Making CRM Social

I don’t think there is any argument out there that Salesforce is the leader in the customer relationship management (CRM) space. I’ve not checked the analyst reports on the topic in some time, but I’d wager that Microsoft is a distant 2nd place, with smaller vendors spreading out in long-tail fashion. Salesforce imagegot a PR bump around the inclusion of their social capability, Chatter, but honestly, I don’t think it moved the needle for them at all, just as Microsoft adding Yammer to their Dynamics CRM solution produced a yawn from most customers — not because I think this was a minor occurrence, or that there isn’t value in adding social capability to CRM. Quite the contrary. The problem is that integration of social collaboration into the CRM strategy has not quite caught on.

Traditional CRM focuses, for the most part, on sales and support organizations: sales representatives will track the sales pipeline and each interaction with a prospect within their CRM tool, and keep record of any product or service purchases. Likewise, support may use their CRM platform, often with integration to some kind of IT ticketing system, as a sort of case management platform to keep track of all support interactions — and remind them when to follow up. Even with sales and support under the same roof, the data captured by these two teams is often separate, meaning there is little to no visibility of their interactions across teams. I have personally experienced the frustration with a sales interaction with a vendor whose salesperson was oblivious to the fact that my team had multiple support tickets logged with their company, and so would not be interested in hearing about new products and features. Most of us can probably relate to this experience.

The problem with most existing tools, or tool implementations, is when someone in the company needs a comprehensive view of the customer — where they are within the product lifecycle, which marketing campaigns they have received, how many tickets they have called in, how their input may have impacted the product or service lifecycle, or how they have responded to CSAT/DSAT (customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction) surveys. The ability to stand back and look at an customer profile in its entirety is difficult, if not impossible for most CRM platforms.

But even if all of this data is available in a common CRM platform, how often it is all updated with real-time data is still an issue. What is missing from the mechanics of these systems are internal and external social tools. Let me expand on this:

Social is used internally to improve the customer experience  by connecting teams in real-time through instant messaging, web meetings, presence awareness, activity feeds, threaded discussions, and collaboration — all of which improves the data, content, and tags associated with customer profiles, allowing customer service reps, salespeople, and anyone else that needs to interact with that customer to more quickly find out what they need to know to provide the best level of service.

Social is used externally to enable employees to interact with the customer more easily, using all of the same methods as they connect with internally. Additionally, companies can set up alerts, essentially listening for any customer (or competitive) chatter that may help them more quickly identify a satisfied or dissatisfied customer — and automate the response through the feedback channel (responding via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and so forth), modify the marketing campaign for that customer (position a different message or maybe another product), or simply reach out to the customer directly.

There are a number of tools and vendors beginning to develop solutions for this space — but social CRM is less about the technology at play, and more to do with the strategy that is employed by your company. And because this is a strategic activity — requiring IT and sales organizations to be a bit more proactive in their search for solving these problems — most organizations have not yet caught on. If you don’t see the problem, you’re not going to recognize the available solutions. Companies that do recognize it will have a very distinctive competitive advantage.

Are you truly investing in the customer experience? Before you spend time and money and resources in building out a complex platform and toolset, take the time to identify and map out the customer metrics that you will use to measure the success of your customer experience. Focus on the methods that will drive the most impact for your customers — and as the metrics improve, iterate on your model, adding new capabilities and data points with which you can measure your customer impact. Developing a culture around customer success is as important as the technology you deploy — and should be a key component of your corporate strategy.

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and Office Servers and Services MVP, the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and CMO of revealit.io, a blockchain-based video technology company.