In case you’ve been living in a bubble for the last decade, the Internet has destroyed or drastically changed many businesses. Photo printing, travel agents, and the music industry most readily come to mind. Along with creating new industries and forever altering others, it has caused seismic shifts in departments such as customer service. We have heard increasingly about the term social customer relationship management.
It is a philosophy and a business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules, workflow, processes, and social characteristics, designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted and transparent business environment. It’s the company’s response to the customer’s ownership of the conversation.
Many large companies have yet to embrace social CRM. As I mentioned above, the power has shifted to the customer. Paradoxically, relatively new companies understand this fundamental shift. How many provide excellent customer service? How many understand that customers can be their most zealous advocated—and biggest detractors? Not many, as I’ve argued before. Amazon.com is the exception that proves the rule. I believe large companies continue to struggle to understand truths:
- All customers are social—or quickly can become social.
- Social CRM isn’t new at all; customers today simply have more tools and options to express their delight or discontent.
I think Social CRM is not a threat; it’s an opportunity. It represents innovative ways that they can take care of their most valuable asset: their customers. Take away its customers, and any company ceases to exist Period.
Generally, we should appreciate three related trends, mostly than large organizations do:
- The continued importance of customer service
- The rise of the social customer
- The proliferation of social technologies
The social customer expects you to listen and engage with him/her, not only when it coincides with an e-mail blast or new feature release, but rather when he/she needs you. Moreover, you better respond fast, in real-time, or he/she will either move on to a competitor or tell his/her friends about bad experiences.
The impatient, angry, and web-savvy customers will act on their anger in several ways:
- Describe, in person, their bad experiences to anyone they encounter.
- Go social. They will use blogs, social networking sites, and increasingly influential customer review sites, such as Yelp.
Companies should consider the following to lay the foundation for a successful Social Media (SM) program that will help them reinvent their customer relationships:
- Firms must recognize that SM is a game-changer. For many companies, SM will become the gateway, if not the primary, communications channel to connect with customers. As companies design their SM programs, they need to think of their customers holistically and consider their SM interactions in the context of other customer touchpoints with the company.
- Firms must be clear on the differences between SM and other channels. Social CRM is about enabling engagement with the customer for the mutual benefit of the customer and the business. The traditional model of managing the customer relationship needs to adapt to the reality that the customer is now in control.
- Firms just need to make sure that the customer experience becomes seamless – across SM and other channels. If the firms know of its customer in one channel, it needs to know him or her in other channels as well. It means the social solution should not be devised as an isolated standalone program but needs to be thoughtfully integrated with other customer-facing initiatives for improved customer care.
- Firms need to start thinking like a customer. Instead of asking why a company should engage in SM, firms need to ask why a customer would choose to interact with a firm on a social platform. Firms are to recast social interaction strategies to focus on giving customers the value they seek, and customer intimacy will come.
- Firms are encouraged to explore what customers value most. Dialogue and participation are what SM is all about. Devising creative ways to capture customer insights and getting customers invested in the outcome will help build advocacy and brand affinity.
- Firms must develop social commerce campaigns that target a specific customer need with time-sensitive offers or discounts that motivate customers to act will enhance customer loyalty.