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June 25, 2012

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Social CRM: Start socializing your customer relationships!

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The days when you were able to control and manage your customer relationships are about to end – and social media is to blame. The winners of tomorrow are those companies who will succeed in letting their customers manage their relationship with you. So, what are these social customer relationships all about?

More and more companies are embracing social media to communicate with their customers. Over the last two years Social CRM has emerged as one of the hottest topics for those of us working with customer relationship management (CRM) and customer experience management (CEM).

Actually, most surveys are unanimous in their conclusions: Customers (both companies and consumers) use social media to research, discuss and shop products and services. Despite this, a recent study shows that only 7% of companies understand the value of linking social media to CRM. It’s time to wake up!

What is the “Social” all about?

Social CRM does not replace your CRM strategy and operational routines, but should enrich and add value to it. Generally speaking, adding the “Social” to your CRM strategies is all about acknowledging that it is the customer that owns the conversation, and that the strategy should provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted and transparent business environment.

Let me provide you with some thoughts on how a CRM strategy evolves into a social one along the 5 W’s:

Who? In your existing CRM strategy you probably have defined roles or department responsible for CRM. In a social customer relationship, all employees in the company should be engaged and participate in the customer dialogue.

What? Your marketing and customer care departments probably have well defined communications processes in place in order to take care of customer communication during the customer life cycle. In a social CRM strategy, the customer defines these processes, and you can no longer rely on that the predefined communication plans are sufficient in order to serve your customers’ needs.

When? You need to stop thinking that you can define when your customers should interact with you. The customers set the hours, and communicate whenever they need to, disregarding day of week or point of time.

Where and how? You probably have all your communications channels set up. You might use newsletters, a Facebook fan page and a blog where you push your carefully designed messages and encourage dialogue. However, when your CRM is socialized you have to be aware that the customer will be the one selecting the communication channels, as well as what the message will be. You could no longer control what people say about your company, but you should engage in the conversation on the customers’ premises.

Remember: It’s about strategies – not systems!

One of the most widely used definitions of Social CRM is the one of Paul Greenberg, stating that “Social CRM is a philosophy & a business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules, workflow, processes & social characteristics”.

This definition underpins two important things to remember:

  • Social CRM should be viewed as a business strategy. This implies that good IT systems alone will not solve your challenges. Building a Social CRM strategy starts with workshops, creative processes and drawing boards. Remember that designing such strategies needs to involve all customer facing employees.
  • Any technology (software, add-ins to your CRM system, social media connectors) should be used as an enabler for the given strategy. Don’t bury yourself in CRM systems functionality sheets and social media dialogue tools.

These advise may seem trivial, but I think  they are among the most important things to remember when considering how to approach the world of Social CRM. Gartner warns that “more than half of companies that have established an online community will fail to manage it as an agent of change, ultimately eroding customer value.” and says that this is because companies rush into social initiatives without having defined clear benefits for both the customer and the companies.

How is your company socializing customer strategies? What have been the main challenges and how have you solved these? Please feel free to share your thoughts on this interesting topic!

 
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  • Dan

    Excellent Article. Keep up the good work!