Connecting to Customers through Social CRM
Connecting to current and potential customers is one of the biggest challenges facing businesses today. Significant resources are invested in creating and improving customer experiences. Even at this time of economic uncertainties, it’s hard to find a business that is not actively pursuing customer service improvements. The competition is stronger than ever as the economy begins to show signs of recovery. Initiatives related to customer relationship management (CRM) are embraced by many companies as a critical component to their overall business strategy. Organizations continue to spend heavily on CRM — $11 billion annually starting 2010 according to Forrester.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has evolved through the years. It started in the early 90s out of the need to store customer information. Today, through the fast development of social media, a new CRM dimension is starting to gain ground—social CRM or SCRM. Social CRM is the process of monitoring, engaging in and managing conversations and relationships with existing and prospective customers and influencers across the Internet, social networks, and digital channels. This article aims to differentiate between traditional CRM and Social CRM.
I think in order to understand what Social CRM is, we first have to understand traditional CRM. The strong suit of traditional CRM has been the following— enhanced customer analytics, improved operational effectiveness and improved coordination between areas that provides customer service delivery.
CRM developed out of the need to store customer information. It started with businesses trying to build databases of customer contacts and converting filing cabinets full of customer files into easily accessible databases. Many organizations today are capturing terabytes of information about customers: interactions, cases, interests, demographics, responses to marketing efforts, and buying cycles. The key challenge for most businesses is how to capitalize on this information.
Traditional CRM applications provide necessary flexibility to implement and automate front-end processes. It is focused on operational efficiency and improving collaboration. Forrester, for instance, identifies 6 key processes that comprise the common CRM Processes Framework. They are— Marketing, eCommerce, Direct Sales, Indirect Sales, Service and Field Services. Companies looking to implement these processes would turn to CRM. There are many solution providers out there that cover the complete package. SAP, Oracle, Salesforce and Microsoft are among the biggest providers of CRM solutions. Traditional CRM ensures that the proper activities and tasks will be performed by the appropriate people, in the correct sequences.
What is Social CRM (SCRM)?
According to Brent Leary, an SCRM expert who authored Brent’s Social CRM Blog, “Social CRM is growing out of a completely different need – the need to attract the attention of those using the Internet to find answers to business challenges they are trying to overcome.” The way I see it, Social CRM extends beyond traditional CRM by focusing on people and not on processes. Processes and information are covered by traditional CRM. Social CRM centers on meaningful engagement—it focuses on content and conversation.
Social CRM evolved from the need to create new customer relationships built on trust. This means actively participating in social media forums with your customers by:
- Interacting with customers through wikis and blogs
- Enabling customers to critique your products
- Encouraging customers to share ideas
- Creating platforms in partnership with customers that improve the company’s value proposition
To illustrate capabilities of Social CRM, I think it’s best to explore one of the leading providers of SCRM solution today—Lithium. Lithium provides SCRM solutions to build enterprise communities on-demand including forums, blogs, ideas, and a Social CRM platform. Barnes and Noble and Best Buy are two companies that implement SCRM. If you click on the links associated with these companies, it will bring you to their respective community pages. You will see that both companies are using the platform in different ways. Barnes and Noble uses it as a platform to recommend and discuss books while Best Buy collaborates with their customers to talk about electronic products and solve technical issues. You are welcome to participate in those forums as a customer or a potential customer of Best Buy and Barnes and Noble.
Social CRM adds a whole new dimension to customer relationship management but it does not replace the latter. I see it as a much needed complement to traditional areas of CRM. In today’s competitive business environment, you’ll have to go beyond CRM to create new relationships based on conversations and trust. Be reminded that the end goals are the same— customer attainment, retention and profitability.
Photos courtesy of Best Buy and Barnes and Noble.
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