Mobile Device CRM: Unavoidable Cost or Solid ROI? It's All in How You Use It

By | Aug 22, 2012
Topic: CRM/ERP

Mobile devices are everywhere, and it's no longer in the best interests of business IT to ban personal smartphone or tablet use. Fighting the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend is like fighting the tide; you can do it, but don't expect results. For those companies that have embraced the use of mobile machinery, a new frontier has emerged: mobile CRM. Instead of using customer relationship management software chained to a company desktop and accessed the same way by consumers, many businesses are choosing to offer more mobile-friendly options. But it's how they handle these mobile CRM deployments that will either brand them as money sinks for midsize IT departments or help generate a real return on investment (ROI).

Everyone's Doing It

This is often the reason that a midsize company moves to a mobile CRM solution. They hear about the benefits from other companies or read about how they will be left behind if they don't get into the game. The problem, in part, is that these kinds of CRM solutions aren't exactly cheap and if implemented as part of a "we'd better do it or else" deployment, likely won't get used to their full potential.

Take the example of Jeff Hasen, CMO of Hipcricket. As reported in a recent CRM Buyer article, Hasen had a less-than-pleasant experience with Comcast, his cable provider, and jokingly referred to it as his "10 millionth" bad experience. All Jeff needed was an answer to a simple question about a charge on his bill, but he had to threaten to cancel his services before finding a resolution, because the customer care rep he spoke to couldn't find the answer. Jeff's suggestion? Get a mobile CRM app, let him forward his bill to a Comcast employee with the questionable charge highlighted. No muss, no fuss.

The issue? That these kinds of flexible CRM solutions aren't cheap, and companies often don't see their immediate benefit. A sales app for mobile sales personnel is self-explanatory and, no matter its initial cost, should quickly pay for itself. Letting consumers use their smartphones to connect with front-line staff has a less obvious undertone of ROI. It's in these cases, the CRM Buyer article argues, that companies make the mistake of approaching a mobile deployment as just another cost center when what they need to do is develop a plan for ROI before implementing a solution, and only deploy as much mobile tech as they need rather than going all-in from the start.

Feel the Earn

It's not hard to see the value of CRM companies. an August 20, 2012, article at Daily Finance talks about the expected earnings announcement this Thursday, which should see the company standing firm despite having shares high-priced at 100-times expected fiscal earnings. While their stock is down to $146.00 from its high of $164.75, it shows no signs of significant instability, giving the company yet another stellar quarter, even with overall revenue down due to increasing investment.

Clearly, ROI from selling CRM is possible, so why not from deploying it? This is where midsize IT admins have a difficult time, as mentioned above, since management often sees mobile device CRM deployments as a necessary evil—the cost of doing business in an increasingly social world. While IT professionals can take that attitude at face value and simply implement the service as directed, it is possible to use mobile systems for substantive benefit. A robust relationship with satisfied customers—and analysis of the data generated from that relationship—can yield influence over consumer decision-making at crucial times, such as in-store or when considering a new service provider.

The easy answer is to look at mobile deployment as one more cost to be minimized or one more dollar to be spent. Smart money, meanwhile, is on making any money paid out pay itself back—ROI is, in fact, possible with mobile CRM.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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