A new report reveals that businesses aren't upgrading from CRM to mobile CRM anywhere nearly as quickly as anticipated. And findings suggest that it is not just inertia, says Mike Richardson.
The way people work is changing and expectations are changing with it. Businesses no longer operate only from a fixed location – the emergence of smartphones, tablets, netbooks and other mobile devices in people’s professional lives means that they can work at home and on the move. To optimise their chances of retaining valuable business or making new sales in today’s plugged-in world, employees increasingly require the ability to keep track of crucial customer data, wherever they happen to be working, in order to ensure that they communicate with individuals at the right time, with the necessary background and in the best way.
CRM systems are integral to enabling businesses to store and access comprehensive and accurate information on customers and prospects, including purchasing histories, service records, notes on previous correspondence and communication preferences. This information sits at the heart of a company’s relationship with its customers. As the way in which companies and customers interact with each other changes, it is absolutely vital that enterprises upgrade their CRM systems to include mobile access and functionality.
And it seems that businesses are beginning to take note: new research from Maximizer Software indicates that more and more companies are adopting web-accessible CRM. The research report, entitled 'Everything, everywhere, right now
', indicates that firms are indeed responding to new ways of working by ensuring that their employees are able to access data just as easily on the move as they can in the office. The independent survey of nearly 1,400 small and medium-sized firms in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) reveals that nearly half of SMEs with CRM systems in place have now upgraded them to include mobile access and functionality.
However, while SME adoption of web-accessible CRM has increased significantly, uptake is not as steep as anticipated three years ago. A major research report in 2009 predicted that, within two or three years, almost all companies with a CRM system in place would have upgraded to include mobile access. It revealed that a third of SMEs had already deployed mobile CRM (33%) and that nearly all the rest planned to do so in the next two to three years (63%). Maximizer’s latest research points to a slower rate of adoption, with 46% of SME CRM users in EMEA now having mobile CRM capability.
Mobile CRM concerns
This is not just inertia, however. A number of legitimate concerns, highlighted in Maximizer’s research, are causing businesses to hold off. As well as understandable anxieties over systems cost – particularly in a tough economic climate – many SMEs are hesitating to make the move to web-accessible CRM because they are worried that the security of their data will be jeopardised. As security concerns become big news, with the tabling of new EU data protection legislation and the emergence of remote and cloud applications, businesses are growing increasingly conscious of the importance of protecting customer data. These research findings underline the fact that companies need to satisfy themselves when it comes to the security features of whichever mobile CRM system they choose. It should also encourage CRM systems suppliers to endeavour to convince SMEs of the robustness of their systems’ inbuilt security capabilities.
Half of the respondents to this study also expressed concerns over integrating mobile CRM with their existing systems. Again this is a legitimate point, given that there are countless examples of apparently affordable solutions escalating in price when integration services are added on. However, it is also a wake-up call for CRM systems providers to improve awareness among SMEs of the wide variety of successful CRM systems already on the market which have an affordable entry point, inbuilt saleability and the ability to be customised to the user’s business.
Whilst these concerns may be deterring companies from upgrading to web-accessible CRM solutions, the testimony of those that have taken the plunge provides ample evidence of their potential benefits. One company that is reaping the rewards is Combiflow, Ireland’s leading provider of process pumping and conveying products. The business upgraded to mobile CRM in 2008, when it realised its existing system was preventing its salespeople from spending as much time as possible talking to prospects in the field.
Combiflow’s managing director, Morgan O’Brien, certainly does not regret making the move; he says that having a web-accessible CRM system “has given our remote workers the luxury of being able to work almost anywhere. They can update and share their calendars with the entire sales team, as well as add appointments, sales quotes and customer correspondence details without having to go into the office. It has given us the freedom to make the most of the time spent with potential clients. This has resulted in more sales calls and, ultimately, more business.”
Ensuring that staff can count on remote access to all the sales, marketing and customer service information available – no matter where they are – has clear commercial benefits, particularly as customer expectations change. Furthermore, in a competitive and always-on business environment, it is becoming a fundamental requirement. Firms without the means to respond to the latest information simply because their CRM can only be accessed back at home office run the risk of being left behind.