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The Long Wait for Mobile CRM: Are We There Yet?

The Long Wait for Mobile CRM: Are We There Yet?

Is mobile CRM just around the next bend? If a slew of new applications for the iPhone are any indication, it may have jumped from the realm of wishful thinking to concrete possibility -- but "possibility" is still the operative word.

CRM users have been waiting for a viable mobile CRM market ecosystem to develop for years. To be sure, the industry tantalizes users with news that this or that vendor or offering or solution will herald mainstream application of this technology. For the most part, though, it hasn't happened yet, Yankee Group analyst Sheryl Kingstone told CRM Buyer -- even though the need is huge among companies that wish to stay competitive.

"I strongly recommend that, as much as possible, organizations incorporate mobile technologies into their sales operations, if nothing else," she said, noting that an environment has evolved that demands data intimacy and immediate information to effectively connect with the customer.

While the industry hasn't quite reached that point, several vendors are beginning to provide a glimpse of what is possible. The iPhone, in particular, has generated much excitement among users and vendors.

For example, check out this list of 25 iPhone apps for business. With more than 550 iPhone apps now in the iPhone store, writes Drea Knufken, the challenge is not acquiring them, but finding the ones most relevant to your needs. Among Knofken's picks:

  • 43 Actions -- the ultimate action list that allows a user to organize actions, add new ones via e-mail or Twitter, check off finished actions, get agendas e-mailed on a regular basis, and more.
  • Salesforce Mobile for the iPhone -- instant customer information on Salesforce.com's mobile platform. "What more could you ask for?" enthuses Knofken.
  • Oracle Business Indicators -- business performance info, including a range of analytics. "No more need to pop open the laptop before that big meeting," she writes.
  • Airport Flight Delays -- flight statistics allow users to check out delay info.
  • PackageTrackr -- tracks packages through UPS, FedEx, DHL, the U.S. Postal Service and more.

The Rise of the Chief Community Officer

Chief customer officer. Chief risk officer. Chief marketing officer. The business community is adept at creating new C-level positions for itself. To be fair, these tend to develop as the market and technology push companies to elevate such activities to the top enterprise leadership level. Now, it looks as though a chief community officer may be next.

There's a growing need for an executive to coordinate both internal and external communities, wrote Ross Mayfield, chairman, president and cofounder of Socialtext, after touching upon it in a discussion at Office 2.0, held earlier this month.

"Community will become a facet of everyone's job. Not just external communities for customers and partners and media and investors and developers and more. Every process in the enterprise has the potential to be redesigned with more transparency and participation through Social Software," he says.

Today, ownership in corporations of customer communities commonly resides in marketing, he continues, "but marketing doesn't own all the more specialized processes that create this view, so Marketing Managers become traffic cops and attempt to interface the whole organization. Customer communities are more sterile, homogenized and veneer than they will be in the future. When people seeking support, sales, partner, developer and media conversations intersect primarily with one part of the organization that has its own goals and measurements -- you have an elephant trying to fit through a keyhole and nobody knows who has the key."

One key conduit for the customer half of the corporate community is, of course, the contact center -- an entity whose technologies and business practices are continually evolving.

It's time to get back to the basics of one fundamental aspect of these operations -- training -- wrote Rosanne Dausilio. (Her motto: "Twenty five years from now customers will still be human beings.")

"While much attention has been focused on the technology and benefits of providing multiple channels for customer contact, little consideration has been directed to handling the human part of the equation-- training Customer and Technical Service Representatives to field more than just telephone communications," she says. "With the explosion of e-commerce, the need to reinforce keeping the human element in the equation is paramount. Certainly now more than ever before in history, customer-centric service is a necessity."

Winter Is Coming

Salesforce.com is priming the pump for its upcoming Winter '09 release with reactions to early highlights of the application:

  • "Schedule and Email Reports; at last, we can get MI in front of Senior and Exec Management at the time they need it, and Lotus Notes users will be able to see the images on dashboard emails
  • "Campaign Influence Reports and Remove Campaign Members; some welcome improvements to Campaigns although there are many more that we would like to see to help Marketing make the most of the platform.
  • "Cross-object formulas for self-relationships; Parent Account has always been infuriatingly close without being usefully in reach. Now we can actually do something with it.
  • "Workflow and activities on Many-To-Many Objects; There are a lot of Many-To-Many relationships in our industry -- IFAs and Networks, Consultants and Pension Schemes -- so any functionality that helps us interrogate these is great. More please!"


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