Social CRM: An Idea Whose Time has Come?

Social Media CRM, or Social CRM, is getting a lot of air time these days. But where does it fit? Today’s post is by Laurie Shook. Laurie is a technology marketer creating solutions that help people communicate and collaborate more effectively. When not blogging, on Twitter, or on Facebook, she is marketing WikiThreads, her small business featuring Dallas t-shirts and logo embroidery. Thanks for chiming in on Customers Rock!, Laurie.

If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound? That’s the perspective many customer service experts have had toward social media-based customer service, or social CRM. With so much noise in the social channel, is it worth it to ferret out a few random requests for customer service? And with a sawmill full of fallen logs ready to be processed, few could blame customer service executives for focusing on contact center through-put.

But to a marketer that pristine forest of social media represents opportunity to be harvested. Consequently, many companies leave the task of social CRM to the marketers. Marketing creates the proactive messaging and offers on Twitter and Facebook while attempting to handle service issues as they arise.

But consumers are taking service issues to social channels in ever growing numbers. According to Gartner, the Social CRM segment will double this year, surpassing $1 billion. Included in the growth are those who simply prefer social media to the traditional contact center. According to Mike Merrill, @MikeDMerrill and Director of Marketing at ReachLocal, “I find it more convenient to ask for help via social media, since I’m on line all the time anyway. When I raise the issue via social channels, I’m not stuck on hold. It puts the ball in the business’s court.”

Customer service is better suited to handle social service issues for three reasons:

Coverage. Consumers expect prompt responses regardless of when their complaint is aired. Marketing departments aren’t staffed evenings and weekends, although many contact centers are 7 X 24.

Product Knowledge. Customer service agents are trained on product and service specifics and are better versed in how to handle the issues that arise.

People Skills. Customer service reps trained to handle the wide diversity of people issues and personalities that crop up in day to day business.

So where’s the gap?

Brand Voice. Marketing departments report that there is work to be done to get customer service representatives ready to speak in the company’s “brand voice”. Agents need to understand that since conversations are public, service needs to be delivered with a different tone than would occur one-on-one.

Volume. We’re back to the original issue. Unless there is a corporate fiasco, most companies don’t currently have enough service issues aired via social channels to warrant integration into the rank and file agent’s work queue.

But, if growth is inevitable, how can the customer service organizations get ready for the very logical integration of the social media channel into the service function?

Take it slow.

  • First start by following marketing department responses. Learn “brand voice”.
  • Then, start handling service issues that arise from corporate social media properties with a small, focused group under the customer service function.
  • Next, establish service specific social media properties. This is a big step, since it brings a dedicated staffing requirement to Customer Service. It is important to carefully gauge workload before beginning. Remember this activity doesn’t create new workload—it simply focuses it away from general corporate social properties onto service-oriented properties.

Mainstreaming social CRM into the contact center is a big step. Evaluate the baby steps you may need to take tor prepare for a stronger customer service role in social channels, so you are ready before someone yells “timber.”

(Image credit: ardaguldogan)

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20 Responses

  1. Pingback : Social CRM: An Idea Whose Time has Come? | Customers ROCK! | Viewicle

  2. Thanks for a great read. Social CRM is definitely helping to mobilise and inform the workforce.

    Training employees to use the CRM software is crucial to the success of it being implemented in the business and to fully explore its functions and possibilities.

    CRM also allows the sharing of information and knowledge within the company to help inform decisions and create better custome service. .

  3. Laurie, thanks for including my thoughts in this story.

    If you are going to create social media outlets and start engaging, customers are going to assume you will also be there to resolve customer issues so companies need to be prepared to create a process in place to create customer trouble tickets so they can be tracked to resolution.

    Early last year I spoke to folks at FedEx here in Dallas where they have a team of customer service reps monitoring Twitter and Facebook for mentions of FedEx and directly resolving customer issues. In some cases, they would advise a delivery truck to turnaround if the person had just missed the delivery so a win-win for both parties.

    Since we spoke about this story, I actually had a great outcome with Verizon Fios. In frustration over losing some recorded shows I went to the Verizon Fios page and asked for assistance. Within a day someone at Verizon had sent me a message on Facebook inquiring of the issue. They then realized from the data collected that two of my boxes were old and offered to ship me two new boxes. More importantly they kept following up to ensure the issue was resolved. Great case study for why customers prefer these channels. They are asynchronous when needed.

    I’ve also had success with Bank of America on Twitter as well. Seems they customer call centers are overwhelmed but they were very responsive to tweets.

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  6. It’s about time organisations start using Social CRM is. Training employees what functions to use in the CRM system is very importend. The average CRM consultant does a poor job regarding this.

  7. Erica

    Thanks for the article. As an avid social media fan and professional, staying up to date is important – especially when it comes to CRM. Found this great resource a while back http://www.business.com/software/ecrm/ when I was looking for something more technical than traditional CRM. It looks like social CRM may be the next step.

  8. Social CRM is a bit of a carriage with two horses pulling it in two opposite directions.
    On one side you have the big businesses, trying to “manage” everything, customers, knowledge, etc. by encapsulating that into a central system, a central database.
    On the other side, you have the customers, dispersed over multiple platforms/venues, trying to collaborate and share information between themselves, trying to be “un-managed”. People don’t want to be managed, don’t want to be entries into a CRM system.
    The venues/platforms themselves do not have an incentive to unify the information about customers or provide that information freely to be centralized into “another system”. Every platform would love to be that one system, but everyone is holding on to their data and trying to build high walls to defend their platforms and their data.
    So for me, it’s not yet clear how Social CRM will make a real impact. Not the social, not the CRM, but the two together.

  9. Ron

    I really like the idea of using CRM at the call center level, and think that it can be more effectively leveraged there than by the sales and marketing side of the business. The trick is to pull social streams and data about each individual caller in real time as they contact the service organization, so that the CSR has a complete view of the caller’s social influence and history while on the call. Seeing the caller’s recent tweets and facebook posts, and knowing their Klout score while they are interacting with the customer would lead to more meaningful interaction and targeted follow up.

  10. Great article. Using CRM at the call center is a great help its our one way to communicate with different companies which is a big factor on how we can improve it. In short there are many benefits that a Customer Relationship Management system can deliver. They are Centralization and Sharing of Data, Better Customer Service, Higher Customer Satisfaction, and Improved Marketing Efforts which in the end allows a business to achieve more profit.

  11. Maryke

    Great article! Social media can make or break you. There is also another way to have your say – a great website called http://hellopeter.com/. This site allows you to write reports about your Suppliers, and give them a fair chance to respond to you.

  12. My company decided to start using social CRM only a fex months ago. But now I can see a big difference in customer management. It was worth to start doing this.

  13. Thanks for the info! This is a great intro for companies looking to integrate social CRM into their system. Since social media is fast becoming the main avenue for clients to air out their rants and raves, companies should find ways to use this to their advantage.

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