Moving from social media marketing to social customer relationship management (CRM) requires a rethink of what social means in an enterprise context. It also means recognizing some fairly evident and significant contradictions in the common worldview of social media as it applies to business. Added up, that means we're experiencing what author Geoffrey Moore describes as "secular growth" in his latest book, "Escape Velocity."
All of which is to say, "A large opportunity is at hand," and three divergent trends suggest that right now is the time to seize this opportunity:
That's a contradiction that spells change: Twitter, the simplest of the social tools for asking causal questions, is prominent in customer care. At the same time, most marketers think they're doing social right, yet most customers turning to Twitter are left hanging. Something isn't adding up. Most firms have the tools required to meet the requests of customers in the channels they prefer, yet fail - or choose not - to do so. Even more to the point, how is it that otherwise savvy marketers are driving right past a "lay-up" opportunity to build advocates in marketplaces increasingly driven not by advertising but by word of mouth? Read on.
Making sense of this apparent contradiction - itself often an indication of a fundamental long-term market shift - begins with an understanding of social CRM, and what the combination of social best practices and a system of record can mean for a contemporary business. Look at this discussion, hosted in the CRM Idol competition. (Disclosure: My firm is a contestant.) Paulo Mártires asks the question, "How social can CRM get?" The range of answers is provocative, though the core of discussion centers around the fundamental practice of building relationships around customer interactions. In other words, social is exerting itself deeper in the business.
Ironically, "relationships" are a departure from traditional CRM, which generally builds a record of the interactions but stops short of creating what a customer would describe as (unprompted) a "relationship." In any event, this record of successive interactions is certainly well-short of a social relationship. Yet, a social relationship is exactly what many customers seek as a normal component of their interaction with more than a few brands: customers will talk about the brand, product, or service in the first person as if they know it, and will expect that representatives of that brand, product, or service respond to specific questions when and where they're asked. Substitute "other person" for "product, brand, or service" and what is described sounds a lot like a typical interpersonal relationship: we speak out for and about each other, and expect attention when we ask for it. Now, it's the same with brands.
Enter social CRM and the core concept of managing social interactions as a component of the more traditional purchase and service history. More than creating a central transactional record, social CRM creates an interaction profile and supports a firm + customer relationship built around a real name, an understanding of who each of the parties are, and what each expects to get out the relationship. If United bumps me to first class (it has), the airline can expect that I will thank it in some visible manner (which I do) precisely because, as one flight attendant put it arriving in Austin early: "For those of you on Twitter, please let your friends know we arrived early because we all know you'd let them know if we were 10 minutes late!"
Where most CRM systems are totally blind to this type of firm/customer interaction (products aren't sold or even requested in the typical social interaction), social CRM not only captures the relationship dimension but extends it into additional actions that can drive brand advocacy. For example, by asking a customer to post about a satisfactory experience, the brand gets amplified credit and the customer learns to act as an advocate. When the brand representative sees this, and connects further, the customer takes subsequent steps toward stronger forms of advocacy. In my second book, "Social Media Marketing: The Next Generation of Business Engagement," I describe a specific process that escalates a customer from casual consumer to brand advocate via social relationships. It's a flywheel that slowly builds momentum, which will carry the brand across the inevitable rough spots.
Of course, this requires a social CRM system that can detect, capture, and respond at the individual post level, revealing the subtleties of the conversation. It requires a listening and response platform that can simultaneously manage the full Twitter firehose, handle all of the interactions across multiple Facebook business pages, and pull in all applicable forum and other peer-to-peer community discussions. It means being able to leverage support forums in particular, recognizing that strong customer communities are the ultimate prize in building a social business.
Jump back to the facts listed at the start of this column. Most marketers claim to use social media, and even to listen to what is being said about their brands, products, and services on the social web. Yet, most customer posts go unanswered. There must be a gap. Evidently, current marketing tools that provide surface visibility of interactions on the social web fall somehow short. The "decahose" - the 10 percent fractional sampling of Twitter, for example - won't cut it for individualized, high-scale response because where a sample can provide a reasonable picture of brand sentiment, answering every 10th customer phone call is no way to a run a service team. You have to answer every call, and that means catching and reviewing ever single social post that is itself a reasonable service request or actionable statement directed to the brand. That's a tall order.
Yet, that's exactly what is required for a successful social CRM implementation: from the high-scale listening (the input pipe) to the automated processing (big brands can easily top 1,000 actionable requests every day) and the integration of traditional CRM (so you know if you're dealing with a super fan or "elite"-level customer, for example), the table stakes in social CRM are high. Where a point solution that covers Twitter and Facebook used by a team of a half-dozen social media professionals working U.S. business hours may work for a small brand or validate the premise of social customer care for a larger brand, managing thousands of posts daily in a 24/7 operation that spans two or three service centers in different time zones requires an enterprise mindset.
Stripping the noise away, there are two factors that define the enterprise social CRM tools: high scale (full firehose, automation, cross-channel support) and business systems integration (CRM, billing, social rankings, and ecosystem connectivity, for example to marketing social feeds). Scale matters: as noted above, social CRM requires addressing every request that passes some sensible, vetted threshold. It also means responding in the customer's lifetime, which on the social web means minutes, not days.
Being "enterprise" also means integrating with existing data systems, providing reporting and analytics that expose real-time supervisory data to answer questions like "What is the current backlog in my Twitter queue right now?" and "Is my average time for an agent to respond within SLA or is my team struggling?" Going further, it means being able to see which agents are processing what posts, and having the ability to reassign a single post or re-task an entire social agent workgroup on-the-fly. Because as we all know, market events happen in real time. And when they do it's the social web that buzzes about it first.
As you push past social media marketing and into social CRM, take a look at your tools, your team, and your strategy. Ask yourself three questions:
Let those answers guide your plans for implementing social CRM. When you can say "Yes" to all three, you're in a very good place.
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Dave is the VP of social strategy at Lithium. Based in Austin, Dave is also the author of best-selling "Social Media Marketing: An Hour a Day," as well as "Social Media Marketing: The Next Generation of Business Engagement." Dave is a regular columnist for ClickZ, a frequent keynoter, and leads social technology and measurement workshops with the American Marketing Association as well as Social Media Executive Seminars, a C-level business training provider.
Dave has worked in social technology consulting and development around the world: with India's Publicis|2020media and its clients including the Bengaluru International Airport, Intel, Dell, United Brands, and Pepsico and with Austin's FG SQUARED and GSD&M| IdeaCity and clients including PGi, Southwest Airlines, AARP, Wal-Mart, and the PGA TOUR. Dave serves on the advisory boards for social technology startups including Palo Alto-based Friend2Friend and Mountain View-based Netbase and iGoals.
Prior, Dave was a co-founder of social customer care technology provider Social Dynamx, a product manager with Progressive Insurance, and a systems analyst with NASA| Jet Propulsion Labs. Dave co-founded Digital Voodoo, a web technology consultancy, in 1994. Dave holds a BS in physics and mathematics from the State University of New York/ Brockport and has served on the Advisory Board for ad:tech and the Measurement and Metrics Council with WOMMA.
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