What is Social CRM and why is it important?

23/10/2009 at 9:36 am Leave a comment

Ask anyone what Social CRM is and you’ll get as many answers as there are people on the social networks that are fuelling them. It’s such a new topic that Wikipedia doesn’t yet have a page for it. And yet experts say that by 2013 it will be the ONLY way to manage customer relationships.

Here’s how I’d define it, aware that many will disagree.

Social CRM is the merging of social networks with Customer Relationship Management to help you manage and build customer relationships using the information that your customers are happy to share through their online profiles, as well as social networking resources to help improve customer dialogue.

CRM systems themselves are not new.  They have been around for many years, were popularised in the enterprise by Siebel and have been made more accessible, especially to SMEs, through companies like Salesforce.com and Netsuite and their web-based systems.

Wikipedia does help define such systems: “Customer relationship management (CRM) are methods that companies use to interact with customers.  The methods include employee training and special purpose CRM software.  There is an emphasis on handling incoming customer phone calls and email, although the information collected by CRM software may also be used for promotion, and surveys such as those polling customer satisfaction.”

Import your Twitter contacts to WeCanDoCRM (click to enlarge)

Import your Twitter contacts to WeCanDoCRM (click to enlarge)

Social CRM extends the above to include interaction through social networks.  As more and more people sign up to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others, so they share more information about themselves: updated contact information, details of their likes and dislikes.  Social CRM forges a connection between the proprietary information you hold on them as a customer in your database (CRM system) and their public profiles on social networking sites, which, of course, they maintain themselves.

So not only can Social CRM systems always keep to to date with their current contact details (email address, profile location etc.), they can also potentially tap your customers’ public profiles for further information on who they are, what they do and what they like from a PUBLIC source, making it easy for you to build a much richer profile than you’d otherise have.

There are two key reasons why this is important.

First is from the perspective of the legacy of CRM system.  CRM software has had a tough ride.  As many implementations in companies have failed as have been a success.  The main reason for this is the information they hold becoming irrelevant (and in some cases never being relevant in the first place).  If the customer information isn’t up-to-date then what you can do with that information becomes limited; and if the system is limited in use, staff stop using it.  The Vicious Circle then dictates that without staff keeping it updated, it falls more behind and becomes less useful to them or the managers trying to extract reports from it.

Social CRM systems overcome this by linking directly to the public profiles that your customers maintain on social networks.  If they change their details then the customer record you hold for them gets updated.  A system with relevant information it becomes much more useful for the business in terms of influencing contact and being able to report on what your customers are doing.

But the second reason Social CRM systems exceed what has gone before in helping you engage with those customers.  Added to the traditional method of communication with customers of post, telephone and email — which traditional CRM systems log — is interaction you have on social networks.  If you track across the social web people talking about your company then you may discover customers you didn’t know you had; or another way of engaging with those you did already know, conolidating your online dialogue with your record of “offline” communication such as emails or phone conversations.  Many larger companies are already using elements of Social CRM systems to help them manage customer service type queries — in other words, people posting complaints on twitter! See #BTFail as an example of this in action — and it’s also affecting the way they communicate with those customers away from social networks too (example: if they see a Tweet moaning about the levels of contact from a company, they may well update their systems to stop junk mail being sent).

I see some even more promising ways of using Social CRM systems emerging though.

The most any business can hope for is that a customer with a need contacts them.  Many spend thousands on search engine marketing getting mention of their company website placed such that when someone types in “printer Bracknell” for example, that person gets sent to their website; a relatively small proportion of those click-throughs will turn to contact from that person completing a form, sending an e-mail or picking up the phone.

Social networks also offer a way to get pointed to potential suppliers, but as well as on-site search features they also make available an ability to ask your networks for recommendations.  Hopefully, the people they know will point them towards you if they’re asking for what you do.  But many posts on social networks of “Can someone recommend a…” and similar go unanswered because no-one in their network can provide a link.

Social CRM systems with social media monitoring elements offer the potential to identify who those people with a need are, such that you can communicate with them to offer your services AND log the potential opportunity in the same way you would an enquiry by telephone or web site formcompleted by a potential customer.

Social CRM systems make so much sense and offer so many benefits over traditional ways of monitoring and managing customer relationships that research group Forrester predicts that between 2011 and 2013, all CRM systems will offer this capability (source: Destination CRM/Forrester).

It should be added that effective use of Social CRM systems will be underpinned by a sound Social CRM strategy, defining your use of social networks and the way your business interacts with custoomers in general.  The importance of getting the strategy and plan right cannot be overplayed.  But effective systems are critical to defining your strategy and ensuring its success on implementation.

Exciting times are ahead and WeCanDo.BIZ is proud to be innovating in this area with our WeCanDoCRM Social CRM system, which we’ll be extended to provide much closer Twitter integration in the coming weeks.

If you have questions or comments feel very welcome to post below.

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Coming soon: Import and manage your Twitter contacts through WeCanDoCRM Social CRM CASE STUDY: Will Hawkins shares his secrets to keeping your business healthy

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