Social CRM is still an important conversation. While many the social CRM influencers and pundits have moved on to discuss other industry issues and trends, there are still folks in the enterprise that are struggling with and trying to work through and define a cohesive social CRM strategy. It’s usually a part of a more broad social business plan and It’s not easy — see my quick analysis below.
I came across this whitepaper created by CRM Outsiders, and sponsored by well known vendor in the space SugarCRM®. You can download it for free here (full registration required). Here is a quick definition of social CRM which was crowd-sourced and then written by well known expert and friend, Paul Greenberg:
Social CRM is a philosophy and a business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules, workflow, processes and social characteristics, designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted and transparent business environment. It’s the company’s response to the customer’s ownership of the conversation.
The whitepaper starts off buy first identifying 3 types of conversations:
(1) One-to-many: Facebook posts, Tweets, Google+ updates, blog posts; and basically anytime a company uses their megaphone to share a piece of information about the brand.
(2) One-to-one: This type of conversation can happen as a direct result of “one-to-many” type of conversations where a customer (or brand) uses private messaging to ask/answer a question. This is usually support related.
(3) One-to-one-to-many: This is a “one-to-one” conversation that happens in the open, where several customers and potentially employees are participating.
Many insights can happen with these day to day interaction with customers. Using advanced and real time analytics, brands can identify advocates, detractors get a pulse for any potential crisis that might be on the horizon. The whitepaper then offers 5 steps to a Social CRM strategy, which I found valuable.
Step 1 – Learning the Lay of the Land: Basically, this step entails research. Understanding the landscape and where the conversations are happening are imperative. Not just the popular social networks like Facebook and Twitter, but also forums, blogs, review sites etc.
Step 2 – Learning the Language: This step is about understanding the “vibe” of the community. How do they communicate with each other? How often do they communicate? Are there any group dynamics that are important to understand? Or, are there any other brands participating in these conversations?
Step 3 – Learning to Listen: This step is self explanatory. There are monitoring tools available like Radian6, Sysomos and others that can report on brand related conversations. The whitepaper suggests that employees also be a part of the listening process. I agree.
Step 4 – Learning to Engage: Engaging with customers on the social web is not a new thing. Brands have been doing it for over a decade now. One piece of advice I often give to clients is DO NOT ENGAGE WITH CUSTOMERS ONLINE UNLESS YOU CAN ADD VALUE. It’s pretty simple yet often overlooked. There are vendors in the space like Syncapse, Spredfast and Sprinklr that can help brands with engagement through multiple networks.
Step 5 – Learning to Make Use of What You Learn: This is the “CRM” portion of social CRM. This step involves taking the data from the conversations above and using it several different ways:
- Solve customer problems
- Identify leads from customers online
- Refining processes
- Product innovation
Overall, the whitepaper is an excellent resource for marketers, customer support professionals and executives that are trying to make sense of social media and how it can be used to engage with customers.
The only thing I would add that is not in the whitepaper is that implementing a social CRM strategy in the organization is not as easy. There are technology challenges; and the truth is that there isn’t one vendor that can do it all. API integration between social listening vendors, SRM vendors and traditional CRM vendors is necessary and forcing these vendors to work together isn’t always the easiest of tasks. More importantly is the collaboration needed internally to get a social CRM initiative off the ground. The marketing department can’t do it alone; and the support organization probably doesn’t have the budget. Teams have to step out of their comfort zones and learn to communicate and work together. And, collaboration doesn’t happen unless there is organizational support from all levels within the company and EVERYONE changes their behaviors.
Lastly, I would say that “social CRM” as a philosophy, idea or buzz word will eventually go away. Implementing a social business strategy, which social CRM plays a very significant role in, is what companies are beginning to think about and implement. You can learn more about social business on my personal blog.