DirecTV tunes in to mobile CRM

Time saved by having anywhere, anytime access and mobilized CRM lets sales managers visit 30% more accounts weekly

DirecTV adds mobile capability to Siebel On Demand application via Antenna Software’s AMPower tool.

Erik Walters, project manager for DirecTV's sales operations in El Segundo, Calif., faced a difficult challenge: Help 45 area sales managers stay competitive by spending more time with the 5,000 dealers in the company's nationwide retail channel. "The reality of those numbers alone is very daunting," he says. What made the task of staying in touch with their customers next to impossible, however, was the complexity these sales managers faced when remotely accessing customer data.

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Walters concedes that data was not flowing easily from the company's Oracle Siebel CRM system. "Sales reps in the field were at the mercy of different business units, including IT, to pull reports from three or four different locations. By the time this happened, the data was anywhere from a week to a month old," he says.

In addition, the sales managers relied on laptops, which can be awkward to deal with and, if a wireless card can't pick up a signal, not always able to connect to the network as needed. Often, that meant managers had to wait until late in the day or the end of the week to fill out sales reports or find answers to important dealer questions. "In this industry, information is key. The more frequent and accurate your information, the better off you'll be to help the dealer," Walters says.

Erik Walters, DirecTV

The mobility ideal

Walters knew that mobility-enabling the CRM application would go a long way toward addressing the shortcomings, but he needed to make that happen quickly. Earlier this year, he distributed BlackBerry devices to the area sales managers and activated Antenna Software's AMPower Sales plug-in for the Siebel CRM On Demand hosted service. With the plug-in, which works with client software loaded on the BlackBerries, mobilizing Siebel CRM On Demand was a breeze.

Within months of rollout, the real-time application was delivering quantifiable results. Users were more productive, able to cull reports on their own and file sales-call updates from the field. In addition, dealers received far better service because sales representatives could answer their questions immediately. This smart-and-quick mobility project earns DirecTV a 2007 Enterprise All-Star Award.

Walters manages the AMPower tool, which gives users instant access to account and marketing information, from the Siebel CRM On Demand Web-based console. "The flexibility within the tool is amazing. We can create layouts, change the way it looks and decide which users have access," he says.

Walters also can develop new fields for sales metrics on the fly based on user feedback. "We build the field, and the next time someone logs in, it's available," he says. The tool's tabular structure lets him break up data and optimize its presentation for the BlackBerry.

For instance, users can create reports that show how many activations their dealers are providing each month, and how many of those activations are part of high- or low-end packages. They also can update their sales reports, letting supervisors see their progress in real time. If dealers have any questions, sales managers can cull answers from the database or submit service requests.

Mobilized for better business

Having the AMPower tool also makes it easy for the marketing team to push up-to-the-minute product information out to the area sales managers. "As sales reps get each conceptual idea, they can immediately go out and sell it," Walters says.

Statistics prove the project's success. The area sales managers are meeting with 30% more accounts a week, and each has saved more than 90 minutes per week because of anytime, anywhere access. Because sales reports are submitted every day, sales executives can better manage sales goals for their direct reports. Service-request resolution has shortened from five days to three because sales managers can fill out forms on-site. Most important, the visibility of application data from internal systems has improved by 100%, Walter says.

Walters credits the deployment's success to the attention given user needs. "We spent the first couple of months asking users about the features they felt were most important," he says, adding he created a core group with a cross section of users based on technology comfort-level. That group still meets weekly to discuss features. "Core groups are essential. If you put in a great system based on limited input, you'll waste time and money and be back at the drawing board in no time," he says.

Now that the project has proved successful, Walters is hoping to roll out the AMPower tool to other DirecTV users. He also intends to roll out Web services to gather data, crunch numbers and provide further reporting capabilities.

Although Walters could not share the cost of the project, he says, "Enterprise mobility is common-sense ROI, and the benefits are indispensable. We've experienced improved efficiencies, increased productivity and better customer relations."

Gittlen is a freelance technology writer. She can be reached at sgittlen@charter.net.

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