December 25, 2012, 7:07 AM — Smartphones and tablets have been a boon for on-the-go sales reps, who are constantly visiting clients, organizing meetings and trying to close deals from ever-changing mobile offices. Now voice-recognition technology could boost their productivity again.
The market already boasts some well-known voice apps, including Siri Assistant and Dragon Dictation. Sophia, from enterprise mobile app developer Taptera, is a new entrant--an iPhone app designed specifically for mobile salespeople. It lets users speak into their phone to record actions (such as calls or meetings) and follow-up tasks in a Salesforce.com CRM system.
Spoken information such as "called John Smith" and details about the call are transferred to the CRM system as text. The goal is to make administrative and data-entry tasks as easy as possible to allow more time for actual selling.
Sunbelt Rentals, an equipment rental company, is a beta tester of Sophia, looking to roll the app out to its 800-person mobile sales force. Dean Moore, director of enterprise architecture at Sunbelt, says the ability to enter actions into a CRM while moving on to the next meeting would be especially beneficial for his sales force. "Our folks aren't going to nice fancy office buildings," he says. "Our reps go to job sites and construction offices, which are harsh environments."
Sunbelt uses two other mobile apps for sales, but neither offers voice recognition. Moore says the voice capability "helps minimize, if not eliminate, a lot of the hard work to get data in." CRM systems can fail if sales information doesn't get entered, he notes.
Art Schoeller, an analyst at Forrester Research, says that Siri's cool factor has created a buzz among consumers, but not in the enterprise. "We don't see it a lot. I always fear [inflated] expectations versus the reality of delivery."
Schoeller says that if sales teams incorporate the technology into their regular practices--and IT manages expectations--then voice technology can yield greater productivity.
Companies should try out the technology, he says. "Provide a bit more hand-holding in the trial and get that initial wave of success," he says. "It has merit and will work, with the right expectations.
Lauren Brousell is a staff writer for CIO Magazine. Follow her at @LBrousell.