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Discussing Traditional and Social Customer Data Integration with Neal Schaffer

Blog post by on August 7, 2012 No Comments

Recently, the team at Scribe had the opportunity to sit down with Neal Schaffer to discuss the future of social data integration. Social marketing and social data are areas in which Neal is well versed – Neal is the author of two books on the subject, a highly sought-after keynote speaker, vice president of social media strategy at two agencies, and a leading social media strategist and consultant. Neal has a birds-eye view of how cutting-edge companies are approaching social and the social impact on complete customer record management and data integration down the road. Our discussion with Neal revealed striking similarities between the challenges companies often face when approaching traditional customer and social data integrations.

Customer data integration is undoubtedly a hot topic, fueled by the need for businesses to market better and sell more effectively in a world where customer choices abound. For a company to know their customer, traditionally, meant businesses needed a full view into all of their customer data – data coming from marketing campaigns, customer service and order data fed by ERP systems. Yet, most companies still have improvements to make in traditional customer data integration. Our recent State of Customer Data Integration report points to a ‘customer data integration gap’ – only 15 percent of customer-facing systems are fully integrated. This is why social data integration, although a hot topic, is still in its very early stages. Neal predicts that social data will remained siloed for the time being, and won’t find a permanent home in the requisite CRM systems, as many companies are just beginning their social journey. Companies still need to figure out how to effectively participate in social channels to achieve business results. Neal adds that the potential of social must first be embraced by management to secure the support needed for the effort to be truly successful.

When approached for social strategy consulting, Neal often begins with client education. Social marketing is conceptually different from traditional marketing and requires a change in strategy. According to Neal, the big opportunity in social media is enabling businesses to more effectively engage in targeted, value-based marketing as opposed to employing the traditional “push” marketing approach. By using insights gleaned from social customer data and interactions, companies can have a better understanding of their customers, their needs and pain points.

The real challenge lies in learning how to effectively glean these insights from the terabytes of available social data. Social data needs to be aggregated, cleansed and then integrated across various heterogeneous business systems for it to help inform marketing, customer service and sales efforts. As Neal points out, this need is driving growth of Social CRM – new systems that house social profile data on top of the traditional CRM system.

Some leading companies, like Volvo Construction Equipment, provide the blueprint for how to successfully incorporate social data and use it to drive more revenue and better customer service. Their approach, outlined in a presentation delivered by Scribe and ExactTarget at the 2012 Microsoft Convergence conference, highlighted the methods Volvo Construction Equipment uses to expand the conversation with their customers through social channels. This builds stronger customer relationships and greater trust, ultimately resulting in more revenue and better customer service.

Neal points out that regardless of whether companies focus on traditional customer or social data integration, there are best practices to follow:
1. Begin with the end in mind. Consider your business objectives when determining your strategy.
2. Focus on discrete use cases. Start small and focus on driving success in a particular area. After you gain traction, expand by tacking the next opportunity,
3. Ideally, spend time on low complexity/high value areas. Don’t try to boil the ocean. Focus on areas that can be improved or enhanced without undue effort.
4. Leverage the learnings to improve business processes. Learn more about your customers by collecting, analyzing and sharing the data. Revisit your business processes based on where you will gain the most benefit.
5. Start collecting social information. Companies need to be prepared for the social age by starting to collect social profile information, such as Twitter handles, LinkedIn or Facebook profiles, along with emails. This information will the serve as the basis for future social data collection and analysis

On August 14th, Neal will moderate a webinar with Scribe and ExactTarget on driving customer engagement with email, social and CRM. You won’t want to miss this great discussion. As always, let us know your thoughts. Have you jumped on the social media bandwagon? Are you collecting social data? What forays have you made in integrating social data within the CRM? Share your experiences on Twitter.

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