Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

SAP on Social CRM

May 23, 2011

Social CRM is one of the today’s biggest business buzzwords. It describes the methods companies are scrambling to use to grapple with the implications of customers controlling the marketing and interaction conversations including influencing others. These include brand reputation, sales, service issues and loyalty.

SAP is a long-established and leading-edge CRM solutions supplier. To get a handle on Social CRM, recently interviewed Vinay Iyer, vice president, SAP CRM Marketing.

ContactCenterSolutions:          Customers are, have been, and will be social. What social media tools appear to have done is to spread their comments—and with this their influence on whether to buy products and services--to far wider audiences in near real-time. Should we not talk about “Social CRM” as distinct from CRM but instead comprehensive “CRM”?

VI:       Customers increasingly use social media channels and communities like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yelp and Amazon market place to consider the opinion of others in the decision-making process for products and services. This applies equally to B2B and consumer companies.

We believe that Social CRM is a component of the overall CRM strategy. Social CRM offers two advantages. First, social CRM is a way to follow unstructured conversations among customers, or customers and companies. Second, it is a new channel for communications, adding a new customer touch point to the existing channels: the Web, e-mail, phone, mail and in-person meetings. Social CRM will not replace the other channels of communications. However, the social CRM category is an important and growing element of the overall CRM approach.

To give you an example, a company that receives a customer complaint via Twitter about performance issues for one of their products might not be able to resolve the problem by simply tweeting back. 140 characters are not always enough to resolve a problem. The response – using the customers’ preferred channel – is only the first step towards the resolution of the problem. The solution might be achieved through various conversations with the customers, via phone, chat and appointments.

ContactCenterSolutions:          Customer retention and loyalty have been key to CRM strategies. Is the rise of the social channel having a significant influence on this?

VI:       In this new world of customer engagement it is all the more critical for companies to build strong relationships with their customers. Trust and faith are key elements of customer engagement. Trust can be nurtured by consistently meeting expectations in every interaction with the customer. This requires setting in place rigorous processes for dealing with customers, including for using the social media channel for customer interactions. CRM is a strategic tool to set these processes in place. In short, if you don’t use CRM, you don’t have a chance to survive.

We believe that a true 360 degree customer view helps to establish strong and long-lasting customer relationships. The customer engagement should be driven from the entire range of customer touch points, including marketing, sales, order and fulfillment, billing and support services. 

ContactCenterSolutions:          Three of the issues that have been identified with the social channel are:

--Identifying the largely anonymous commenters to build and develop relationships with them

--Sorting out from the vast amount of material on the social channel any valuable information on product/service issues: including spotting and chucking out disinformation

--Determining and attaching a social or “referral value” to customer lifetime value

VI: Let’s take these in order:

(a)        Anonymous comments remain a challenge, especially for companies that rely on one-to-one customer relationships. Knowing the person and the context is important to build a relationship and address concerns specific to the commentator. For a one-to-many interaction model, anonymity is not that much of a problem. For example, companies can filter out a Tweet on Twitter and send the message broadly to the audience.

(b) Today there are several analytical tools that can help companies analyze large volumes of data. According to the Forrester Wave Report CRM Solutions for Large Organization, Q2 2010, 62 percent of business and IT professionals at companies said that they have implemented and/or are expanding their customer business intelligence (CBI) solutions. SAP BusinessObjects helps companies analyze vast volumes of data very quickly to get business insights.

Challenges for companies today include where to look for new data and how to spot new places of conversations in the quickly evolving social media landscape. It remains to be difficult to obtain a consolidated view of conversations that are happening in multiple communities and multiple languages. However, tools and technologies are evolving quickly and today’s challenges will soon be a non-issue.

(c) Typical loyal customers are willing to be identified with the brands they support. Their “referral value” from an overall CRM context can be tracked by using social channels and technology tools. For example, the online coupon Groupon offers monitory rewards for users who invite their friends to get their first Groupon deal or a deal they also bought by sharing a personalized referral link. In this instance, referrals and their value are identifiable.  

ContactCenterSolutions:          What effect has the growth and shift of customers to wireless has had on social CRM and CRM?

VI:       Wireless has a massive impact on a company’s CRM approach. The use of mobile devices, such as laptops, smartphones and tablets has exploded in the past years.

Today, anyone can access and spread information from anywhere in the world at anytime. This is a challenge but at the same time a tremendous opportunity for companies. Being responsive can set you apart from your competition. Smart companies use the mobile channel as an additional way to listen and respond to their customers. The way that companies interact with their customers: demonstrating reliability, trustworthiness and responsiveness – has become a competitive advantage.

ContactCenterSolutions:          Are contact centers really equipped to handle the social channel i.e. social media and social CRM, considering the ease by which comments from agents can get broadcasted?

VI:       The requirements for call center agents have changed. Interacting with customers via social media channels like Twitter and Facebook have become more important. Agents need to understand the entire front-office processes and possess the know-how to use new social media technologies. According to Gartner, social CRM will improve customer service and create new contact center opportunities in the next two years for about 30 percent of the leading global companies. Many of those, already embracing social media for their business, have realized that their customer service employees can provide more rapid customer service using social media than with traditional call center channels.

However, we are not quite there yet. Not all contact centers are well equipped to respond to use social media channels. The reason for that is that social CRM is often a silo’ed effort, driven by the communications department and not part of the core customer engagement strategies.

ContactCenterSolutions:          Discuss social community i.e. the wide open posts and Tweets versus company-hosted sites as means of interacting with the social customer. Which is the trend and why?

VI:       The answer to this question depends on the topic of conversation. Conversations about business trends, technologies and general topics tend to flow better in a third-party hosted (non-company hosted) settings. Those conversations are more unstructured and need to facilitate an exchange of a wide range of opinions.

Company-hosted collaboration site are recommended for discussions about company-specific and product-specific topics, such as services and technical issues. Especially product support sites have to be monitored by the vendor to ensure a high quality of customer service.

For example, SAP is working with a third-party to run the CRM community The Social Customer. The SAP sponsored site is an editorially independent, moderated community for customer service practitioners which sheds light on a range of issues, i.e. community management, call centers, social media best practices and customer loyalty. In addition, SAP hosts two customer networks, the SDN community and the BPX community. The discussions on these sites are more specific to the SAP CRM solutions.

ContactCenterSolutions:          Where do you see Social CRM go from here? What methods, best practices and solutions do you see being developed and adopted to account for customers’ social comments and behavior as they impact their buying decisions and that of others they influence?

VI:       We see three trends emerging for Social CRM:

First, companies will adopt more analytics tools to gain better insights and enhance their customer interactions. Analytical tools help them find out what is going on with which customer at which location.

Second, we see Social CRM to be completed integrated with traditional CRM channels. This way, companies can consistently deliver the customer experience that they promise.

Third, new models will arise. Companies started using social media currencies to reward customer behavior.

Brendan B. Read is ContactCenterSolutions’s Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves