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Mobile CRM's Strengths and Weaknesses

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Posted May 5, 2016 By Drew Robb     Feedback

Mobile CRM is great for some functions, like real time contact management. But other tasks are still best performed on laptops or desktops.

Mobile CRM has been with us for a while now. Some thought it would supplant other CRM platforms so that everything could be performed on one device. So has that happened, or is mobile CRM largely being used for niche functions?

Greg Gsell, director of Sales Cloud Product Marketing, Salesforce, insists that nearly every CRM task can be executed in the Salesforce1 Mobile App. Hundreds of thousands of salespeople already run their business from the palms of their hands, he said.

"Sales teams trust that they can seamlessly move from working on their laptops to working on their phones and all the information they need will be there," Gsell said. "Some tasks may still be done more efficiently with a little more screen space or room for written thought, but conducting key business functions from your phone is the new norm."

Not everyone agrees with that view, however. While it may be technically possible to perform most CRM functions on a mobile device, some stratification of CRM appears to be the norm for many companies. While mobile CRM has clearly proven its value in certain areas, the laptop or desktop prevails in others.

Mobile CRM and Real Time Info

"Mobile CRM is very good for contact management, opportunity management and most of the functional aspects of the job that need to be executed on the go," said John Golden, chief strategy officer at Pipeliner CRM. "When it comes to deeper analytics and reporting, the sales manager is likely to default to a laptop or desktop."

Golden believes in using different form factors for their individual strengths. Mobile CRM's greatest strength lies in accessing just-in-time information at the point of impact, he said.

"Mobile CRM is a benefit in terms of being able to pull out your smartphone and access or update information about an account or contact during a conversation, or just before going into a meeting or at a networking event," he said. "This is not just convenient, but can give you the competitive edge."

Size Matters

Luke Wallace, a market researcher for Software Advice, a site that offers comparisons of mobile CRM systems, said size matters when it comes to what is important and what is not in mobile CRM. Large companies or manufacturers usually need it as a critical part of operations, while smaller companies may require only a small amount of mobile functionality or perhaps none at all.

"Mobile accessibility is always nice to have, but it might not be a critical feature for a smaller manufacturer that has a smaller operational scope," he said.

That said, Wallace added that sharing of documents and presentations with prospects, order taking and invoicing, and expense and travel management are particularly useful features for mobile CRM. Many of these mobile CRM functions are better suited to tablets than smartphones, though the steady growth in screen size makes some of them practical on phones too.

Capturing Customer Data

As the workforce becomes more dispersed and employees spend more time away from their desks, mobile CRM applications play a vital role in keeping field reps and salespeople in touch with each other during their day-to-day activities. Otherwise some may not pick up their laptops until the end of the day, which slows sales processes.

"Mobile CRM apps are crucial to ensure those valuable interactions with customers that take place outside the office aren't left behind," said Martin Schneider, head of Product Evangelism at SugarCRM . "Data captured from real-time interactions and functions relating to prospect information are the most crucial to have on mobile."

One way to capture this data is note-taking using voice command. Sales managers on the go can enter data without having to sit down at a desk as in the past. This is particularly valuable in managing information around "small" data that helps describe what occurred during customer interactions, Schneider said.

Mobile CRM Limitations

While mobile CRM works well for this kind of data, it's generally best to leave heavy-duty analytics to applications on the desktop or workstation. Relying on a smartphone to deliver high-level forecasting, chunky campaign-building and other administrative tasks may not be a good idea. Analytics capabilities of some products are better than others, but overall, delivering intelligence about prospects or opportunities remains a weak area for mobile CRM, Schneider said.

"These areas have a lot of room for improvement in a mobile format, but these are typically not needed in the field for prospect meetings," he said. "Email integration, calendar integration and offline capabilities are the most important aspects of mobile CRM as they enable reps to work wherever they happen to be."

Mobile CRM and Geolocation

While analytics may be a weak area, Wallace said mobile CRM's geolocation capabilities have improved greatly. This adds real value to sales interactions and saves time in going from site to site and planning out routes.

"Geolocation uses GPS functionality to track and analyze customer locations," Wallace said. "This is particularly useful for salespeople that want to optimize navigation while in the field. It can also help them visualize their sales territory and see whether they have a lot of customers in a particular area. This can be used to tailor content and offers based on location-specific customer behavior."

Mobile CRM and Complexity

Generally speaking, mobile CRM and complexity do not mix well.

Some vendors do not use the perspective of aligning mobile's strengths with salespeople's immediate business needs. Instead, they cram a bunch of features into their mobile versions, making mobile CRM apps so complex they may become burdensome for sales staff.

"This has led to salespeople and sales managers having a different experience depending on what vendor they are using," said Golden, of Pipeliner CRM

He advises sticking to the basics with mobile CRM and doing them well. This should incorporate the features that are the most important, particularly those that can make a difference in real time such as account management, contact management and lead management. Further, mobile CRM apps should make it easy to interact with the information, via email or a call directly from the app.

Selecting the wrong features is one of six common mobile CRM mistakes covered in a recent Enterprise Apps Today article.

SugarCRM's Schneider concurs.

"It's not about cramming every feature and functionality into the mobile phone because not all CRM tasks need to be performed on the go," he said. "Companies must think about what absolutely needs to be there in a mobile capacity, and the rest should be relegated to the laptop."

Check out Enterprise Apps Today's list of 10 popular mobile CRM apps.

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).

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