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Social CRM – Is it right for your business?

I don’t know about you, but social media has become one of those things I do every day, as naturally and regularly as checking my emails – updating my Facebook and Twitter status, checking out what my mates are up to, and commenting or adding interesting links to my LinkedIn profile.

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I don’t know about you, but social media has become one of those things I do every day, as naturally and regularly as checking my emails – updating my Facebook and Twitter status, checking out what my mates are up to, and commenting or adding interesting links to my LinkedIn profile.

Originally I used social media for keeping in touch with friends and putting up holiday snaps, but over the last year or so it has progressed to “liking” or joining groups, and talking to people who are interested in the same things as I am from a work and social perspective. I’ve watched as more and more companies have been taking those first tentative steps into the world of social networking, using it as an alternative channel to listen and talk to existing and potential customers – engaging in Social CRM.

So what exactly does this new buzzword mean? And how is it going to help you improve relationships with your customers?

Described as a blend of social media and customer relationship management (CRM), Social CRM is more than having a Facebook page or a Twitter account – it is about using these tools and others to listen to whatever is relevant to your business, and connect with the heart of your business – your customers.

With more than 500 million active Facebook users, around half of which log on daily, and more than 190 million Tweeters generating 65 million tweets a day, there is huge potential for engaging with this captive audience. Social media is also a great way to reach a broader audience, tap into real-time trends, and create a model to create advocacy and channel loyal customers.

As an extension of traditional CRM, or rather a new channel within CRM, this is more than just marketing; it can be used for sales, customer service and other business activities. For instance, Social CRM can provide sales teams with new ways to find and talk to potential clients, and find out more about customers’ interests, lifestyles and attitudes that will help them target their sales messages. It can play a role as an early warning system for customer service departments, because in the social networking arena no one is shy about sharing their experiences, particularly the bad. It also lets these teams address any issues in a highly efficient way by connecting with the masses, quickly.

Marketing teams can use Social CRM for idea management – engaging a community to share, capture and vote on ideas for the improvement of, or new, products, services, pricing, packaging, distribution channels and other issues. They can also run social campaigns, where they have the ability to make real-time adjustments to campaigns, rather than learning from mistakes at the end. PR teams can also tap into the social online space to monitor brand/product awareness and reputation, and for crisis management and damage limitation.

The insights that can be gained through a good Social CRM programme requires time and IT investments. The main question is whether the results will be more valuable than those from traditional advertising, PR and direct marketing activities for your company.

The main reason some businesses are slightly hesitant about diving into Social CRM is the lack of concrete evidence that it can bring in new customers. This is no longer true with some of the Social CRM tools available, as they can report on and measure social networking, integrating this into traditional marketing, sales and customer service activities to give a more holistic view of customer relationship management, without losing sight of the core focus of the business.

Some great examples of Social CRM in action include Air New Zealand’s Airpoints Fairy (used to extend their customer loyalty programme into the online space), Giapo (engages his followers with interesting videos and chatter around current affairs and gelato) and the Vodafone NZ Twitter account (responds quickly to customer complaints and sends out information that is relevant to its followers).

It isn’t right for everyone, but Social CRM offers an extra level of customer engagement that involves stepping into their space. It can be both rewarding and insightful; and also a little scary if what people are saying about you isn’t what you expect.

Social CRM – the facts

  • Social CRM is an extension of CRM, not a replacement for traditional CRM activities
  • Social CRM is interaction-driven rather than sales-driven
  • Social CRM must align with the culture, processes and practices of your company – you don’t want it to be counterproductive for some areas of the business
  • Define a purpose for the Social CRM programme – to improve customer loyalty or reduce costs of contacting customers etc.
  • Have a clear plan of what your Social CRM programme will involve – what is being pushed out, how queries will be responded to, who is responsible for what, preparation for a variety of situations/responses and the speed of reply/engagement in this space
  • There must be clear responsibilities and commitment to Social CRM from everyone in the company to achieve the best results
  • Measure social activity in business terms – increased revenue, improved staff morale, better customer satisfaction, lower costs
  • Investing in the right technology solutions to help create marketing, sales and customer service Social CRM activities is essential for being able to monitor and measure the impact of this

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