• August 29, 2010
  • By Scott Brave, cofounder and chief technology officer, Baynote

The Social Work of Social CRM

The explosion of real-time Web content, customer touch points and expectations poses a major challenge for service organizations, yet an even bigger opportunity. Really.

With the rise of product and service communities, ratings and review sites, and you name it social forums, it's time to offer personalized interactions with customers no matter their preferred communication channel. Mix in mobile devices and now there are a remarkable number of channels to manage, more interaction data, and increasingly sky-high expectations from customers who are conditioned to want their information and answers in real-time.

The opportunity lies in an organization's ability to effectively tap into these channels to boost loyalty, improve knowledge sharing among marketing, sales, and service teams, and even reduce support costs. This in many ways is the vision of Social CRM, which offers to turn traditional support models inside out by grouping customers with similar interests and applying other emerging characteristics of social business.

The social science concept of collective intelligence, also known as the wisdom of crowds, is essential to leveraging the power of social CRM in order to deal with the huge volumes of user-generated content and interactions. What's more, Social CRM is made more effective, personal and relevant using collective intelligence. There are many definitions of collective intelligence, so for the purpose of this article we will describe it as the process of gathering implicit feedback and insight from a group of like-minded individuals online based on their navigation behaviors.

Evoke CRM for Baynote

Source: Evoke CRM for Baynote 

Using Collective Intelligence to Find a Needle in a Haystack

Collective intelligence has both influenced and spread with the growth of online communities, e-commerce and social media. The prototypical online community has several casts of actors: creators (super-users) who contribute their expertise frequently; editors who occasionally add to existing conversations; and the silent majority - the audience who mostly consumes information rather than contributing to it. A central concept of collective intelligence is to aggregate behaviors of this silent majority, augment that information with the expertise of the super-users and provide the most relevant information that meets every user's goals. In service and support environments this somewhat radical view requires a fresh look at how knowledge is gathered, codified, published and shared - but the benefits in terms of efficiency and scale vs. traditional expert/KM approaches are likely to outweigh concerns about loss of control or ownership.

More and more enterprises are using collective intelligence to enable new modes of communication, collaboration and knowledge sharing among customers and employees alike. The experience of early adopters is proof of its potential: decreased time to market for new products, improved employee satisfaction and even reduced costs of communication, travel and operations.

Here are three very practical and focused applications of collective intelligence to deliver the most relevant content, drive conversions, and scale up social CRM:

  1. Automate the monitoring, capturing and processing of behavioral data across all offline, online and social channels — and apply this insight at the point of need to provide relevant and timely answers;
  2. Enhance expert knowledge and existing KM and enterprise search solutions via crowd-powered search, recommendations and navigation; and
  3. Tap into Web content management and analytics to provide greater insights and personalized content based on group behavior patterns and individual preferences.

Unlike first-generation Web analytics and personalization engines that rely on historical user profile data and click stream patterns, collective intelligence hones in on implicit actions such as time spent on page, mouse scrolls, repeat visits, bookmarking, etc. across all channels. The learned behavior patterns among like minded site visitors give context to spot trends and determine relevancy. Even more, crowd wisdom allows service teams to instantly adapt the online experience to their customers' evolving needs.

Four Quick Tips for Applying Collective Intelligence to Social CRM

Net/net: collective intelligence is essential to Social CRM because it delivers a high quality customer experience amidst the exploding quantity of user-generated content. Whether deployed as part of an overall social business or community program, or search improvement initiative, companies looking to incorporate collective intelligence into their Social CRM environment should do the following:

  1. start small with one channel, such as Web self-service;
  2. identify search and navigation scenarios;
  3. test user success rates for crowd-driven experience vs. current search/KM tools on target scenarios; and
  4. add and test additional channels.

In the end, there are many near-term and strategic benefits of better understanding customers and delivering more relevant content. Collective intelligence helps to tap this potential through this whole lifecycle.



For BT Group, a global provider of communications services, social search fits into the company's broader focuses on social media, communities and Social CRM. The beachhead for these efforts is the BT Business Community, which brings customers together to learn and share ideas for getting the most out of their products and services. According to Brooke Molinaroli, BT's Head of Digital Care, going social is not only about lowering costs via greater self-service adoption. It's also about delivering a high quality of service that is fast, efficient, and — most important — "human."

BT is currently using collective intelligence to deliver more relevant content and exceptional service in its BT Business Community. And as the business scales up its Social CRM program and focuses on additional ways to leverage social media for customer support, several key requirements point to a broader role for tapping the wisdom of crowds across the entire organization. 

These drivers start with proactively monitoring, contacting and engaging with customers via Twitter and external communities, and providing full service for all queries, whether they are technical or billing related across all service lines such as phone, broadband, TV, etc. They also include delivering on the goal of providing service that is fast, efficient and personal, and reducing the time to market for new social media offerings as additional departments come on board.

For more information on BT's approach to providing exceptional service using social media, listen to the replay of the recent TSIA Webcast featuring BT.


About the Author

Scott Brave (scott@baynote.com) is cofounder and chief technology officer of Baynote, which provides Web sites with adaptive solutions — combining next-generation search, personalization, navigation, and Web analytics — to deliver a customer experience that is always relevant, personal, and convenient. He holds a Ph.D. in Human-Computer Interaction from Stanford University.


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For the rest of the August 2010 issue of CRM magazine — revealing the winners of the 2010 CRM Market Awards — please click here.

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