A mobile, dispersed, on-the-go workforce has forced an issue for companies of all shapes and sizes: the need for mobile customer relationship management (CRM).

The demand for mobile CRM brings up some key questions: How can today’s CRM meet tomorrow’s mobile workforce requirements? Will mobile CRM overtake traditional desktop CRM? Will we need to replicate the desktop CRM experience for mobile devices? Which mobile CRM features are most needed today (email integration, calendar) vs. tomorrow?

What we do know is this: CRM is growing. Gartner predicts CRM will be a $36 billion market in 2017. 

An All Mobile, All the Time CRM Outlook

Mobile CRM is CRM designed for mobile devices, including tablets and smartphones. Basically, mobile CRM allows a company’s sales force to access real-time customer data while out in the field meeting with customers and prospects. 

Running your entire business — including CRM — on a phone isn’t forward-looking. What is forward-looking is a mobile device that helps you access the information you need when you need it.

As it stands today, the CRM market has reached about 25 percent of its potential. The CRM industry has taken the classic desktop CRM and made it available “under your thumb” — a tiny, packaged (and mobile) version of the desktop. Mobile CRM now enables you to view upcoming events in your personal daily activity stream, access contact information from one location and make calls within the app. 

I think we are about two years away from many companies’ sales teams running entirely on mobile. In fact, more than half of salespeople (55 percent) report accessing sales applications exclusively through smartphones or tablets (source: Gartner). In coming years, the general use case for CRM will be mobile, while desktop CRM will support more specialized, specific tasks. 

Who Does Your CRM Cater To?

While we are far along in providing a “classic” CRM experience on the phone, we need to redefine what we mean by the term “CRM experience.”

Basically, CRM users can be broken down into two types: people who work directly with customers and management — or the doers and the watchers. 

While the watchers need a lot of reporting and forecasting, the CRM's focus should be on people who DO things, the people who are calling and visiting customers and making sales, or on site solving customer issues. Historically, CRM has been focused on reporting. Then, when companies buy a CRM system for the “watchers,” engagement falls and few want to use it. 

CRM — including mobile CRM — should narrow its scope to cater to the doers.

Forward-looking mobile CRM will shift from “CRM you take with you” to a complete experience. One aspect of this mobile CRM experience will be geolocation, or CRM that “knows” your geographic location. 

If I’ve just landed in Los Angeles, my CRM will be able to suggest which customers and prospects I should visit (along with providing their contact information) and the latest account status information. My CRM should “tell” me about the potential lead in Burbank and remind me about the two customers in Los Angeles who are considering buying additional products. I should also have access to notes from my previous interactions with these companies, what version of the product the company is using, how long they have been a customer, customer satisfaction level, etc.

Learning Opportunities

Mobile CRM Gets Smarter

Another aspect of the forward-looking mobile CRM experience will encompass machine learning and predictive analytics. As I’ve mentioned, running your business on your phone isn’t particularly forward-looking — what’s needed is CRM that intelligently advises the user.

Tomorrow’s intelligent mobile CRM will move beyond connecting you with needed information and toward advising you on your next step. Virtual assistants should guide users, recommending best actions for deepening customer relationships. 

Digital assistants should also scan social networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) to locate information about clients that can be used to spark a conversation (what school the client attended, hometown, etc).

Machine learning and digital assistants help prioritize tasks for the user based on where he or she is at the moment (“space and time” data). These features will move mobile CRM forward from 25 percent to fulfilling 100 percent of its potential. 

As the CRM automatically gathers data from various sources and makes recommendations, it should guide the user through specific actions. Natural Language Processing (NLP) can help with hearing, reading, note-taking and turning text into actionable items. Simply adding in account updates to reports doesn’t help a salesperson get things done. The “machinery” that analyzes content, assigns tasks and prioritizes actions is what helps the CRM doer complete tasks and close deals.

When it comes to developing and deploying mobile CRM, SDKs (software development kits) will still matter. Companies want to add, modify and brand specific features, and a mobile SDK enables that. CRM providers can help companies develop a custom mobile app, helping the organization set up their development environment and create and distribute custom-branded versions of the CRM mobile application.

A Promising Future for CRM

Overall, when we examine the industry-wide evolution of CRM, including mobile CRM, the engineering power is there. The machinery, tools and computing is there.

What remains is integrating and powering all these different features, functions and capabilities to form a CRM experience that is mobile, intelligent and customized, and one that boosts the user’s effectiveness, efficiency and productivity. Stay tuned.

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