Most companies today have a bifurcated approach toward how they interact with their customers. The first set of touch points involves sales people who create the initial relationship and manage the transactions. The second set of people are typically a small army of service and support staff who ultimately determine how happy the customer really is.
The challenge a lot of organizations face is that this is an expensive way to do business. Sales people are lot more valuable when they spend more time acquiring new customers than trying to sell additional services to existing customers. And field service people could be a whole lot more valuable if they spent more time selling additional services to existing customers that they have developed a trusted relationship with.
The trick from an IT perspective is how to go about enabling that to happen. When the service relationship is over the phone, it's a lot easier to give employees the tools they need to sell additional services. But when the relationship involves field service people that physically visit customers, the challenge becomes a little more complex.
To help better enable more selling by field service people, Motorola is rolling out a new version of its MC9500 ruggedized handheld device. This version of its handheld adds the ability to not only capture images; it is much more robust in terms of supporting Windows Mobile applications. What that provides is a platform that makes it more feasible for field service people to conduct enterprise-class transactions on the spot.
There are a couple of immediate business benefits when this happens. The first is that the amount of sales volume per customer should increase. The second is that very expensive sales people can spend more of their time hunting for new customers, versus servicing your existing ones.
Of course, many people would be right to point out that at a more basic level, you can accomplish much the same thing using a standard smart phone and a Twitter account. But for certain classes of corporate sales, that transaction needs to be deeply ingrained inside a much larger set of business processes that are typically wrapped around an ERP system. That level of integration requires some custom development work that you won't be able to do on a standard smart phone just yet.
Field service people are one of the most overlooked and under-appreciated assets in just about every business that relies on them. Figuring out how to leverage the relationships these people have with customers is one of the most significant things an IT department could be doing today to change the very nature of the way the business operates.