SAP have been working hard to enhance this functionality in their cloud-based CRM offering over the past couple of years, and the result is a solid solution which provides the best of both worlds; autonomy and connectivity for your sales people, but also oversight and control for the management team.
On the management side; the solution gives excellent functionality around the control of the structure of customer visits in that the sales administrator can set up pre-defined tasks which are to be carried out in preparation for a visit or by the sales representative whilst on customer site. This includes the possibility to include complex multi-tiered surveys. This of course drives consistency throughout the sales team. Many of these Activity Plans can be created and then assigned automatically to visits dependent upon intricate business rules. Other functionality allows the identification of which customers are overdue and the centralised creation of relevant visits, automated assignment of the representative responsible and even distribution out via seamless integration to and from the sales agent’s Microsoft Outlook calendar.
It isn’t all about centralised control however, as the solution gives the sales agent power at his fingertips by providing information on visits and all aspects of their customers directly to their mobile devices. With the Responsive UI, this can be on any device via a standard browser, but there are also free apps available for Apple devices which allow for offline access too. This gives the sales agent access to a full 360-degree history of their customer whilst on customer site, and allows for follow-up actions to be documented directly into the system, including the creation of new opportunities, sales quotes or service tickets, whether they are online or not.
Other functionalities available during the visit allow sales agents to confirm planogram compliance, take photos and upload them to the system, and check out other nearby customers for ad hoc visits using inbuilt mapping. In the back office, all this information is of course available in the system immediately and extensive analytics can be used to track everything from the visits themselves, and any follow-up tasks or documents, right down to individual responses to survey questions.
As with all solutions, there are one or two gaps where improvements could be made. It would be nice for instance if the system could give visibility of time which is blocked off for other non-Sales related activities, by automatically importing into SAP C4C, entries made by sales agents directly in their Microsoft Outlook calendars. Also, whilst it is possible to integrate a third-party route optimization tool, it would be great to see this available as a standard part of the mapping functionality.
All-in-all though, this is an impressive array of functions which gives a pretty comprehensive out-of-the-box coverage for most business requirements in this area.