Gearing up for the flexible working world: How to adopt “mobile CRM”

By Chris Lee

Enterprises are gearing up for a more flexible customer service environment with nearly half of small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) engaging mobile customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, according to Mike Richardson, managing director of Maximizer Software.

Richardson argues that in an increasingly mobile business environment, CRM systems need to be accessible anywhere, anytime. Businesses today operate from wherever their employees are – that could be on the road, from a home office, or in a hot-desking environment, he argues. The prevalence of smartphones, tablets, netbooks and other mobile devices in people’s professional lives is now driving this more flexible approach to work.

“The one proviso is that company systems need to be able to support this remote working trend,” he told NMK.

Everything, everywhere, right now

New research from Maximizer Software shows businesses are starting to make the change, Richardson said. The research report, entitled < i>Everything, everywhere, right now, shows that firms are indeed making CRM systems more usable for staff who are on the move or working off-site.

The independent survey of nearly 1,400 small and medium-sized firms in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) reveals nearly half of SMEs that use CRM systems have now upgraded them to include mobile access and functionality.

“Whilst this growth is substantial and is expected to continue, it does not match the steep mobile CRM market growth trajectory predicted three years ago,” Richardson added, citing a major research report in 2009, which laid the benchmark for SME take-up of mobile CRM and found that finding that a third of small-to-medium company CRM users had already deployed mobile CRM (33 per cent) and the majority of the rest planned to do so in the next two to three years (63 per cent).

Maximizer’s latest research reveals that further adoption of mobile CRM has indeed taken place this year – albeit significantly short of what was initially predicted – with 46 per cent of SME CRM users in EMEA now using a mobile CRM system.

“The main perceived barriers to adoption of mobile CRM are identified in this study as being systems cost, information security and integration with existing systems,” Richardson explained. “This is a wake-up call for CRM systems providers, given that there are already a number of successful CRM systems on the market designed for SMEs with an affordable entry point, inbuilt saleability, proven mobile capabilities and the ability to be customised to the user’s business. Evidently, awareness of these solutions amongst SMEs needs to be improved.”

Mobile CRM in action

Richardson said that with concerns among many businesses apparent, feedback from those who have already upgraded show the benefits far outweigh any potential difficulties. One such example is South African-based refrigeration technology firm Minus 40. Based in Cape Town with an office in Johannesburg, the company’s network reaches as far as Namibia, Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria and beyond. In 2011 Minus 40 upgraded its software to facilitate mobile access.

Steven Davison, Minus 40’s managing director, said: “Sales representatives who need to travel and visit sites can now link to the CRM system via the web, while the office in Johannesburg works directly on the central database, hosted online.”

Davison added that being able to access the firm’s CRM system anytime and anywhere provides Minus 40 with a very simple way of “staying in touch with all our customers and delivering first class customer service”.

The benefits of mobile CRM are clear to Richardson, with the need for businesses to have remote access no matter where their staff are working increasingly a fundamental requirement.

“As this new study concludes, further efforts are required from CRM vendors to increase awareness of affordable, secure, easily integrated mobile CRM solutions,” he summed up. “The way business is done is changing, and businesses need to move along with it. With less than half of EMEA businesses capable of remote access, it appears a sizeable number still need to catch up.”

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