The Social Components of CRM And Their Impact on How Customers Will Do Business – Part I


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I asked the expert panel about how they felt the social
components of CRM would impact they way customers do business in the future, and
how.  Here’s the question exactly as I put it….

“Do you feel that the
Social components of CRM emerging today will have a significant impact on how
your customers do business in the future? Why or why not?

My intention is to gain an understanding of where the entire population
of customers is heading relative to the way they purchase products, or engage
with their vendors. We could be talking about a consumer and grocery chain, a
consumer and an airline or a middle market manufacturing company and it’s
distribution channel (or even the ultimate customer).

I don’t believe it’s as simple as suggesting that all customers will
change the way they do business with all companies. I’d like to think that there
is a consensus that a brand needs some serious critical mass before it’s
susceptible to noisy consumer’s rants (not that this is everything SCRM is
about). Now, that doesn’t mean that all
won’t find current, or future, social engagement tools effective
at enhancing customer loyalty. Any good marketer will tell you that what, when
and where are one of the keys to success.

Therefore, I do believe that a CRM consultant needs to be ready to address key
strategy points
for any business that determines they have a need to
engage the social customer in competitive ways. In other words, as a consultant,
I will need to be prepared to engage my customer as a social business, if
that’s what they need to be

I have to make one thing clear, however. I believe there have always been
customer-centric businesses, and you will hear from a few experts that agree
with me. Applying a new term like Social CRM tends to ignore that reality. It
could certainly be said that relationship marketers and outside-in process
experts have designed business methodologies who’s sole purpose is to engage the
customer where they actually react, positively, to the engagement. And while I
see many of these techniques continuing to be extremely successful, I also
believe they will adapt if expectations really and truly change.

After all, testing, measuring and adapting has always been a core piece in their
portfolio of tricks.

How Do The Experts See It?

When I asked the experts what they thought about the impact of the social
components of CRM on the way customers will demand to do business, the responses were fairly predictable; generally speaking. I
won’t even try to convince you that I think through this stuff in nearly the
depth that I received back. There were certainly proponents who feel it’s
comprehensive and inevitable, if it’s not here already. Others are thoughtful
and still trying to figure out where this is all heading. And of course, there
are those who think this is all a lot of hogwash; the conservatives in the
Social CRM debate. I’m definitely right of center on this topic.

It’s not surprising that Bob Warfield
of Helpstream believes
Social CRM is here now and here to stay.

Bob backs this up with three supporting points:

  • we have customers who are able to deliver
    enhanced service levels
    (as measured by customer satisfaction
    improvements) with dramatically reduced resource requirements.”
  • we have a number of customers who are using our
    Social CRM suite as a lead generation tool
    that helps get the word
    out and drive new business.”
  • we are now seeing customers come to us because
    their competitors have embraced Social CRM
    and it has become an
    expected part of everyone’s offering in a particular space.”

Given that Helpstream’s customers are using a social component of CRM, it’s easy
to see where he’s coming from. 100% of his customers are using a cool service he
refers to as Social CRM. I prefer to use @JohnFMoore ‘s term — “Social Support
” (SSC) since I don’t believe a business can run on a strategy that
is 100% social, e.g. it’s not a complete strategy. Nor is any software a solution, “CRM” or “Social CRM”.  But, I

Bob also provided the outcome of an interesting study:

I can’t imagine a business that wouldn’t like that result! The question is
whether a social support community will work for every kind of business, at
every market level.  We’ll have to explore that some more. 

One other thing worth noting is that I’m a believer that customer loyalty
is what companies are fighting for today (or should be) and not customer satisfaction.
Maybe Bob will jump back in at the bottom to discuss this some more because I
think it’s an important distinction.

Now before you think I’ve put Bob out there all by his lonesome, I’ve got a few
more on the panel that believe if you’re not embracing Social CRM, you should be
(some will come in Part II). In fact, Paul Greenberg
came out with an emphatic statement that includes B2B’s; a group I struggle to
see rushing to this concept (at least in the middle market). Here’s his complete
response to this conversation / question:

That means that the customers have the ability to do a real time or nearly real
time communications in media comfortable to them. That also means they can
retrieve information or participate in discussions about the very companies that
should be impacted by the emergence of those social components. A smart company
will recognize this and get on board by providing the tools and channels their
customers need for that communication which give them – the company – the means
to control how the channel flows. They can’t control the conversation. They can
provide a location for the customers to have that conversation though.

They also get the opportunity, using the social tools out there, to capture and
analyze the data that they would otherwise have no access to so that they can
use the results for greater insights into their customers. This outreach effort
and provision of inbound pipes for the customers to the company is one of the
major differences between the customer of five years and the social customer of
today and between traditional CRM and Social CRM.”

Honestly, I’m looking forward to seeing how B2B’s embrace this concept since
most of my experience is with middle market B2B companies where the critical
mass may not exist. Collecting social data on a statistically small population
may be fruitless.  I’m also
waiting to see how personal “social” sites really impact consumers when it comes
to interacting with their vendors or retail outlets.

Businesses don’t
collectively, currently, engage in Facebook and MySpace. While the employees do,
they often “go rogue” and use it for their personal relationships. I can see the
Twitter debate being shaped around this because it has more to do with
screaming about a brand, but we will still have stores, we will still
have television commercials, so how much will change? Will Social CRM run a
business (for those that need social) or will it be traditional CRM with some social
components of CRM bolted on drive the business? Isn’t the latter a more
comprehensive plan?

I agree that smart, customer-centric companies will provide their
customers whatever is needed to maintain, or increase, loyalty. Maybe that’s a
social community, but as we’ll address in other questions, I personally can’t see
this affecting smaller businesses or businesses where the brand is less known, or
unknown, at least not for a long time. Sure, they will be candidates for
participating in their upstream where they are the customer.  I guess everything is relative, but that isn’t what I’m hearing.
It screams to be all or nothing in many of the places I’m listening.
Don’t forget to jump in below with your opinion.

As I’m writing this, I’m realizing just how many excellent responses I got. Each
question could result in a book. So, I’m going to throw one more deep thought
into the mix coming through the nimble fingers of
Graham Hill
before ending Part I of the impact of social components on CRM.
Graham has an interesting and different take on things.

Social CRM has been in the hands of customers for a number of years, powered by
user groups, web pages, blogs and twitter. And the spread of mobile social
networks tools will only serve to speed this up. If you want the honest truth
abut a product, you ask your friends through twitter or go online to a
comparison site. You don’t need to rely on the seller’s slick marketing anymore.
And if you want help with a problem, you do the same. Particularly as customer
service at so many companies involves long waits, repeated handovers and rarely
resolves the problem satisfactorily.

And things are likely to get a whole lot worse for companies. The advent of
peer-to-peer networks is starting to cut companies out of the loop altogether.
Customers can now buy products direct from each other with the help of only a
business intermediary to provide a secure platform over which to transact. It
all started with mass-customised T-shirts enabled by platform companies like
Spreadshirt. Then it spread to a broad range of products through platforms like
Zazzle. Zazzle allows thousands of sellers to transact with millions of buyers,
who previously would never have met. Today you can even arrange a loan funded by
other customers through banking platforms like Zopa. Who knows what will come
next? The sky is the limit for platform-based P2P business.”

Did you get all that? Let me share his general opening to this conversation so
you can see where Graham’s coming from…

I hadn’t really thought about some of what Graham mentioned about peer-to-peer
networks. Most likely because I’ve been totally affected by them and simply
don’t notice. I’ve been behaving like this for years; especially the part about
getting opinions from peers (as well as sharing opinions and supporting peers).
I’ve been online since the mid 1980’s in Bulletin Boards, Forums and Communities
(just not as pretty). I know some science students who were
interacting online even earlier than that through University networks.

I’ve said over and over that many of the things that have suddenly
become major business concerns have really been around for a long time. The only
difference, I guess, is the accessibility. I think I’ve factored that into my
thinking. Social CRM is not the paradigm shift, but the Internet
certainly was.

Part II

I didn’t think I’d have to break this series up more than one article per
question, but I asked so many to participate because I really wanted to attack
this from different perspectives and with some people that aren’t hanging out in
the #SCRM accidental community. I will no doubt have to publish each set of
responses in their entirety once I’m done. I’m not concerned about context,
because there is a form down below that let’s the experts, or any reader, chime
in to correct, direct or debate.

You are going to love a few of the responses I haven’t covered
in Part I. Why? Because they are going to stir things up, that’s why! And while
I like to do that myself, I’m just going to stir the ingredients, our experts,
so we can clearly see that no single opinion will shape the outcome. That’s the
beautiful thing about our ability to have this conversation this way. Everyone
has a chance to impact the outcome we will inevitably be forced to follow, and
this conversation will definitely evolve over the coming weeks. Hopefully, the
picture will be come clear for all — especially me!


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