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Published March 25th 2013

How Brands Must Evolve from CRM to Social CRM

Social CRM is not a new thing that aims to replace traditional CRM. It’s rather an evolution of how we manage our customer relationships in today’s business reality, where consumers are smarter, more informed and vocally empowered with easy-to-use social media technologies wherever they are.

Traditionally we looked at CRM as a pipeline where, using transactional and demographical data, we targeted customers with communication in hope of having them come back to our core business as much as possible.

Although this is still true and relevant today, our business reality has become slightly more complex than before.

Managing customer transactions remains the cornerstone for any profitable business, and we’re increasingly talking about managing customer experiences.

As B. Joseph Pine II, co-author of ‘The Experience Economy’ says:

“experiences are bigger than products and services alone”.

A well built and implemented Social CRM program can greatly support such experiences, shaping them in the way you want.


Our new business reality


Businesses are now heavily driven to utilise the plethora of easy-to-use social media tools and technologies, enabling theoretically anyone with access to an Internet connection with a voice.

However, it’s not the brand’s adoption of social media that has been driving this change, they are merely playing catch-up with the customer.

Herein lies a giant gap; the difference between the customer use and the brand use of social media.

Digging behind the seemingly superficial likes and loves reveals real customer needs that brands must address. The plug for this hole is for brands to develop and implement an efficient Social CRM strategy.


Evolving from CRM to Social CRM


 Social CRM is a set of strategies and processes backed up by new technology that will better help us manage our customer relationships, mostly online, but increasingly also finding the convergence with offline.


[Graphic inspired by the excellent ideas and work don by Mitch Lieberman]

With the rise of social media technologies, there are more touch points than ever between your brand, employees and customers. Where traditionally [email protected] and a fixed phone line were the primary means of contacting your brand, things have been altered radically in more recent years.

IBM is one such company whose approach to social media is worth learning from. They want their company to be seen as experts and thought leaders within their field. They achieve this by training and empowering their workforce (400,000 employees worldwide) in social media – they are not only running official IBM branded social media profiles, but they have thousands of passionate employees engaging in forums and writing their own blogs.

So whilst traditional CRM practises still are highly relevant for selling IBM’s products, the enhancement of enabling the workforce to be engaging directly with consumers has shifted the company from a department-assigned CRM system to one that rests in the collective hands of all their staff.


Your customers increasingly define the processes and channels


 It’s difficult to force your customers to only use the communication channels you have provided them with. Unless you monitor social media channels for your brand related keywords you might not discover tweets, blog posts and other online mentions talking about you.

Although these mentions are not necessarily addressed directly at you, they are still highly relevant as each of them have their own audience of readers who in turn are potentially consumers themselves.

With social, your customer service team is also becoming a marketing channel and your marketing team is becoming a support channel. From an organisational point of view it makes sense having an integrated team managing customer relations and not create organisational silos for sales and retention.

A proven and successful idea, yet one that many brands fail to implement, is to have your team solving customer problems in the public domain e.g. on a forum or Facebook page. Then you are not only solving that unique problem for the customer, but also displaying it for other buyers – itself an act of marketing.


Putting your Social CRM to work


A Social CRM program should first identify whos talking about your brand and the relevant related keywords online, what they are talking about and where they are saying it.

Social media monitoring solutions often have built-in components to identify these whos, whats and wheres with ease.

Managing your customer relations will require more than a data mining team segmenting your market and customers though, it will need your PR team to create a responsive content creation department, maybe even merging with community management.

It will require all your stakeholders to be equipped with the right tools, processes and training.

The end goal being that you can better manage or influence customer management in today’s business reality.


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