows there is an opportunity.

TCO Down, ROI Up?
But what does mobile CRM mean for the organization in terms of cost and resources? The answer: very little. New mobile technologies, such as RIM's Blackberry, will plug into existing infrastructure, making it as easy to link a Blackberry to the network as it is to connect a desktop. Mobile devices can become simple extensions of an existing business ecosystem and could actually lower total cost of ownership (TCO) while increasing return on investment (ROI).

Any capital investment required to empower the service team with mobile CRM is quickly alleviated by returns generated by the new product- and revenue-generating opportunities. For instance, mobile technology provides an on-the-spot decision-making ability by leveraging all available information about a customer and his or her history to order the right part, check availability, assess symptoms and solve the problem in real-time.

This valuable business intelligence ensures the most personalized service during a face-to-face customer interaction, therefore helping to improve sales opportunities. Mobile CRM also puts the service technician in a new position to relay timely customer information to the organization to improve sales leads, enhance new and relevant customer profiles and impact the product development cycle. A new level of customer intimacy created by mobile CRM applications puts the company in a better position to understand customer needs and react to them immediately ' further strengthening competitive advantage.

Although there are good signs of an economic recovery, companies large and small are always looking for creative ways to maximize existing resources. Mobile CRM provides a cost-effective and useful way to expand employee roles, driving greater productivity with minimal additional investment. By arming the front-line service team with tools to engender customer satisfaction and uncover new opportunities, mobile CRM enables a company to control costs, drive revenues and ultimately gain competitive advantage for long-term success. CIS

Darc Dencker-Rasmussen is vice president of CRM business for SAP AG.

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