Lithium's Social is "Suite"

Figuring out what tools work for you from a broad software suite can be like picking and choosing items from an à la carte menu. Especially with social software, departments within large organizations may struggle to find which applications and analytics are truly important to their line of business. Lithium Technologies recently released The Lithium Social Customer Suite, a destination that offers line-of-business solutions tied to market awareness, commerce and customer service. The suite also helps business people keep up with what their customers are doing and saying — both in Lithium hosted communities and on the broader social Web.

In addition to announcing prepackaged solutions for marketing, commerce, and customer service, Lithium has made public several of big brand customers and their use cases. "Buyers had been asking for different use cases of the community," says Katy Keim, the chief marketing officer for Lithium Technologies. Here are the customer use cases Lithium has brought forward:

Lenovo and Lithium Service: Lenovo, one of the world's leading PC manufacturers, has launched a community to better serve and support its customers with knowledge. Now, Lenovo support employees can take action on a customer's issue via social media. For instance if a customer tweets a problem they are having, the mention is then picked up by Lithium's monitoring and the support organization can route that tweet to a support agent. Also, customers can support one another thanks to Lithium's community-driven knowledge base.

Future Shop and Lithium Commerce: Canada-based Future Shop has deployed Lithium Commerce to up the ante in connecting with customers before they buy. The solution does such things as providing a simple question box on a product page, so a customer can ask a specific question and get a response from a community member about the product. Also, commerce site visitors can view product recommendations within community conversations — and even add products mentioned to their carts without leaving the community. Lithium's review system takes reputation and expertise into account so prospective customers can view the most trusted opinions about a product.

Sephora and Lithium Awareness: The retailer which has a very passionate and loyal customer base implemented the marketing solution within Lithium's Social Customer Suite to drive conversations on the Sephora website. The community, called BeautyTalk, covers a variety of beauty topics, recognizes word-of-mouth advocates ("Beauty Mavens"), and helps drive conversations closer to the point of purchase.

"The way Lithium is figuring out very specific business objectives and then packaging the product that they offer to meet those objectives as a defaulted approach almost is a really smart thing to do," says Forrester Analyst Melissa Parrish. She adds that department-or business objective-specific entry points seem to be catching on among the various social CRM product providers.

"It's potentially giving Lithium's customers an advanced step," Parrish says. "Rather than looking at every bell and whistle that's offered in a software suite and figuring out, ‘lets take this one and this one,' [Lithium] is saying, ‘we have identified these needs and these are the tools and the strategic services you need to get there.'"

Lithium's Keim maintains that although various departments — marketing, commerce, customer service — are taking ownership and managing various elements of social, the notion of "one community" is taking hold. "Consumers don't care what department you are in," she spells out. "They are looking to complete a set of tasks or activities. They say, ‘I want to get help;' ‘I need information;' ‘I want to buy something;' or ‘I want to complain.' They don't say, ‘I want to talk to a marketer.'"

Keim says businesses know they need one place to manage social CRM. "Having a siloed approach in terms of dealing tight the customer will fail," she says.

A second part of the Lithium Social Customer Suite release comes in the form of social media monitoring and the response to activity on the broader social Web. Lithium has integrated monitoring capabilities that it assumed following its May acquisition of Scout Labs. According to Keim, Lithium has integrated analytical tools from Scout Labs that enable Lithium users to compare the participants of their branded communities with those out in social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Lithium can now report back what customers do within sanctioned communities, but also report on how customers carry their influence to different locations.

"It's important that a marketer understand not only what's said about the brand within the branded community, but also what's being said out in the Web," Parrish says. "Otherwise you really only have half of the customer intelligence." Keim adds: "There's not an option to say ‘we aren't going to pay attention to that channel.'"

"The dreaded ROI question," as Keim calls it, continues to be top of mind for many organizations interested in expanding their social CRM efforts. Although the way social is measured may be debatable, Keim maintains, "Lithium has been outstanding is in delivering results that reveal the impact."

Parrish says Lithium's method of demonstrating the impact of social — benchmarking a community's progress against similar companies — remains fairly unique. She notes that it's not a "hard ROI calculation" but gives Lithium credit for "interesting ways of cutting and presenting the data in the analytics suite that starts to get at the value of the community in a different way."

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine.

You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" below. 

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