Let Your Data Do the Walking
|At a Glance: Arbill Glove and Safety Products|
|The company: Philadelphia-based Arbill Glove and Safety Products is a distributor of over 4,000 glove and safety products. Staff includes 100 inside sales reps and customer service personnel and 14 mobile, outside sales reps. The problem: How to provide mobile sales representatives with up-to-date client information quickly and increasing successful sales visits. The solution: Internet-capable cellular telephones loaded with CRM applications for wireless communication with central sales offices. The technology: Arbill uses SalesLogix software from Interact Commerce Corp., which permits communication among all sales department employees. Cellular telephone providers in each sales territory supply Internet-compliant handsets.|
Behind the ScenesTo achieve Arbill's wireless CRM goals, Copeland needed to replace an ancient, text-based TeleMagic CRM product that faced Y2K-related obsolescence. The reliance on a dumb-terminal-based package hampered the company's ability to embrace the Internet and the opportunities presented by e-commerce and other Web-based technology, which Arbill saw as a competitive disadvantage. Installation and deployment of the SalesLogix software at Arbill was simple and straightforward and done over a weekend, says Copeland. The most time-consuming part was importing existing CRM information from the old system, she says. Arbill worked with Practical Sales Consulting Inc. of Blue Bell, Pa., to create custom software to read its antiquated systems information. The telephone deployment took less then two weeks to implement. Interact Commerce provided extensive training on the new package well in advance of product rollout. Cost of the installation from the systems integrator for the first year was approximately $74,000, including customization, back-office integration, and training. Aside from the costs regularly associated with cellular services there are no additional charges for providing mobile connectivity. Since cellular telephones were already a part of the mobile sales reps' tools, no additional expense was needed to supply them. Telephones are supplied by Arbill for all users and are provisioned with sufficient minutes to support virtually continuous access. "The increased number of successful sales calls easily justified the project cost," Copeland says.
|Lessons Learned About Using Wireless CRM Software|
Know Your Needs and CapabilitiesWhen planning IT infrastructures, companies should do as much as possible to anticipate the impact of mobile, intelligent devices. "Allof this stuff is borderline miraculous," observes Peter O'Kelly, senior analyst at Patricia Seybold Group in Boston. "If you don't look at wireless capability as a fundamental part of your corporate architecture then you are not doing the right thing." A major stumbling block early on for Arbill was the ability of communications providers to support the protocols for Internet-capable telephones needed to run the SalesLogix software. "Sprint Communications Co. was the first and only provider, and we had to wait for others to offer comparable services in different geographic regions," says Copeland. "We selected the strongest provider in each territory for individual salespeople." Companies also must remember that bandwidth and capacity still pose limitations to mobile devices. "Determining which enterprise applications to enable wireless capability for" is a major challenge, says Mark Zohar, research director, communications, at Forrester Research Inc., of Cambridge, Mass. You must compromise to account for the limited bandwidth, storage, and display capabilities of these wireless devices. "You can't take all content wireless; you strip out and select which content you need," he says. Wireless CRM will enable new types of products and services and will usher in an entirely new set of opportunities and challenges, according to Aberdeen Group. Christopher Fletcher, a vice president and managing director at Aberdeen, says CRM software is a natural fit for mobile devices. "Salespeople can access the most recent inventory information and can make delivery commitments based on that information. That alone is a compelling reason to adopt this technology," he says. "It is culturally acceptable to use a palm device or cell telephone at a meeting and refer to it," continues Fletcher. "They are unobtrusive where a standard Windows PC is more distracting." Arbill sales reps have found that using this type of technology in front of their customers creates a positive image for the company, according to Copeland. "Right in front of the customer they can see the kind of technology capabilities that we have," she says. "Our customers can see we are innovative, that we are fast paced. The more information I can provide to the salespeople and customers, the better." //
Neil Plotnick is the author of "The IT Professional's Guide to Managing Systems, Vendors and End-Users." He has supported a variety of computer systems in various industries for more than 15 years. He can be reached at Neil@NeilPlotnick.com.