Brainstorming Wireless Sales and Service

Wondering how you might use cell phones and PDAs on the wireless Web to improve your company's sales and service? We offer lots of ideas.
By Scott Brinker

Wondering how you might use cell phones and PDAs on the wireless Web to improve your company's sales and service? Let's get right to some ideas.

A price list look-up waplet enables your sales team to quote exact figures anywhere, anytime. This is especially useful for complex or extensive product lines, where there is a matrix of many possible product options or where prices are frequently changing. At its most basic, it simply asks for a product SKU and returns the current price from your central database.

More advanced implementations can be rate calculation waplets that walk through several steps to dynamically crunch the numbers according to formulas and data that are maintained at the home office. In addition to determining prices, calculators can be used to demonstrate ROI (return on investment) or figure out financing options.

For hard goods, an inventory waplet can provide an instant answer to availability, and a delivery estimation applet can answer the important question of "when".

To make such services more than informational, a quote reservation waplet might be practical to lock a customer into a certain rate, on-the-spot, giving them 24 hours to finalize their order. Or a product reservation waplet could make sure a customer doesn't miss out on a fast-selling item or opportunity. These in-the-field applications can lend immediacy and urgency to sales situations, facilitating a close.

While it's not practical to review spec sheets or product photos wirelessly, a document forwarding waplet can be invoked to fax or e-mail the latest information on demand. (Imagine the impression this can have on your prospects: they ask for more info, your salesperson punches a few keys on a cell phone, and suddenly the pages zip in on the fax machine.)

Small snippets of business intelligence that are useful in negotiations can be available on-the-fly in a competitive prices waplet or a market data waplet.

If a contact name and number need to be located -- either for the salesperson or the customer directly -- a company directory waplet can put the answer right at one's fingers.

As part of managing the relationship, the salesperson is often the point of contact for questions about where an order is in the pipeline for fulfillment. An order status waplet can give the answer. If something appears to be wrong, buttons can offer choices to initiate an inquiry or an exception alert. The salesperson can also be given the option to be wirelessly notified when the status of an order changes, providing the opportunity to proactively check in with the customer.

If you have a good customer relationship management (CRM) system in place, you may also want to give your salespeople the ability to add small notes from the field or request a reminder for follow-up activity with a tiny relationship note waplet. (Keep in mind, though, that because of the small screen and awkward support for input, this should be limited to a few simple choices.)

Important announcements -- to individuals, groups or "all hands" -- can be communicated as short messages. These might be broadcast manually by someone at the home office or generated automatically by the company's centralized business software. While these notices can't go into much detail, they can serve to quickly alert people to time-sensitive developments. A two-way pager waplet lets recipients acknowledge receipt or respond with yes/no or other multiple choice feedback.

For service people who are booked for multiple appointments within a day, subject to change with cancellations or additions, a dispatcher waplet can provide a more organized way of keeping everyone in sync. The up-to-the-minute schedule is always available to the remote employee, along with a relevant address, phone numbers and brief job parameters for each customer. A job status waplet can be used to update the central office on the work's progress, which can then affect rescheduling or redistribution of other jobs that may be impacted.

A time tracking waplet can be used to accurately measure hours spent working on a particular project for a customer. An on-site employee simply "clocks in" and "clocks out" to record when billable work is being done. There might be an option to classify the type of work. Back at the office, this collected information is aggregated into precise invoices and reports of services rendered.

A travel itinerary waplet can provide staff who travel beyond the local region with information for flights, hotels and car rentals -- including directions, confirmation numbers and corporate account numbers. An expense tracking waplet can help collect and organize expenditures for records and reimbursements.

As another variation of capturing small bits of information wirelessly, scientific and engineering personnel can use a data collection waplet to record short readings and survey results out in the field.

These are mostly generic ideas, only briefly described here. The best wireless applications will be tailored to your business. Hopefully this has sparked your own brainstorming of the potential for practical wireless applications in your business.

Scott Brinker is the chief technology officer at i-on interactive, an e-business consultancy that builds practical Web applications. This story first appeared on NewMedia, an internet.com site.






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