On Social CRM Options

The discussion around Social CRM is entering a phase whereby we are trying to move away from turning around in circles about semantics, towards a more practical and pragmatic approach that businesses can identify with so as to consider implementing it. I won’t deal with CRM Vendors here, as Social CRM can be seen as an extension to CRM. As a primer on SCRM I suggest you look at Bill Band’s article on Customer Think. The main idea that we all do agree upon is that we need to become customer-centric in order to respond to their changing needs and expectations, and this may have some major ramifications on the way we organise our businesses.

Wim Rampen recently did a must-read post on Real-Options for Social CRM, with great comments from the #scrm crew. If you’re like me, you have been looking around for what these options could be – sifting through all the information links provided through the accidental community on Twitter #scrm- so that you can start mapping your own options and seeing where they would fit in an approach that is apt for your business situation. Below I have tried to describe some of the landmarks that you may encounter on your journey. Please join in and tell me what I’ve missed!

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1. Monitoring and Analysis

We have settled on the idea that we cannot manage what is being said about us (as long there is any Buzz we should be happy, right?). What we do need to do is understand what is being said and for which reasons. We also need to do some introspection and find out whether we are aligned with customer perceptions about our business, and this is where monitoring and analysis comes in.

- Social Media Monitoring
Twitter, FB, Search Engine Result Analysis, crawling non-managed forums, or whatever this month’s Black is (according to Altimeter you need at least 6 channels to be an engagementdb.com Maven).

- Sentiment Analysis
Natural Language Processing in order to extract opinions – automation of Social Media Analysis

- Customer Surveys, Website-, Call Center-, Customer Support Feedback, Email Campaign Results
Feedback from other channels should not be neglected – Social CRM is not only about feedback obtained through Social Media channels. I suggest reading Aggregated Stats Are Key to Social Media ROI

The return of this could be used to shape your Marketing Strategy (Social Media and traditional) or for even for Lead Generation. As Prem Kumar pointed out to me, “it is also possible to generate leads & opportunities in your traditional CRM system. Of course this requires that you need some extra text mining to be done other than what is done by the SMM tools & also need a data validation, qualification tools as well as a routing & assigning (BPM) feature in there too” (which is what I see Feedback Management doing, point 4).

Vendors in this area are Radian6, Scout Labs (see list), or for the budgetarily-challenged, Open Source/Freemium solutions.

2. Social Media Marketing

I know I am over-simplifying, but sometimes I think SMM has so far mostly been facilitating banner clickthroughs based on adwords and user browsing history and the likes to push trafic to brochure websites in the best case, and buckshot email spam in the worst. Consumers are however becoming more web-savvy and filter out these ads from the content they are interested in so this is becoming less effective.

Community and conversation is all – if the consumers trust the community, they will extend the trust to the brand (Brand and Marketing trends for 2010). People have spontaneously gathered for example on Facebook, now companies are trying to get in on the act by setting up their own Fan Pages (at their own risk and peril, I must add…). These communities offer the company the opportunity to engage in the conversation, but it still very much an unstructured, resource intensive approach.

My take on SMM is that it will be aimed at driving people towards and participate in Brand Communities (point 3). As Brian Vellmure pointed out we are also seeing a transformation within the world of marketing: ads, direct mail, etc. are giving way to a model where marketers increasingly must provide compelling content to attract attention, and I think communities are a good channel to host this and create a virtuous interaction circle with customers. The added benefit is that here we can be monitoring what is happening and identifying causal relationships will be more manageable. See Junta42 42+ Social Media Marketing Tools.

3. Brand Communities

Providing a platform that can house a community around your Brand and attracts prospective customers would be the next step. The objective is not to gain control, but rather better monitor what is going on, find opportunities, work on your reputation by adding value (compelling content, engaging with the customers) rather than pushing a message, and react in a timely manner to any issues.

I would like to split this out into three separate areas (even though they could share the same platform provided by the same vendor)

- Social Support Communities
Peer-to-peer Support can be great means for finding out what customers have issues with concerning your offering, as well as deflect calls from your Customer Support, leaving them with more time the more difficult cases or just to go beyond the Call Handling Time and focus on the Customer Interaction (see Cicero). To me this type of community because sometimes its super-users can provide more value than has its merits for because ROI can be shown (see John Bauer’s comment on SCRM for SMBs, reduce by at least 10% your case load).

- Social Objects Communities
In an earlier post, I set out to give a name to another type of community that has as its purpose to provide a platform for people to socialize around “Social Objects”. Barnes & Noble Review would be a good example of this. It is said that participants have a higher average customer spend and higher customer lifetime spend on the B&N site (any hard datafacts, Lithium?). Furthermore upsell opportunities are placed into the community site to drive revenue.

- Ideation
Behind this is the objective to create communities where customers would put forward ideas for the company (crowdsourcing). Where they have failed is that the ideas not always were in line with the operational realities or objectives of the company, and are often left unanswered (leading to dissatisfaction). Graham Hill has written an interesting article on co-creation that has some insights on what could be a better approach to co-creation.

When allowing employees to add wood to the fire, one should bear in mind that some internal resources would likely be more aligned with one type of community rather than the other, and are able to provide more compelling value in the area they are most familiar with (for example, never get a Marketing person to respond to a technical question in an SSC).

Players here are Lithium Technologies, Helpstream, Parature. Prem Kumar recently mentioned on John F. Moore’s blog that there are Open Source solutions out there, I think they do not (yet) have the monitoring & analysis capabilities that we’d be looking for here

4. Feedback Management

ThinkJar’s Esteban Kolsky is very keen on this one. The main idea behind this is that we take existing data available through the CRM system about our customers (not only profile information) and mix it so that get a full 360° view that includes history and information gathered from monitoring and analysis as well as information from 3rd parties. Just as there is a market now for Credit Score information, there may be a time when companies sell trend information to other companies as a by-product. Imagine if PayPal or eBay were to make historical purchase data available!

FM has the potential to analyse and determine a response and who should be dealing with formulating it (add a dash of Business Process Management?). The wikipedia link has a list of vendors, no actor has a significant advantage as far as I know. One important point that Esteban added after the initial posting of this article was that “collecting and managing feedback (on all actions and functions) is key to what SM brings to the organization. After all listening (collecting feedback) without acting (feedback management or generating actionable insights) simply generates stored data. Sears Roebuck was the first organization in the world to reach on Petabyte of stored data on their clients — have they done much with it?”

5. Response Communities

In the way that Brand Communities can be used for customers to share and collaborate, the same platform could also be used to let cross-functional teams (and even cross-organisational if we also include partners and suppliers) collaborate on the response to the events generated in EFM. Super-users could be identified and nurtured in the same way as in the Brand Communities.

Response Communities only really make sense once your company has learned how to collaborate internally – which takes us to Enterprise 2.0 (the collaboration kind, not the knowledge management one…). Internal networking will create the right mindset to then go out and collaborate with customers, for value co-creation.

6. Insourcing

Insourcing is about allowing your employees to collaborate directly with your customers, such as your store personnel providing product informationor answer support questions through the likes of Twitter (see Best Buy’s Twelpforce). This can increase the breadth of your response by added more voices to the conversation than just your customer service and support reps, but increases the risks of potential blunders. Good, clear and precise policies can help to mitigate these risks. Employees are potentially your greatest asset! I’m sure they’re using at most only half of their capabilities. Let’s tap into the other half!

Just a remark on the technical solution, my ideal platform would be a Cloud-based Unified Portal that hosts the company website as well as the Brand Communities, accessible to customers, employees, partners and suppliers and that has collaboration functionality built into it. Within this Unified Portal you would create secured communities (so as not to open the kitchen to all patrons) but still make it easy to push and pull content from one “domain” to another.

I am aware that I have probably missed out on some elements (and have not developed each of the bullet-points sufficiently) but my objective here is to give a quick overview, a starting point. Please chime in and add your point of view!

Mark Tamis

About Mark Tamis

Mark Tamis has been active in Professional Services for a number of US Software Vendors for most of his professional life, from Enterprise Application Integration to Enterprise Portals and Business Process Management. Based in Paris, France, he has dealt with small to very large client implementation of Enterprise 2.0 technologies all over EMEA. His current interest goes out to the nascent domain of Social CRM, which has incredible potential to improve the way we do business and getting our clients, employees, partners and suppliers to co-create value together using technology as the link.

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2 Responses to On Social CRM Options

  1. Hawk
    hawk October 13, 2009 at 9:35 am #

    It sounds like you consider #scrm to be useful in the movement for ‘knowledge workers’ but do you think there is something inherently collaborative about the core technologies, or is that a nature/nurture argument?

  2. Mark Tamis
    Mark Tamis October 13, 2009 at 11:59 am #

    Hi Robert,

    Social CRM is first and foremost a strategy whose primary objective is to organize your business to align with and better serve your customers’ needs. In order to do so you will need to:

    1. Listen. Your customers are having conversations about you, with or without you – so tune in.

    2. Respond. Your customers are now coming to expect that you answer them (just look at the #tmobilesuck channel on Twitter)

    3. Engage. Exchange, communicate, set expectations about what you’ll do and meet them.

    Meeting these expectations will more often than not imply that you need to collaborate with people that are not in your department/division/business unit, or even partners or suppliers.

    This does not just happen because it is natural, but needs to be learned (nurtured) in an organisational setting. I would even go as far as saying this should be part of the job description (like at Google where employees can spend 20% of their time on innovation), and should be driven through management as well through governance, and maybe even enforcing it through MBOs for the employee’s manager…

    The core technologies to support this organisational adaptation – such as community platforms, wikis, blogs, mashups, twitter channels and whatnot – aim to facilitate understanding, communication, sharing and collaboration in order to make the company more agile and responsive. These have the added advantage that they can be monitored and analysed in order to adjust functional strategy as needed. The tools are enabling technologies, they are a means to an end, and not an end in itself.

    To add wood to the fire, I consider that Social CRM, a customer-centric strategy, is ultimately the ‘raison d’être’ for the whole Enterprise 2.0 movement.

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