Those organizations willing to invest the time and resources required to develop and support a strong virtual presence are gaining practically unlimited access to consumers' steady outpouring of raves and rants, toward favorite and disliked companies and products. Tying this invaluable data into a CRM solution generates sales leads, ideas for product direction and strengthens a company's image and brand. As a result, those companies that use the strongest social CRM integrations should increase revenue; expand market share; improve their corporate image and, maybe, even fine-tune product development to offer items with the most wished-for features or capabilities.
Unlike traditional CRM, which creates vast internal databases of clients and prospects, social networking sites are external repositories of direct communication and indirect comments about businesses, products, people, experiences and an array of customer sentiment. Therefore, CRM software developers are creating tools that allow companies to locate, absorb and use the thousands or millions of messages about their company, products, advertising campaigns or reputation.
At little cost or effort, a business now potentially can reach far more customers or prospects. Opinionated social networking users become a virtual focus group, praising or complaining about a company's offerings, and coming up with suggestions for improvements or new products or brands. Social CRM also allows a company to track - and interact with - those who are vocal in their displeasure with a given product, service or brand.
Service calls may drop, too, as consumers reach out to their personal networks as the first round of contact for a technical question or how-to query. Savvy responders also become a company's asset, perhaps becoming thought-leaders or go-to resources in product developments.The goal is to build on the success of CRM solutions, adding the 'social' capability and enhancing the overall customer experience and revenue-creation opportunities. To accomplish this, companies should create customer-focused online communities with well-established components like blogs, forums, chats and wikis. Businesses also need to monitor social networking sites, recognizing and rewarding - often with badges, stars or other low-cost measures - those who are most proactive and communicative about a company's products or services.
In addition, social CRM should incorporate the strong workflow capabilities of traditional CRM software systems, otherwise all this important data may be relatively useless. Businesses must ensure all relevant departments and individuals have access to the information streaming into their computers via active social networks. Likewise, executives want results, they want to see if their investment has a direct correlation with the goals of increased revenue, decreased support, expanded market share and enhanced brand. So it is imperative that social CRM includes business intelligence or analytical tools that measure success and help guide any corrections or enhancements along the way.
Unlike a strong corporate website, businesses should tap the boundless, less structured and uncontrolled world of social media. Those communicating about a company or brand may never visit the company's home page, preferring to disseminate their comments, opinions and suggestions from LinkedIn to Facebook. Social CRM then, must go to the source, not try to bring the source to it.
Your turn: What is your take?