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The next generation of mobile and field force automation

CHICAGO -- A company's sales force must interact with customers using e-CRM environments, as CRM applications are being built into the back end of operations, according to Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies.

Speaking at a chair address at the DCI CRM conference and Expo, Bajarin described the impact of next generation of mobile and field force automation on CRM. He also demonstrated its virtual agents. At the end of the presentation, PeopleSoft and JustTalk officially announced the release of the JustTalk voice-activated sales force automation interface.

"A successful CRM deployment must carefully integrate mobile and field force applications and technology into the overall CRM program," Bajarin said. Additionally, the new definition of mobile and field force is emerging as "any employee that works beyond the desktop," including executives, managers and customer service directors, he said.

The mobile sales and field force teams are the lifeblood of any CRM program, Bajarin said. These people are the direct link to the customers for sales, customer support and field service, he added.

Field force automation has to be factored in when dealing with CRM, according to Bajarin. By linking existing customer data to wireless applications, a company's mobile sales force has more opportunities to up-sell and cross-sell to the customer, as well as gather information on-site that is fed to the CRM systems, he said.

Extensible markup language (XML) is the platform that is being used to create custom software for wireless applications, Bajarin said. It helps to take chunks of data over to the handheld environment, he added as he introduced a demonstration of AvantGo's service.

"HTML (hypertext markup language) fits in a limited scope of development," said Gilad Ben-Yoseph, vice president of corporate development at AvantGo. With an array of wireless devices, developers don't want to have to redesign applications. They want to take the existing technology and allow the user to experience it, he said.

"Mobilizing is key to getting information from customers," Ben-Yoseph said.

Through AvantGo, companies can take existing Web applications and put them through the AvantGo technology to allow the mobile field force to access data, Bajarin said.

"Next generation mobile technology is key to the sales and field force," Bajarin said.

"A big mistake is trying to do too much at once," Bajarin said. Instead, a company should deploy just a small amount of data, and after working out any bugs in the program, deploy it across the company, he said.

"The most important tools necessary to make it happen are just now coming to market," Bajarin said. He then introduced Michael Zapata of Lipsinc, a company that provides virtual agents for Web use.

"Engaging content allows an increase in the level of customer satisfaction and differentiates the site," Zapata said.

Zapata then demonstrated Lipsinc's virtual customer service agents, which are different from video in the sense that they are computer-generated images from two photographs of the live agent. They work in low bandwidth conditions since the company only has to send voice over the lines, he said.

A field service representative could access the virtual agents to get information on how to solve a customer's problem on the field. Zapata demonstrated the field service representative setup, which pushed instructions on how the problem, in this case a malfunctioning set-top box, could be fixed.

Finally, PeopleSoft and JustTalk officially launched the integration of JustTalk's speech recognition with PeopleSoft CRM's mobile sales force automation software, which was announced in December 2000. See related article

"It's much like talking to a personal assistant," said Peter LaSalle, product strategy manager at PeopleSoft.

Pamela Emery, vice president of strategic planning at JustTalk, demonstrated how the voice recognition worked. As she dictated various phone numbers and to-do items in natural language, the computer automatically filled in the information in a database, which appeared on-screen.

"Mobile technology is critical for the next generation," Bajarin said. "In California, when the power goes off, the laptops still work."

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Creative Strategies

AvantGo

LIPSinc

PeopleSoft

JustTalk

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