The Future of CRM: Beyond Customer Transactional Data to Add Social Behavioral Metrics


Share on LinkedIn

With CRM technologies evolving, one of the important selling points has been the ability of CRM systems to provide a 360 degree view of the customer. Having an integrated view of the customer has helped organizations to keep all departments (Sales, Service, Finance etc.) on the same page and thus in turn provide a consistent service to the customer. Essentially, what has been captured in the 360 degrees view is the transactional behavior of the customer.

The transactional data has been mainly classified under 3 sub categories: 1) Transaction data like sales orders, billing, receivables and warranties 2) Account data that would include receivables, outstanding balance, account hierarchies and credit history and 3) Interaction data, essentially capturing communication from all customer touch points like emails, chat and call center.

Now the time has come to add another sub category that I would term as “Behavioral Metrics,” which is fundamentally capturing the customer social behavioral pattern.

Going beyond 360 Degrees

A lot of information is available on the social network that can be utilized to improve customer view within the organization. Below are few thoughts on how an organization could look beyond the conventional 360 degrees and capture the behavioral pattern.

  • Capture customer demographics through Social IDs
    For this to happen, one of the first things that would need to be done is providing placeholders for LinkedIn IDs, Twitter IDs and Facebook IDs in the traditional CRM systems. Profile information and customer demographics can be collected by integrating the CRM systems with the social network using these identifiers. The collected information can be used to identify customer demographics, likes/dislikes, important milestones etc. Often customer demographics in the organization’s database go outdated and there is a greater probability that the customer might have been updating this information more periodically in their social forums. A client manager with a mandate to interact closely with few select accounts would benefit if that extra information is made available about his or her customer beyond the typical transactional record.

    A lot of ecommerce websites have started using Facebook logins for customers. As per Facebook statistics, more than 80% of internet sites are integrated with Facebook. Once the customer logs in using a Facebook ID, you get direct access to the customer profile information and this data can be used to capture customer demographics, recommend products, suggest gift ideas for social connections etc. To give an example, a popular ecommerce website uses customer likes on music CDs in their Facebook profile, complements this with previous buys and makes recommendations on new buys.

  • Capture customer conversations
    Organizations can build an unbiased community site and encourage customers to be a part of it. Mechanisms can be put in place to use the information to improve product features and service. Often, a product’s technical flaws go undetected in the in-house labs and it becomes imperative to hear from the customers to iron out potential defects before it is too late. If a mobile phone company has launched a new smartphone and would like to keep a track of customer sentiments and product performance, it would help to listen to what the customers are saying on the social forum and this can help iron out potential product issues. A community site can also be used to obtain customer expertise in resolving service issues.

    Harley Davidson has a dedicated community site where customers share their knowledge and get questions answered. Thus, the organization knows exactly what their customers are saying about their motorcycle. It is also an assurance to the customer that their voice is heard and many of the queries get answered by the expert mechanics. Trip Advisor reviews are often helpful for customers to make a holiday decision. As more and more people are relying on online reviews to make their travel decisions, a bad review can have adverse effect on sales. Hotels can capture customer conversations to improve their service and iron out potential flaws in making a stay comfortable.

  • Customer Influence Index
    Organizations can capture customer influence wielded in community sites with regards to the recommendation of the products and services. They can rate the influencers by using metrics like Customer Influencer Index and this would be an indicator of the influence the customers wield on the social network. These customers can be segmented separately as they are the extended sales team for the organization and can be suitably rewarded by being invited for new product launch, limited edition product release etc.

  • Obtain periodic online feedback
    Often the feedback has been one time; however it is important to make this more frequent. In a typical product lifecycle, it is important for new features to be added to remain ahead in the competition. Product teams can look at the customer suggestions to drive product development. HP has a dedicated customer support forum wherein users can provide periodic feedback. This insight is then used to develop or improve product features. Domino’s Pizza launched the “pizza turnaround” campaign, used customer feedback and improved on their pizza recipe. The sales improved dramatically post this campaign.

  • Monitoring customer needs
    An existing customer might be researching on a product that the company offers. This can be tracked through web crawlers or other available software and utilized for direct marketing. Social media is where consumers believe they can make much better-informed decisions by following the advice of their friends and other consumers. Industry experts say that more than 50% of U.S. consumers use social media to get advice on and make decisions for their purchases. This information can be used to drive potential upsell and cross sell.

  • Nurturing customer relationships
    Organizations can utilize social media to keep a track of key moments in the life of a consumer beyond what had been captured in the 360 degrees systems; e.g., people who have got married, or have changed jobs. This information can be used to upsell, cross sell or surprise customers with gifts. Recently, I came across this famous example of how KLM, a popular aircraft carrier collected information from Social Media, picked a personalized gift for select customers and delivered the gift to them. This gesture of KLM is an ideal example of organizations tapping social media to capture additional information and making their customers feel special.

  • Utilize alternate channels of communication with customer
    A customer may have his car repaired, the service center can encourage the customer to provide miles reading and other operational parameters like mileage etc. after periodic intervals using channels like smartphones and this data can be used to measure the service efficiency. This in turn can improve internal service operations. Mobile CRM has been traditionally stronger on the sales side but the same can also be leveraged to understand customer behavior and improve customer service.

However, this does not mean that we can do away with the traditional 360 degrees view. They would still continue to exert significant importance and the behavioral information from the social media would complement to understand the customer better and forge more fruitful relationships. Recently, there has been a growing concern on the security aspects of personal information being shared across social media. Privacy policies of popular sites are now being modified to make the information disclosure voluntary to the user. There are privacy agreements, so the users can chose not to opt for sharing of information. However, for voluntary disclosures there is a still good amount of information that is available to be tapped.

Way Forward

With growing number of success stories as highlighted in the few examples, the time has come for organizations who already have implemented 360 degrees customer view in their systems to improve it and look beyond the transactional behavior of the customer. Organizations now must ready themselves for obtaining customer information through new sources and build new columns in their database tables to capture this information.

Integrating the traditional CRM systems with social media tools is very important else the CRM system could end up becoming a middleware solution storing only the transactional behavior of the customer. A 360 degrees view needs to redefined to capture the social behavior, to forge more meaningful and effective relationships with customers.

Subodh Rane
Subodh Rane is a senior consultant with Infosys Ltd. He has diverse industry experience in CRM space and has played key roles in CRM Package/Process Consulting & Oracle ERP Implementation projects. His interest lies in CRM innovation and Business Process Re-engineering, and takes a keen interest in keeping abreast of the latest technology fads involving CRM domain.


  1. Well written and aptly conveyed. CRM applications/ tools have matured and in todays world organizations are able to convert the data capture into useful information. By tapping in social networking with social media tools, organizations should be able to convert this information to knowledge and use it for increasing sales/ better customer service.

  2. Adding social behavior to CRM systems and making firms act on the data they gather in a personal manner will change the way many organizations do business. Well written article!

  3. Social networking is at its peak right which in other words can also be thought of as the tipping point. With users starting to value their privacy and understanding that there is a limit to the extent in which they can present themselves on the websites of the likes of FB, Twitter etc., these online tools would be on a decline.
    Though I agree to the huge BI potential of the data available on these websites but I will not advocate the rigid integration with them as the coupling and decoupling both would be very costly affairs.

  4. Hey Subodh
    Great piece of advice for a novice!

    Most of the points you mentioned has been implemented already, however the challenge comes in executing them. We can get the technology in place, however much depends on how user (Sales reps) uses it.

    CRMs, Social and Mobile CRMs and Clienteling Solutions etc are delivered with wide possibilities of customer care, sales oportunities and Branding activities, however it depends on the users and their capabilities of understanding that information and act upon it.

    The Behavioral Metrics part of CRM is something that has to be understood by an individual and certain activities have to be performed to encash the information available; this requires a certain level of intelligence, will and passion for customer care.

    For example, How many Sales reps in a retail store can understand that a woman who bought TYLENOL (Pain killer during pregnancy) is a potential customer for all baby products 9 months down the line.


    Someone tweeting about buying a 2nd hand car is a potential cutomer for annual service membership of a Car Sercvice Station..

    Technology is yet to come up with dynamic suggestions of potential customers but as a user, one must know how to use such metrics.

    Behavioral metrics have arrived already, and isn’t much of a future thingy. Would like you to write more about

    1. How to use the data/information (esp Behavioral Metrics) available? and link to traditional CRM.

    2. How to motivate the end user to use the information and act upon it; the end user is only an employee – what’s his incentive?

    3. CRM is not limited to technology, its a concept of nurturing customers. Anything related to Customers and Relationship with them, is a part of CRM. technology is just one aspect of it.

  5. This addition of social behavior metrics can also help determine where the customer is in their buying process.

  6. Yes Ketan, well said. The scope is unlimited and there is a great potential in Social media. The challenge is to make this information more usable.

  7. Thanks Sashi for your thoughts. Rather being seeing it as costly, I would feel that it should be more evaluated for the value it would bring about into the customer centric processes.

  8. Thanks Satyam for your thoughts.
    Thought it as arrived, the challenge is still in how to make this information more usable. You have pointed it out rightly, the adoption to this information is something that organistions need to focus on.
    I would write more about the 3 points that you have mentioned. Thanks for the inputs.

  9. Yes Dale , the scope is immense. I agree with you , buying pattern is something that can also be analysed based on social media.

  10. Hello Subodh,

    Nice arcticle!

    Do you know on the technical front, if the CRM products (upcoming versions) provides such integrations to collect the data from the social media. ?



Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here