The war for cellular hegemony in the enterprise is underway. It became serious when the iPhone became compatible with 3G networks in 2008. The press started to talk about the enterprise features of the iPhone,its ability to access Microsoft Exchange,and its “push” (more like “fetch”) e-mail. What made it most exciting was the App Store—the exchange for iPhone developers who used the SDK to create applications. Thousands of applications appeared as if by magic,but of course really through the largesse of Apple.
Among those thousands of early applications were an interesting twosome,one from salesforce.com that linked directly to your salesforce.com account,and another from Oracle,which linked the Oracle business intelligence applications to the iPhone. Mobile CRM came to the iPhone. As of August 2009,all the major CRM players had one or more iPhone applications.
This wasn’t the first time,though. There had been an attempt back in the days of the 2G iPhone where browser-based CRM applications were optimized for the iPhone. They included NetSuite,Etelos CRM for Google,and EBSuite and HEAP,two small business CRM applications. After a complete review of all of them,my conclusion was,when it comes to CRM,stick to the BlackBerry. The reason was simple. The EDGE network was too slow to wirelessly handle the robust CRM functionality that was normally required. Load times for a page could be over a minute in length and sometimes considerably longer. But that’s changing. RIM’s BlackBerry is still the CRM platform of choice,but the iPhone’s greater speeds,especially with the release of the optimized 3G (S),make it a platform worth looking at. Oracle,SAP,salesforce.com,and NetSuite,among others,are looking to the iPhone as a development platform for CRM. The Palm Pre,which is premised on Sprint’s forthcoming 4G transmission belt,is a promising mobile CRM platform.
But this is just the present. There is a much more robust future as data transmission speeds increase and CRM becomes an increasingly flexible set of services. That means mobile social CRM.
Mobile Social CRM: True Dat
Take a look at Figure. That’s the mobile adaptation of the blogging tool Typepad—the on-demand version of Six Apart’s Movable Type. You can read or post to a blog directly from the device.
Blogging from the iPhone
But this is only the beginning. The social CRM mobile applications will be more commonly available by the end of 2009 and into 2010.
True mobile Social CRM will be driven by the addition of features associated with what Kamar Shah, Nokia’s head of industry marketing,calls “people,place,and time.”
This isn’t particular new or surprising. Time shifting—meaning the ability to download,say,a podcast anytime and play it anytime you want—is a long-standing practice. Place shifting—taking that same podcast and playing it on any device anywhere you want—is also quite common. But Kamar Shah means more presence and location-based services that would be focused around business. The interest in this reflects the incorporation of consumer thinking into business strategies,processes,and technology.
Presence- and Location-Based Mobility
Presence- and location-based mobility is the near-term future for mobile CRM. For those of you who just aren’t cool technophiles,the combination of presence and location on a mobile device means that,if it’s yours,the mobile device can identify accurately where you are and,if it’s a friend of yours,they will receive a transmission from that mobile device letting them know where you are. ABI Research predicts that by 2012,335 million North American consumers will subscribe to some sort of location-based services.
Many consumer mobile devices have GPS chips embedded,which are a prerequisite for presence- and location-based services. As a result,knowing where your children are is a family service offered by a number of the carriers and their cellphone manufacturers. The 3G iPhone,still primarily a consumer device,has dozens of applications based on location services.
One of the most intriguing of the consumer apps is the Yelp iPhone application. Yelp is a social network of people who review retail stores,restaurants, hotels—all brick-and-mortar businesses in local geographical areas—and is one of the most popular and incredibly powerful. One day,a friend and I decided to find a good restaurant in Manassas,Virginia (where I live). That wasn’t something bvious in this town,where most of the restaurants are at best so-so. I went to the Yelp application on my 3G iPhone. It used the GPS locator to find restaurants in my vicinity. I narrowed the search to Thai food. I found a restaurant I never heard of,Siam Classic,which had five-star reviews from everyone reviewing it. I clicked on the button in the application that took me to Google Maps. The GPS chip identified my current immediate location. I filled in directions to the restaurant according to the address in Yelp. We went there. The food was outstanding.
Think about this. I’ve lived in Manassas for 17 years and never heard of this place,but the use of location-based services and a socialnetwork that identified it gave me confidence in the choice and guided me there. That’s quite cool now,and in a few years,this will be ordinary.
But that’s the consumer side. What about the business side? What about mobile CRM? Since we’ve already identified field service and sales as the easiest entry points for mobile CRM,it stands to reason that presence- and location-based business services are most advanced there.
In field service,location-based services have been used to optimize the schedules of technicians in the field. By tracking the location of the field service personnel (yes,they can be tracked in real time),not only is the use of each technician’s time optimized but if an appointment falls through,the dispatchers are able to one-click another nearby service ticket and send the technician over there instead.
It works the same way for sales,but its utility at this stage is a little dicey. For example,SalesLogix for the BlackBerry has a button on a sales screen that says “Nearby Accounts.” Click on it and based on your location,it will find those clients that are nearby so that you can maximize your effectiveness when out on client calls.
But it gets really interesting when presence is added. NEC has unified communications services that not only will find the closest technician when they have a problem to solve,but will find the closest available technician—the addition of presence functions allows you to not just broadcast where you are,but what you’re doing. In the NEC version,there is a profile of the technician that immediately shows how they prefer to be contacted and then a one-click contact accomplishes the connection in the manner the technician prefers.
From Social CRM’s lofty perch,the most exciting part of the future of mobile lies with the on-the-go participation in social networks and the use of social media. This is only possible because of the growth of 3G and because of the capacity for incredible amounts (though by future standards,I’m sure,minuscule) of processing power crammed on the mobile unit.
This isn’t something we have to look forward to someday; it’s happening now. A study released in July 2008 from Informa Teleca said that 50,000,000—2.3 percent of all mobile users—were already using social networking,and this is expected to rise to 12.5 percent by 2013.
Helio was an early failure in this area. It was a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). That meant it provided services and devices but didn’t provide bandwidth,which it leased from Sprint. In 2006,they announced a partnership with MySpace and developed a custom portal for their devices,but they rose and fell with the popularity of MySpace and since have receded into the background,quietly absorbed by one of the parent companies,SK Telecom.
However,companies like Movo,which was acquired by Neighborhood America in 2006,the entrprise social networking platform I awarded the Chapter Superstah!, are able to carry out large-scale community creation with the use of texting and mashups with Google maps and of course presence and location services. For example,one nonprofit was interested in creating communities of interest around social issues. Over 1 million opt-in SMS messages were sent out with requests for the recipients’ interests. Then another SMS opt-in message was sent to those who responded,with a few more requests to deepen the profile that was being created.
All in all,the result was a geographically based set of different communities of interest based on the social issues that concerned the members. If there was the need,let’s say,for some action in Seattle over Darfur or global warming or the financial crisis,then it was easy to find the people in Seattle who were in the appropriate communities of interest. There was a call to action via text message. The actions were taken. All mobile.
The business value of this is immeasurable. The information about customers,the ability to segment them organically,and their participation in the discussions going on about the interests or practices that fascinate them—this is an emotional connection. This engenders advocacy,and this is the future of mobile CRM.
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