Social CRM: The Next Frontier of Social Business
With the world becoming social and enterprises embracing many forms of “social” as adjuncts to business, a phenomenon that is definitely the wave of the future is Social CRM. It is interesting that while a lot of material on the subject can be found online, there is NO one view on what Social CRM is, and what makes it different from normal “listening” tools.
Let us start by what Social CRM is NOT – it is NOT about brands or corporate listening or the buzz on Social Media (that’s listening). It is NOT about engagement with customers via a facebook page or a twitter handle (that’s engagement/marketing) or building communities. It is NOT even campaign management, and NOT merely about changing the traditional “pipe” model of “company→customer relationship” to an “onion peel” model – it is a bit of all of these and much more.
If you look at the evolution of Social Media, it started on the content side with blogs, and maybe with the early avatars of social networking like Myspace, etc. On the backend, the work was (and actually largely continues to be), what is called “listening” – tracking buzz to enable better monitoring of brands/competitors/corporate and sometimes the industry. This was earlier done by the brands/companies themselves; then outsourced to their PR agencies; then enterprise listening software evolved and organizations bought into them; and now it’s a mix of self serve via these software and third party services. This mix depends on the level of customization needed.
From listening to engagement – the minute organizations figured that their customers and other stakeholders were mentioning them in their social conversations, and therefore reaching out to them, marketers started “engaging” with their audiences. This was a refreshing change from traditional marketing – since it became far more interactive and responsive to customers. This activity manifested itself in many avatars – customer service (twitter has become a virtual helpdesk –Best Buy’s “twelpforce” being the best-in-class example of scaling the backend of customer service); marketing outreach, influencer identification, management and so on.
However, engagement really propelled Social Media into “Social Relationship Management”. What it still lacks, and that is what makes Social CRM real, is the view of the “customer”.
There are many well known definitions of Social CRM, from the best known one by 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”
to 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 touch points like sales, customer service etc…”
Most enterprises realize the applications/use cases for sCRM. These range from lead gen/prospect management to customer service, campaign management via segmentation and targeting and, innovation (especially crowd-sourcing innovative ideas). sCRM, therefore, is also fairly adjacent to ecommerce and multi channel marketing. It is also true that sCRM integration in the enterprise requires change management in a big way – since to really turn the customer relationship model on its head is not something that can be achieved in a silo. It will need to be top down and bottoms up approach, will take time, cultural acclimatization and flexibility in models/defined metrics and cross functional initiatives.
However, what both the above definitions, much like the above topics of debate by the Social Media community, and even Gartner, when it segments and sizes the market (USD 1 billion) completely miss is the central question; when you are talking to a customer with social media in the picture, WHO is the customer? (Rather which avatar of the customer is being talked about?)
In the current day scenario – a person has an email address (maybe two–one for corporate, and one personal), a twitter handle, a facebook page, a linkedin handle, a pinterest one and an instagram one. In some cases, if you are lucky, you will find that all these are connected. Very often, they are not. So, when the enterprise is managing its “customer relationship”–which one should it manage? (Imagine the Lernean Hydra with its many heads –each time you chop one, two others grow!)
Imagine a customer calling a typical enterprise help desk saying he needs to find out when his order will be delivered. Imagine then, the call center agent tracing the package through delivery tracking numbers, and say misinforming the date. Imagine then, the customer going on his twitter handle and saying company XX sucks! Typical case? Yes. Also, very typical use case for sCRM.
Point is – UNLESS there is technology/or a process to integrate the multiple identities of the customer (in this case, caller with a purchase order and the twitter complainant), HOW are you going to manage this relationship? Yes, you may, via (earlier cited) “engagement” respond to the twitter handle as a standalone. But, the power of true sCRM lies in the identity management piece to get a 360 degree view of the customer–one that feeds in the various avatars of the consumer. Unless you have this technology (and the accompanying process), your sCRM strategy is not really a convincing one. Post the identity management; you can layer semantic analysis and analytics on top of the listening and engagement platforms to give you your sCRM.
This is the problem that no one has really solved, though for most social tech/analytics as well as CRM companies, this is the Holy Grail. In the meanwhile, companies are tackling and “managing” their relationships with their social customers in the standard/traditional way–listening, learning and engaging with them (and calling it sCRM ).
- by Sangita Joshi