The growth of social media has changed the dynamics between companies and their customers, and it now means that those companies are no longer in control of the communication process. Social technologies have changed the way customers engage with companies and brands across all divisions, from sales and marketing to service, product development, and operations. Social strategies are no longer an option for businesses; they are truly becoming table stakes due to the increased expectations of all customers. These channels present incredible opportunities for companies to add another dimension to understanding customers, key decision-makers, and trends that drive meaningful dialogue.
As social media has shifted the power in conversations from the company to the customer, the "many-to-many" dynamic has given further value to guidance from trusted friends and networks in lieu of company-driven branding. Both positive and negative experiences spread like wildfire, and when marketers can respond both appropriately and swiftly, it will boost the brand's reputation for responsiveness and building trust.
What has come to be known as social CRM is expanding at breakneck speed. According to RnR Market Research, the market for technology that supports social CRM, currently at just under $2 billion, is expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 36.5 percent, to $9.08 billion in 2018. Facilitating social CRM with technology is critical to responding to and sharing the information that will help businesses meet customer expectations and thrive.
The outlook for social CRM is so bright because it spans a diverse set of technologies, from enabling internal collaboration to external social analysis and engagement. Allowing all employees to weigh in and provide value to active sales engagements gives sellers an internal means of finding information that was traditionally locked within an organization. Social CRM also enables external social analysis and engagement, allowing delivery of direct responses to meet the urgent needs of marketers attempting to understand the marketplace. The ability of social CRM technology to provide automated monitoring of social networks, accompanied by sophisticated analytics, allows businesses to be proactive and drive precise communication to an individual customer or groups of customers.
These tools help sellers and marketers capitalize on social networks in a number of ways that boost their results, enabling them to:
- Listen to what customers are saying to discover trends and influencers
- Engage with stakeholders by participating in meaningful conversations
- Collaborate by connecting with colleagues across the enterprise and around the world quickly and easily, benefiting from the collective knowledge of your company
- Amplify product messages by stimulating conversations about them in social networks
- Take action on ideas, recommendations, and opportunities generated by customers in social networks
- Obtain real-time feedback and monitor hot topics to act promptly on concerns or measure the impact of marketing actions
These capabilities are critical to any marketing effort today. A survey by IAB and Lightspeed in the United Kingdom found that more than 44 percent of adults use the Web to share grievances about products and services, while one in five consumers who complain to brands on Twitter or Facebook expect a response within the hour. Social CRM technology helps marketers and sellers track these conversations and queries in real time and reply promptly, presenting opportunities to significantly improve customer service.
The newest technology aggregates social media content from a large number of networks, blogs, and forums, so the marketer can identify the issues that are hottest in real time, respond to them, and feed the information to other departments to improve future versions of products and services.
Your organization can begin engaging in social CRM through four simple steps:
1. Identify your company's biggest challenges. It's important to evaluate and uncover the gaps in social communications and prioritize the areas that will provide the most value to your organization.
2. Choose and empower "social heroes" who are committed to extend social CRM throughout the organization. Social heroes need to be at all levels in the organization, including senior leadership. The more senior leadership engages, the more empowered the entire organization will feel to participate in social efforts, which will significantly increase your employee engagement.
3. Start small. Establish pilot projects in the organization that will provide opportunities for swift integration and measurement of the right data. Smaller projects allow the team to test new strategies and, when the right approach is identified, to iterate quickly.
4. Encourage transparency. All companies struggle with how to provide the right level of transparency both internally and externally. Erring on the side of providing more transparency in communication through your internal social networks will lead to better decision-making at all levels. It also will significantly increase the job satisfaction of your employees. Increased transparency with your customers will increase their attachment and engagement, leading to longer engagements and more revenue potential.
Social CRM presents a burgeoning opportunity for market expansion. It allows companies to be where their customers are in ways like never before, and it provides a powerful avenue to first respond and to then gain customer feedback, shape perception, and promote ideas. Are you planning, engaging, and analyzing to unlock the potential in your organization?
Connor Marsden is the U.S. lead for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, where he focuses on driving growth through product and partner strategy, segment integration, product marketing, existing customer sales, and online services.