Remember the early days when the concept of customer relationship management (CRM) systems had emerged? There was a mad rush in the market and almost everybody wanted to try out this newly discovered abstract. But as the dust settled on CRM, we realized that CRM systems were not just about anybody’s cup of tea.
This realization brought about a phase where CRM systems became entitlements of enterprises that had deep pockets. These enterprises had big budgets, talent pool, and IT resources available at hand to successfully deploy CRM systems. It was a time when CRM systems made silent inroads into enterprise IT architecture. And now after a quiet and peaceful existence for some time, CRM systems are back in the limelight.
This time it’s the emerging open social technologies that have made CRM the talk of the town. Enterprises now have ready access to their customers’ interactions and behavior patterns. A company can just peruse through social networks like Facebook or Twitter and know what their customers are talking about. In a way, social networks have breathed life back into traditional behavior tracking of CRM systems. Social CRM has removed the barriers of cost and accessibility for enterprises. So now it all boils down to how enterprises marry the new social element with the traditional enterprise level CRM functions.
So what can you do differently with this wedlock between social media and traditional CRM? How can you avoid minor hiccups and have a smooth functioning social CRM?
Accept the Change in Playing Fields
Traditionally, a CRM system captured a customer’s behavior and his relationship with the enterprise only when he entered the proprietary channel. A customer had to be in the ‘pipeline’ for the traditional CRM to kick in. But a customer traditionally enters an enterprise pipeline only when he has touch based with one of your points of contact. This implies that customers that have no established contact with the enterprise are left out. Does this mean they have no valuable inputs? Does this mean they have gone silent? Absolutely not! This means they are just not talking to you. This is where things change with social CRM. Social networks are not your ‘pipeline’ per se. They are your customers’ space and you are setting foot into their orbit. The ball is in their court now and they shall define the rules of the game. Accept this change in playing field and accordingly align your traditional CRM processes.
Know Where Your Customers Hang Out
Not all your customers are going to use the same kind of digital or social platform. With social media there are multiple outlets available to your customers. So if you want to map your customers’ beliefs, ideas, behavior patterns, likes and dislikes, and perception of your brand, then you need to know exactly where to look. You have to know their hangout spots. You don’t want to end up in a place where your customers are venting out their frustrations on MySpace while you obliviously look for them on Facebook.
Call for Advice
Nothing gets off people more than a genuine call for advice. Research shows that people participate more in reviewing products and dishing out advice than meaningless blabber. You can send out a call to your customers to come forth and suggest improvements to your brand. You can even invite them to come up with new product ideas. They can put in their two cents as to how you can improve their overall product or service experience. This way you can engage more of your customers in a more meaningful manner and get them into your traditional CRM system.
Word of mouth is the most valuable but the most underused social marketing tool. Nothing comes even close to customer reviews and recommendations when selling a product. Your potential customers will rely more on your existing customers’ word than your marketing campaign. So get your loyal customers talking about you. Encourage them to share their experiences with your brand on social platforms. This will only help you build your reputation and draw market attention.
Build Value for Your Customers
The most common mistake that we make when devising a social media based brand ambassador program is we make these programs incentive driven. Your customers might not always be looking for monetary incentives when advocating for you. Instead develop a culture that builds value for these loyal customers through outstanding service. If you just glance through your records, you will be surprised to find that most of your disgruntled customers are unhappy with your service and not the product. So make sure you back up your brand ambassador programs on social media with strong service commitments.
Remember, social media is a double edged sword when it comes to CRM. You need to be careful how you use it because it touches one of your most sensitive resource – customers. But if used smartly it can lend a whole another dimension to your CRM practice. So plan out a strategy and make place for social media in your CRM.