Overcoming Skepticism to Exploit Social CRM

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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 are beginning to pull away from the pack. Why is social CRM adoption such a challenge? 

Social CRM is the next logical step because it engages customers in the following ways:

• captures indirect feedback from customers on social networks and communities that offers insight into the emotional side of the relationship;
• shares innovative ideas by leveraging customer insights, resulting in new products and services;
• enables customers to help each other, thereby decreasing costs;
• generates brand awareness and visibility; and
• increases Web traffic and advertising income.

One benefit of our working with global best-in-class companies during the past 26 years is that these organizations have the resources to test out ideas early. For example, several years ago, we helped a AAA club that was trying to harvest member information from its car and travel social communities and place this valuable information directly into that “member’s” (customer’s) profile. The result: AAA front-line personnel in this club are in a better position to serve members.

Yet, executives often are frightened to open up their companies to a healthy two-way customer exchange, so executives tend to make comments like these:

• “What if the customer says malicious things about us?”
• “What if a disgruntled customer goes viral?”
• “How much of a resource commitment is required?”

The Success Formula
I remind these skeptics that social CRM provides insight into why more than 80 percent of Internet consumers now search online for company/product information, trusting peer-generated content more than company or professional insight. Please consider this simple four-step approach to exploit social CRM:

1) Take the time and spend the money to listen to your customers. There are dozens of cost-effective ways to do that.
2) Develop a simple social community. We are building and monitoring top-notch communities for our customers at less than $100,000 per year.
3) Integrate customer social CRM insights directly into your CRM system so that all your front-line personnel have a 360 degree view of customers.
4) Leverage the great new social CRM processes and tools in sales, marketing, customer service, e-business, and analytics to help drive new product/service sales.

Let me close with a success story from a customer that is a global leader in food manufacturing. Until recently, it had relied on the well-established food distribution channel to sell and service its customers. But when the distributors began to offer their own products, this company’s wake-up sirens went off.

While being respectful of the key role that the well-established distribution channel plays in the industry, this global company decided to enhance its dialogue directly with the end customers—not just with the restaurant owners but also with the chefs in these restaurants. To accomplish that, the company built social communities to discuss food preparation, to hold chef contests, to share food trends, to poll end users about new ideas, and so on. So far, the results have been impressive: End users are “pulling” the company’s products through the distribution channel, thereby driving growth.

Several years ago, Cisco CEO John Chambers said, “This collaboration that kids got through social networking is the future of business.” Can you really wait much longer to successfully create and implement your social CRM strategy?

Barton Goldenberg (bgoldenberg@ismguide.com) is president and founder of ISM Inc., a consulting firm that applies CRM, social CRM, and social media to successful customer-centric business strategies. He is the publisher of The Guide to CRM Automation (17th edition) and author of CRM in Real Time: Empowering Customer Relationships (Information Today Inc.).

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