Mobile CRM – Why it Fails, and How to Succeed


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In terms of mobility, 2013 was the year vendors shipped more than 1 billion smartphones. Closely complementing this mobility trend, IDC forecast that tablet sales will reach 227.4 million units in 2013, a whopping 57.7% increase from 2012. Yet for all the mobile adoption, mobile CRM remains sporadic and under-utilized for most organizations, and of the few mobile CRM adopters, most fail to achieve sustained user adoption and a positive ROI.

So what’s the disconnect?

Too many believe that mobile CRM is simply CRM software delivered on a mobile device. This simple thinking fails to recognize that typical CRM objectives such as opportunity management, creating quotes or displaying a 360 degree customer view are seldom well delivered within the form factor of smartphones.

Many mobile apps are simply impractical because the (desktop) application is simply resized to a mobile device. Other mobile apps are visually appealing, but not very smart in that they fail to take advantage of the mobile devices unique strengths. Another common problem is failing to recognize that mobility shouldn’t be applied across the spectrum of CRM business processes but instead focused on the particular mobility-driven use cases that deliver the biggest value.

How to Succeed with Mobile CRM

Here’s some tips and advice for how to succeed with mobile CRM.

  • Start with use cases. For mobile to make business sense it must be use case driven. Contact center use cases are few. Sales person use cases are many but vary widely in terms of value. The starting point for mobile CRM strategy is to identify those business processes and information requests most facilitated by anytime/anywhere access.

    For example, beyond access to simple contact information, field sales people may benefit from having real-time access to the last conversation minutes, outstanding cases, open orders, product deliveries, unpaid invoices, aged receivables, available credit limit and other information which may be requested by the customer or needed by the sales person in order to continue their sales pursuits. The sales person wants to appear informed, and doesn’t want unanticipated questions and an absence of information causing delays to their sales objectives.

  • Consider ERP integration. Much of the customer information sales people seek while in the field — such as orders, invoices, credit memos, payments, RMAs, credit availability and more — is housed in back-office accounting or ERP software. CRM systems which include tight integration with ERP applications will deliver a richer data experience and support far more business processes for mobile CRM users.

  • Use the mobile devices unique capabilities. Just pushing legacy CRM software to a mobile device doesn’t produce any synergy. Instead, find ways to leverage CRM data with capabilities that are only available with mobile – such as marrying CRM call plans and mobile geo-location, using a touch screen to update a task or activity, or reviewing contact updates from social networks before walking into the contact’s office. Linking CRM use cases to mobile capabilities such as quick information access, touch screen navigation, geo-positioning and anytime/anywhere connectivity to CRM, legacy and online systems is certain to create efficiencies that users will appreciate.

  • Focus on the user experience. PC and mobility operation are meant to be different. Pushing a desktop app to a mobile device isn’t going to achieve a positive user experience. To make the smaller form factors and more limited data entry capabilities work for mobile users, the mobile apps should make data contextual, make information entry as automatic as possible, minimize keystrokes and streamline workflow. Despite being seldom used for data entry (in largest part because the CRM software publishers don’t support it), audio is proven to be the least effort and most efficient mobile data entry method.

    Filtering and sorting CRM records by user is essential. As smartphones are not well suited for scrolling, don’t display every CRM record but instead limit records to only those assigned to the user, and possibly only those that are active. Sorting data by utilization will further decrease search and navigation time. Avoid making users sift through voluminous records to find what they are looking for – as most users simply won’t go through that hassle.

Answering The Call For Mobile

Mobile CRM is on the rise, however, mobile success is not keeping pace. CSO Insights reports that 42% of sales staff now use mobile devices, however, 4 out of 5 are only using basic productivity apps such as email, and only 1 in 5 companies have tried to apply mobility to their business processes.

The bottom line to mobile CRM adoption (and a positive payback) is to recognize that staff will only use mobility if it saves them time, increases their productivity or aids their objectives. CRM analyst Sheryl Kingstone advises that “Employees will only use a mobile system if it somehow reduces the time needed to enter or find information.”

For the forward thinking business leaders the upside is clear. According to a Nucleus Research study, sales people achieved a 14.6% productivity increase when using mobile CRM apps. Nearly a third of respondents cited a productivity increase of more than 20%, and only 2% said they saw no productivity benefit. When including a combined mobile and social CRM deployment, sales people incurred productivity increases of 26.4%.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Chuck Schaeffer
Chuck is the North America Go-to-Market Leader for IBM's CRM and ERP consulting practice. He is also enjoys contributing to his blog at


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