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June 16, 2010

And CRM becomes social

Posted by

Brice Le Blévennec

Today most companies use Customer Relationship Management programs (CRM). Purpose: to get to know their customers better by getting a broad-spectrum view of the entire cycle of interactions that have already taken place with the various contact points of the company. Centralised in a common database, this information is then fed to the sales and marketing departments so that they can offer products and services in line with customer expectations.

Brice Le Blevennec, CVO

The social media are unsettling this mechanism so painstakingly built up over the years by software designers. Facebook, Twitter and the blogs allow Internet users to express their opinions about the brands that are part of their everyday life with a credibility which is a deal stronger than that of the brands’ own advertising. With Twitter, these public exchanges take place in real time and can make – or break – the reputation of a brand in a couple of days, even a couple of hours. This recent ascendancy of personal public expression opens new possibilities to CRM. It is much easier to follow the needs of a customer if you know his/her profile and lifestyle.

The “social” dimension is therefore the new frontier for CRM. This development means that the databases must be endowed with an additional segmentation: together with the usual criteria (age, sex, income level etc.), and those specific to the business of the company, each contact can be given a social-media footprint. A profile on Facebook, a Twitter account, a blog, affiliation to communities on platforms such as Netlog, Hybes, Facebook …dialogues through instant messaging, messages on Facebook, even VoIP, and videoconferencing should also be captured by CRM applications. B2B is also part of this movement considering the mine of information that the professional social networks represent (LinkedIn, Viadeo, Xing etc.).

To put it another way, it is no longer a case of considering the customer as an isolated individual but as an entity in the context of various social networks which define his/her identity, express his/her interests and needs. 
Social CRM provides a rich underlying panorama of insights making it possible to avoid any negative “buzz”. It also aims at managing genuine conversations, where customer feedback is considered in its entirety.

In a general way, Brent Leary identifies three major differences between Social CRM and that of the old school:

Content-driven (vs. Data-driven): In the 90’s, companies began to invest massively in CRM as a way of storing contacts and making them more operational in terms of commercial follow-up. With social CRM, this aspect is combined with the necessity to know the customer, to engage in dialogue with him/her and to propose content in the right format: SlideShare presentations, RSS, podcast, videos on YouTube etc.

Conversation-centric (vs. Process-centric): Up to the present CRM has served to optimise interaction sequences with the customer, whether in customer support or the sales cycle. Social CRM is more directed towards permanent conversation. This may already have started without the intervention of your company. It implies, above all, listening to the customer, exchanging ideas on an equal footing rather than unilaterally bombarding the customer with messages.

People and community-focused (vs. Operationally-focused): As emphasized above, traditional CRM is particularly a matter of process and optimal allocation of resources within a company. Social CRM moves the centre of gravity to personal and community relations. It is essentially a back-to-basics management of customer relations.

Are you ready to review the essentials?

Brice Le Blévennec

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