Overcoming Skepticism to Exploit Social CRM

Overcoming Skepticism to Exploit Social CRM

Many executives fear a healthy two-way conversation with customers

By Barton Goldenberg

I’ve been a part of the CRM industry since 1985 and never before have I seen such confusion and skepticism regarding when and how best to adopt Social CRM processes and tools. Yet the companies that stopped questioning and charged forward with Social CRM are beginning to pull away from the pack. Why is Social CRM adoption such a challenge?

Social CRM Definition

As I see it, Social CRM is the next logical step within our CRM industry. If CRM is a business approach that integrates people, process and technology to maximize relationships with all customers, that provides seamless collaboration between all customer-facing functions and that increasingly leverages the Internet, then Social CRM is the next wave that engages the ‘social customer’ into these customer relationship efforts. How does Social CRM engage the customer?

  • Capturing indirect feedback from customers on social networks and communities that adds insight into the emotional side of the relationship
  • Sharing ideas for innovation by leveraging customer insights, resulting in co- development of new products/services
  • Enabling customers to get help from other customers, thereby decreasing costs
  • Generating brand awareness and visibility
  • Increasing web traffic and advertising income
  • Assisting in sales, marketing and service efforts by sharing contacts in a sales community, marketing trends in a marketing community and service issues in a service community

One of the benefits of our working with global, best-in-class companies during the past 26 years is that these companies have the resources to try new ideas early on. For example, several years ago, we assisted a leading AAA club in their efforts to harvest member information from their car and travel social communities and placed this valuable information directly into that “member’s” (customer’s) profile. Result: AAA front-line personnel in this club are in a better position to serve members because they have deeper insight onto that member’s needs as well as a read on how well that member feels that AAA can meet these needs.

Why the Healthy Skepticism?

Yet for a number of reasons, executives are often frightened to open their companies up to a healthy two-way customer exchange. I hear executives voice these types of concerns: “What if the customer says malicious things about us?” “What if a disgruntled customer goes viral on us?” “How much resource commitment is required to do Social CRM right?” “This company has been very successful to date; why change the formula now?”

The Social CRM Success Formula

To these skeptics, I remind you that that Social CRM provides insight into why over 80% of Internet consumers now search online for company/product information, trusting peer-generated content more than company or professional insight and that on-line communities – at the core of every successful Social CRM strategy – have become the #1 interactive source for buyers.
Please consider this simply four-step approach to exploit Social CRM benefits:

  1. Take the time and spend the money to listen to your customers. There are dozens of cost- effective ways to monitor what your customers are saying about you.
  2. Build a simple social community to attract customers/prospects and open a two-way dialog with these customers. We are building and monitoring top-notch social communities for our customers at less than $100K per year.
  3. Make sure you integrate customer Social CRM insights directly into your CRM system, so that all your front-line personnel have a 360 degree view of the customer.
  4. Leverage the great new Social CRM processes and tools in sales, marketing, customer service, eBusiness and analytics to help drive new product/service sales.

Let me close with a short Social CRM success story from one of our customers. The customer is a global leader in food manufacturing, who until recently relied heavily on the well-established food distribution channel to sell and service their customers. But when times got tough and the distributors began to offer their own competitive products, this company’s wake-up sirens went off. While being respectful of the key role that the well-established distribution channel played in the industry, this global company decided to focus increased attention on enhancing their two- way dialog directly with the end-customers – not just with the restaurant owners that the distributors sold to but also with the chefs that work in these restaurants. To accomplish this, the global company built social communities to discuss food preparation, to hold chef contests, to share food trends, to poll end-users about new ideas, etc.

The results so far have been impressive: end-users are “pulling” the company’s products through the distribution channel thereby driving new growth. The company is able to quickly decipher who are their “A-list” customers worthy of receiving a visit from their direct sales force. Sales and marketing processes are now linked. The company also has begun to leverage customer insights to deliver new and highly profitable products in the market place.

To the remaining Social CRM skeptics, I leave you with this thought: several years ago, Cisco’s CEO, John Chambers, made this statement: “This collaboration that kids got through social networking is the future of business.” To which I add, “Can you really wait much longer to successful create and implement of your Social CRM strategy?”