Now We’re (Jive) Talking! Real Social Business Applications to Engage with Customers

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This is the year when social media makes a real impact in the enterprise. And I don’t mean just putting a Web 2.0 veneer on Enterprise 1.0, as some so-called “social CRM” applications are doing.

Jive Software is the real deal. Jive’s CEO Dave Hersch says that the Sequoa-backed firm sells enterprise-class solutions, and has installations in 15% of the Fortune 500, including some big brands like Electronic Arts, Intel and Nike.

After starting out with a community offering in 2001 to augment customer support, Jive has expanded into a suite of solutions in four key areas: employees, innovation, sales/marketing and support. Hersch describes the Jive approach as a kind of “Facebook for the enterprise.”

Bridging conversations, knocking down silos

Everyone knows that information silos are a big problem internally. It’s bad enough when sales reps and customer service agents don’t collaborate, but worse when employees aren’t engaged with customers. Especially when customers are complaining or attempting to solve problems, like you’ll see on most community/blogging/forum sites.

Social applications are designed for free flowing interactions, while employees use more structured (ERP/CRM) apps to do their jobs. Jive’s “Bridging Module” connects employee community members with relevant customer/partner conversations.

For example, as you can see in the screen shot below, a sales reps can use widgets to funnel appropriate content from Jive communities. And, unlike Facebook and other public networking sites, with Jive you can use analytics to find the hot topics, assess user sentiment, etc.


Show me the money

In this context, most would agree socialism is a Good Thing. What’s not to like about helping people communicate and collaborate?

Well, have you talked to your CFO lately? While you may be all a twitter about, um, Twitter and the like, the business case for social stuff is a work in progress. But, as I commented in my article to lead off 2009, social can provide great leverage for scarce internal staff:

“Online communities, both public and private, can enable enterprises to really connect with customers to learn what they want—a more efficient way of doing customer research. Furthermore, forums and collaborative groups can enable customers to help each other, lightening the load for the support staff.”

Hersch says the business case for investing in social business applications tends to be in these benefit areas:

  • Support: need fewer agents by leveraging community help
  • Innovation: reduce product cycle times
  • Sales/marketing: close deals faster
  • Loyalty: increase engagement and retention

Prediction: more “social” job titles

Are you serious about social business? Then you’ll probably need to have real social people with real social job titles…like InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), which has over 4,000 hotels (InterContinental, Holiday Inn and more) in 100 countries worldwide. IHG has at least two people with “social” in their titles: Cassandra Jeyaram, Social Marketing Manager and Jenni Kolshak, Social Marketing Specialist.

IHG is no stranger to community software, having used Communispace to support three private online communities for research purposes. But they wanted a public community for members of their Priority Club® Rewards program. Jive was selected, says Kolshak, due to “very impressive functionality” and strong integration between the Jive community and IHB’s web site.

Kolshak told me the business case for the investment was to increase brand affinity and member engagement, which ultimately should increase the number of room nights booked by members. IHG will encourage participation with unique offers, content and points incentives—a good idea especially in this economy. Time will tell whether the investment pays off, by comparing revenue from customers that are active vs. not active in the community.

The year of social business

While other vendors have been adding on social features (not a bad idea, as far as it goes), Jive is stepping ahead with a fully integrated suite of social applications that connect customers, employees and partners.

This is just the beginning of a “social business” trend that I expect to pick up a lot of steam this year. It’s time for enterprises not only to join conversations happening “out there” (on Facebook, Twitter, etc.) but also to invest in their own social business systems to help employees truly engage with customers.

Further Reading:
* Jive Launches First Social Business Software Suite
* CBM Trends for 2009: Think, Feel and Connect
* nGenera Pushes Vision for Collaborative Business Management
* Oracle’s “Social CRM” is Just Lipstick on a Pig

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