As mobile technologies mature and become more central to everyday life, its effects are increasingly felt in the business world. As a result, more companies are turning to mobility to benefit from the significant impact it can have on business-critical areas. To keep up in this rapidly evolving environment, it is necessary to consider the areas where mobility can help to transform business relationships with two of the most valuable stakeholder groups for any business – employees and customers – and the approach companies need to adopt to exploit the transformative power of mobility.

Employees: Greater Collaboration, Productivity and Satisfaction

In any industry, mobility has a vital role to play in enabling the optimization of operations. For the sake of this article, we will focus on how mobility can enhance the productivity of field employees, while building their development through collaboration.

Mobile devices in the field can enable collaborative learning, help break down organizational silos and help teams work more effectively across departments or regions. For example, taking and sharing a video of an unusual mechanical fault and describing the steps taken to mend it could make the difference between solving a problem instantly in the field, and having to wait days to arrange scheduling for a different employee to visit the site. Additionally, conferencing enables live, remote collaboration to ensure the best people for a particular job are on it, even if they can’t be there physically.

The ability to access data can change the way decisions are made in the field. By aggregating real-time and historical data from multiple sources and integrating it into enterprise collaboration tools accessible from mobile devices, field workers can make better decisions at the point of action, transforming them into knowledge workers. If access to this data can then be combined with social collaboration tools, the productivity of employees will increase as they are able to find the right person, learn how to do something or get an answer to their question faster than before - and often in a more dynamic way.

Perhaps the most obvious use of mobile tools for field workers is still one that eludes many, as businesses struggle to integrate devices with workflow processes. One company that has managed this successfully is a leading heating-systems installation company in Europe, whose technicians used to make approximately 4 million maintenance calls a year, with work being scheduled and managed through a paper-based process. The business implemented a mobile information system to support its technicians and streamline processes, resulting in a fourfold reduction in administrative processing time for service call reports and an increase in field force productivity of 15 to 20 percent. In addition, back office staff saw a 75 percent reduction in repetitive, routine tasks (such as entering service-call data) through the introduction of a mobility solution that was integrated with back-end systems and workflow processes.

Customers: You Win Some, You Keep Some

Mobility is making customers more accessible than ever and enabling us to learn more about them. For example, if a customer with a smartphone walks into a store, location-specific data – right down to which aisle they’re in – can be relayed immediately to a retailer’s system. The retailer can then send a context-relevant coupon to that customer. This personalized approach not only leads to an increased chance of sale, but customers who receive something useful might also use social media to share that positive experience. In just one transaction, businesses are able to retain a customer, and potentially gain new ones, too.

This premise is the same for B2B customers: Personalization enhances their experience and, as a result, increases loyalty.

Increasingly, customers expect self-service and seamless interactions – whether placing or adjusting orders, making payments or reviewing billing options. Logically, the easier it is for a customer to make a purchase, the more likely they are to do so. Amazon has demonstrated an understanding of this with its announcement of [[http://www.cnet.com/news/why-amazon-wants-you-to-use-twitter-hashtags-to-shop/]] a capability to purchase directly from Twitter using a hashtag. Even though payment still needs to be taken through Amazon, impulse purchases are much easier to make, and therefore loyalty is that much easier to maintain.

Embedded connectivity also provides a significant opportunity for businesses. Product catalogs can be expanded to include services that rely on sharing data through mobile devices, be it a “learning” device like Nest’s smart thermostat or a device that can be connected to via a mobile app. This applies for traditional companies as well as digital startups. For example AGA – which is nearly 100 years old – has included a SIM card with its ovens to make life easier for customers, who can now remotely set temperatures, perhaps to preheat the oven on their way home.

This simple use of mobile tools also applies to the enterprise space, where sensors and connectivity are increasingly being used to monitor the status of machinery and equipment in real-time.

Sounds Straightforward So Far…

What’s been discussed here is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of how mobility can help businesses retain and gain customers, develop employees, optimize operations and more, with the end goal being to successfully grow in their own markets - or even expand into new ones. But for the successful adoption of mobility into an enterprise, piecemeal, whimsical adoption of the technology is unlikely to achieve any of those business objectives. Instead, it’s vital that businesses undertake a transparent and thorough evaluation of where they are to date and where they want to be.

A mobility strategy should be created and adopted with input from teams including HR, legal, IT and the business. Everything from internal app development and BYOD policies to external engagement via mobile channels and the use of traditional business applications via mobile devices should be addressed through the creation of a formal, enterprise-wide mobility strategy. Only when that’s in place and a clear roadmap is planned can the adoption of mobility technology really begin to transform your business, and transform your customer and employee relationships.