Key Considerations for Social CRM Strategies and Deployments
Social CRM Thought Leader Brent Leary provides practical advice for SMBs planning or implementing a social CRM strategy and program—including goals, benefits, challenges, fluid customer behaviors, critical success factors, common reasons for failed programs, and why SMBs are leading the charge in social CRM adoption and success.
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When planning a social CRM project, begin with a CRM strategy that considers the long term journey and transition from initial social conversations to full customer relationship management. To get started, begin by talking with your existing customers—find out how they are using social media, who they are listening to, what social networks they visit, what communities they participate in and who they are communicating with. This discovery will identify the social characteristics of your best customers and what's important to them, and with this information you can identify social strategies to target other social customers like them.
The goal of social CRM is to leverage social channels and techniques to improve the dialogue with prospects and customers in order to build better and longer lasting relationships.
In a study of 750 small and midsize businesses (SMBs) designed to understand how SMBs employ social media for business benefits, a clear correlation was found between the level of top management participation and social program success. Social CRM adoption normally requires cultural change, and cultural change requires sponsorship from the top of the organization.
Social CRM or social business programs deliver high impact benefits, including a solid understanding of customer challenges, customer sentiment and what is important to your prospects and customers. To gain this understanding, use social media tools not just as another channel to push out your messaging, but as a channel to retrieve customer feedback that can be used develop insight and influence customer strategies. Leveraging social data and social profiles permits companies to hone their messaging, deliver it at just the right time and the right location, and better connect with customers.
Companies are turning to social CRM in part as a response to a lethargic economy that is unhurried to recover. In a challenged and uncertain economic climate, companies have tight budgets and are seeking new lower cost customer acquisition methods. Many businesses are turning to social CRM pilots and projects to engage new customers, and replace traditional high-cost and high duration lead generation programs. In parallel, and critically important in a slower growth economy, companies are adopting social CRM to engage and retain their existing customers—in an all important goal to extend the customer lifetime value. In difficult times, the best customer acquisition strategy is to keep your existing customers longer.
SMBs have led the charge in social CRM adoption. While SMB's don't have the resources of larger enterprise companies, they have the ability to be nimble, make quick decisions and rally what resources they do have in short order. Social CRM implementations are less about software technology and more about changing the company culture, giving SMBs an edge as they can implement enterprise changes more quickly.
A social CRM critical success factor is to get past the technology, automate what processes you can and then begin thinking creatively about customer, and how to create interesting and captivating ways to engage your customers, interact with your customers and deliver better customer experiences. This all important creativity component is often overlooked or under-emphasized among social programs.
Social CRM programs fail for the same reasons CRM programs fail. Purchasing and implementing social technology, without the prerequisite actions of planning, evaluation and strategy is a recipe for a social CRM failure. Similarly, beginning a social CRM project before determining measurable objectives and a clear definition of success leaves social programs in limbo and at risk.
Customers frustrated with untimely, uninformed or poor quality vendor contact centers are increasingly turning to social networks to both vent and blast those vendors. And for good reason, they've learned that when they put their grievances in the public domain they get more attention, and ultimately faster resolutions. They've also learned that its not just the company's customer service staff that are monitoring the social web, but also marketing and PR who are highly sensitive to public disparagement. In fact, some customers have given up on ineffective contact centers all together and initiate their complaints in social channels.
Despite the media hype and claims by brands saying they are social, or getting social, the social CRM industry is still in its infancy. In many ways the social technology is ahead of companies abilities to use it effectively. In some ways, having access to simple, easy to use and inexpensive social technology lures companies into falsely believing they can implement the technology first, and develop a strategy later, essentially resulting in a perpetual social pilot. Social customers are well ahead of their vendors. The onus is now on the vendors to react and adapt to a continued rise of social customers, who have increased expectations and decreased tolerance for oblivious vendors.