Since the emergence of social media as a pseudo-legitimate form of communication (I say pseudo because of the varied, sometimes questionable, uses of such platforms, and also because of the injection of advertising in them), the issue for businesses has been how to effectively integrate the social channel into their existing customer contact technologies.
There are challenges, naturally, both technological as well as staffing and resource related but, as ISM president Barton Goldenberg recently explained, “How can you approach a client if all you have is transactional data from the CRM system, when you know there is social data out there that shows sentiment from your customers?”
He is spot on. Traditional CRM has worked well over the years, but it was based on data that was available at the time the CRM platforms were developed – they couldn’t account for the explosion of social media and the volumes of data it would create that would need to be dissected and associated with other records. Now, with the volumes of data created in the socialsphere, businesses have a stream of data available to them that not only expresses sentiment, but also open new marketing and sales opportunities, and allows more targeted interaction with customers, both on a one-to-one and one-to-many basis.
“I have been frustrated over the past three years by the slow uptake of social CRM, which I define simply as the integration of CRM and social,” Goldenberg says. “Yes, some have moved along that path – feeding social pieces into systems – but the industry isn’t coming along.”
So, what’s keeping the industry from progressing into a social-first world?
1. User generated content can be hard to tie back to real customers or prospects, especially in anonymous social interactions. This is one reason private social communities are critical to social CRM, as they require registration, which can be tied to an identity, making insight even more valuable. But, even anonymous insights are valuable in their own right, allowing aggregate data collection and analysis, as well as direct interaction via social interaction (which is also a medium already accepted and used by the individual, increasing chances for a successful interaction).
2. Successful businesses often are reticent to rock the boat and are extremely serious about what’s said about them. They tend to be skeptical about embracing social due to the perception that it is likely to be harmful to the brand. The simple answer here is that people are going to talk – regardless of whether the brand is actively engaged or not, so the best practice is to be leading the charge, not following it.
3. Then, there is the challenge of deciphering the intent of social commentary – Goldenberg calls is “librarian science” and notes that, while some of the social listening engines are good, they aren’t perfect.
4. And of course, the integration challenge, which includes not only listening and filtering, but also putting it into a usable format within your CRM system that allows not only recordkeeping, but also reciprocal response to the individual? The challenge is a combination of many different social sites and platforms being used, but also the fact that the industry hasn’t embraced standards for social activity and integration.
These challenges notwithstanding, there are plenty of businesses that have embraced social media successfully, including integration into their CRM systems. Certainly, businesses can manage without social, but for how long? As the millennial generation moves into the workforce, social interactions are likely to continue to grow, but the platforms on which those interactions take place are also likely to multiply, and the smart business exec will have already implemented appropriate technology, strategy, and personnel.
“Nobody can doubt the significance of social media, and using social insight inside CRM makes you a whole lot smarter about what you sell and how you sell it,” says Goldenberg. “You use the social data to engage the customer in ways that make sense.”