Putting social CRM to work for you.

Putting social CRM to work for you.

Before you roll your eyes over yet another buzzword, stop: social CRM is more than that. It’s the logical next step if you believe, as you should, that social media communities are a separate breed of customer and prospect. SCRM is based on the notion that the social media customer owns the relationship: how they want to communicate, where and through what channels. The social media customer views the relationship with your company differently – more personally – and expects you to treat them in that vein.

What is Social CRM?

Paul Greenberg is President of The 56 Group, LLC, a customer strategy consulting firm, focused on cutting edge CRM strategic services and author of CRM at the Speed of Light: Essential Customer Strategies for the 21st Century. He defines Social CRM as “…designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide a mutually beneficial value in a trusted and transparent business environment. It’s the company response to the customer’s owning of the relationship.”

Another definition was put forward by industry analyst Michael Fauschette: “Social CRM is the tools and processes that encourage better, more effective customer interaction and leverage the collective intelligence of the broader customer community with the intended result of increasing intimacy between an organization and its prospects and customers. The goal is to make the relationship with the customer more intimate and tied to the company by building a public ecosystem to better understand what they want and how they interact with the various company touchpoints like sales, customer service, etc…”

Phew. A lot of words. And, when all is said and done, it probably doesn’t matter how it’s defined as much as how you understand and apply it to your situation. What’s important is to agree that social media are not a simple alternative communication channel – a tube through which you push out messages. They represent a fundamental change in the way consumers – some of them your customers – interact with each other and you. If you believe that consumers who use social media are communicating differently and want you to do the same, then you must agree that a unique set of responses has to be developed into the company’s culture. Responses that create, as Fauchette says, “…increasing intimacy between an organization and its prospects.”

CRM versus sCRM

A traditional CRM process is based on hardware, software and processes that originate inside the company and reach out to essentially “plant, grow, harvest and re-seed” relationships. Promises are made, gifts are exchanged, messages are pushed out, behaviors tracked. There are varying degrees of intimacy in the relationship, but it is always controlled by the marketer. It’s really not collaborative.

An sCRM program is collaborative and typically driven by the customer. The customer is the focal point of how the organization [and the CRM] operates. Marketing and messaging isn’t pushed out to customers; the company actually talks with them, invites their collaboration on solving marketing, or product issues, empowers them to shape their own experience and lets the customer build the kind of relationship they want. Whereas traditional CRM programs attempt to draw the customer closer to the enterprise, sCRM recognizes the customer is already there and sharing their own experience, views and demands with other customers and prospective customers. So, the company, through sCRM is simply attempting to listen in on the experience and – with care – maybe even jumping into the conversation themselves.

Industry experts are quick to caution that sCRM is an evolution of CRM, not a replacement for it.

Launching sCRM

Whether we admit it or not, most companies are having a problem keeping up with the social media phenomenon. Customers and prospects use social media to share their opinions and experiences 24/7. The buzz is constant and companies have a difficult time staying current; staying constructively engaged; staying responsive. Customers are accustomed now to getting what they want – a response, an apology, an invitation, a kind word – when they want it. They don’t really care if they’ve connected with the right department. They simply want the right resolution.

As a starting point, we need to understand what the term “Social Customer” means. One word that really gets used a lot in social marketing and social CRM is intimacy: an abiding understanding of each other – brand and customer – at an emotional level, a shared vision leading to shared expectations. In order to develop that level of intimacy, Maria Ogneva, former Director of Social Media at Attensity – a social media platform – offers the following advice. She urges businesses to do four big things and do them consistently, with customer conversations:

1.     Listen
2.     Analyze
3.     Relate
4.     Act

Chess Media Group offers the schematic shown below to identify how all this might come together in the company, starting with community and ending with response. Clearly, a chart like this looks very different when describing traditional CRM. Particularly with the addition of the “listening tool.”

Of course, in the end the customer wants what the customer has always wanted. A perfect transactional experience, with a perfect ownership experience and a balanced relationship with the brand. With sCRM – and access to social media communities – the customer is darned well going to get all that. With you, or in spite of you.

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