A guide to defining and developing Social CRM

We have developed a guide to defining and developing Social CRM which is summarised below. If you would like a copy of the full guide, please send an email to [email protected] titled: ‘request for SCRM guide‘ and we’ll pass it on.

You may also be interested in the Social Customer session summaries that can be found on our blog. These posts detail the key points from each of the sessions at the Social Customer event, which took place on March 29th in London.

In our experience, the defining characteristic of Social CRM (Social Customer Relationship Management) is the range of misconceptions and misunderstandings about the core elements involved. This guide to Social CRM has been developed with this in mind to help every organisation better understand and engage with the social customer.

We have offered a practical guide to the approach and services required, and a helpful Social CRM audit at the end of the document to help you develop your organisation’s Social CRM capability.

What is a Social Customer?
The social customer is dynamic, hyper-connected and can shape business and brand reputation by defining an organisation’s value, relevance and reputation. As a result, social customers have compelled organisations of all types to be more customer-centric and have transformed the way in which organisations need to communicate with and, most importantly, listen to their customers.

Put simply, the social customer now owns the relationship, and every organisation needs need to earn his/her trust.

The social customer is also a driving force in the development of the online economy, which is rapidly growing and currently contributes 8.3 per cent to the UK economy. This is more than the healthcare, construction or education sectors.

UK consumers also buy far more from online retail sources than any other major economy and this is expected to continue expanding by 11% per year for the next four years, reaching a total value of £221bn by 2016. Compare this to growth rates of 5.4% in the U.S. and 6.9% in China.

What is Social CRM?
A compelling definition of the Social CRM challenge was given by Esteban Kolsky, Founder at ThinkJar at Social CRM 2011 in London: “Companies tend to start using social media to talk at their customers, not to listen to them.”

He then defined CRM as a philosophy and a business strategy, supported by a system and a technology, designed to improve human interactions in a business environment.

This is a good reflection of how many organisations start out on the road to Social CRM, jumping straight into a tactical approach and talking `at’ customers but not listening `to’ customers. In fact the focus should be on improving real interactions with customers.

In practical terms this means the organisation will need to implement a system and related technologies, built around an overarching `business’ strategy. This strategy really needs to be developed with the whole organisation in mind, as well as being understood and executed by the entire organisation, otherwise the social customer will remain elusive.

Additional definition quotes:
Mitch Lieberman: “Social CRM is about bringing “me” (the social customer) into the ecosystem… It is not about the technology, it is about the people, process and cultural shifts necessary to support and grow a business.”

Paul Greenberg: “Social CRM is the company’s response to the customer’s control of the conversation.”

Why does Social CRM matter?
The key here is taking CRM beyond a marketing or customer services specialism, and building a philosophy that translates across the organisation. If Social CRM is purely a function of customer services we are missing the point. In today’s socially connected world, customers can intersect and engage with an organisation at many different points, and do not follow traditional channels of communication. Therefore, A Social CRM strategy must be implemented across the business to succeed.

This has been evidenced on many occasions by customers using their networks to discuss organisations, form opinions and influence others through their experiences. This is the heart of social conversation and the essence of a social business. If an organisation’s Social CRM strategy cannot positively impact this process then it is failing, and to succeed it must be implemented across the board. For example, your sales staff may be excellent relationship managers, but if your service staff are rude and unresponsive, the overall impact will be negative.

Furthermore, we now learn from and engage with our customers more than ever before, but we can also learn from the data that social and online activities offer to us. It is important to manage this data and put it to use, as not all of the data will be relevant. In fact much of it will just be noise, but Social CRM offers us the opportunity to learn about customers, process these learnings and engaging accordingly.

How do you develop your Social CRM strategy?
If we consider that Social CRM is a method of blending social activities with the proven fundamentals of CRM, and we understand that Social CRM is part of the evolution towards the development of a more effective social business, then we are half way there.

However, we also need to focus on customer need. This need is not motivated by being a fan or friend of the organisation, but by deriving value from the customer’s engagement with the organisation.

As David Meerman Scott says: `Nobody cares about your products, people care about their problems. Customers do not want a relationship with your business, they want the benefits a relationship can offer to them’`.

With that in mind, we need to translate our strategy into deliverables, and according to Esteban Kolsky, there are four key functions of Social CRM:

1. Community management (listening and engaging usefully)

2. Social analytics engine (gathering and processing data)

3. Actionable layer unit (identifying and actioning learnings)

4. System-of-record integration layer (integrating learning into the business)

Social CRM means engaging person to person. We know that using machines to “talk” with humans in the CRM context does not work. Therefore, remember it’s not about the technology, it’s about the person using it and the conversation. If we lose sight of the fundamentals and hide behind automated monitoring and response it will be the equivalent of a business leaving an answer machine to deal with customers, it won’t learn or react, it will just repeat.

Developing Social CRM
In this section, we detail the Social CRM deliverables and explain the services and focuses that organisations should be considering. There are four essential action elements and we have offered key service areas under each:

1. Listen – to customers and the wider community to understand issues and identify pain points

2. Capture – actionable and relevant data

3. Learn – develop a Social CRM philosophy across the organisation

4. Engage – using knowledge built through phases 1-3, engage in a relevant and useful manner

Let’s look at each area in more detail:

1. Listen
As with any area of social media, or any conversation for that matter, the best place to start is by listening. In terms of customer relationship management, this is essential. Organisations should only engage and add value when they have listened to and understood the problems, challenges and issues that customers are experiencing.

Listen service focuses

Digital / social infrastructure – A Social CRM campaign cannot be effective without a socially-enabled website, relevant social profiles and the ability to engage.

Before you go any further, you need to build your organisation’s Social CRM tools:

• Audit your website – are you open to customer comment/engagement/response?
• Audit your SEO – are your `digital touch points’ visible online?
• Audit/build social channels – are you open and available for customer engagement and listening beyond your website?

Social Media monitoring – Social CRM is often confused with Social Media Monitoring. Let’s be clear, although Social Media Monitoring is a crucial element of your Social CRM armoury, and will form a central part of the campaign, it is not enough to use monitoring alone. You must identify the relevant mentions, use the data and build that into your organisational approach. The data is only relevant if it is acted upon.

Team – Does your Social CRM response team consist of one marketing / customer services junior? This is not acceptable. Consider your customers and consider the amount of conversation about your organisation. Do you have the team to support this volume of data and conversation?

Training – Remember Social CRM is not a marketing or customer services tactic alone, your organisation needs to understand the key elements of Social CRM and act upon them. This means training and understanding needs to be implemented across the organisation.

2. Capture
Once you have the platform, processes and people in place to listen, you need to feed this infrastructure with actionable and relevant data. This is the fuel that drives the Social CRM engine and the quality of the fuel will relate directly to the effectiveness of the Social CRM process.

The first stage is to capture the data and process it into the relevant focuses for your organisation.
You will quickly realise that much of the data is irrelevant. It is crucial you do not waste time by feeding this information into the business – it will induce “analysis paralysis” as your people query and argue about irrelevant information.

Therefore, in this layer the focus is identifying and actioning the useful data that will tell the organisation something about its customers, identify issues to be remedied or help to build interactions by way of market research or insights.

Capture service focuses:

Data Capture – Social Media monitoring plays a key role here but we need to go deeper. Website analytics and data captured from customer communities will be vital, along with metrics from LinkedIn groups, sector networking tools and industry bodies.

Data Analysis – Data analysis is crucial. Do not overlook this phase as you could either strangle the process with too much data, or starve it of any useful information by only feeding it with the basics. Use experience here, make the most of your data and it will drive you to real success. If you don’t have the in-house skills, utilise experienced consultants or agencies. The value you derive from the data can be extremely powerful for the business as a whole.

3. Learn
This third layer is the key to Social CRM success, taking relationship management beyond a marketing or customer-services specialism and building a philosophy that is embedded throughout the organisation. In our experience, this is a challenging area of focus for those responsible for driving the Social CRM process.
However, by highlighting the importance of Social CRM to the management team at the outset, and explaining why organisation-wide action will be needed, this potential obstacle should be removed and a route cleared towards the goal of better customer understanding and improved service.

Learn service focuses:

Internal communication of findings – clarification and information curation is essential. There must be a process through which each piece of customer contact is automatically routed to the right person, classifying it by type (question, complaint or compliment), content (what it actually said), sentiment, action needed and influence.

This fluid process will reinforce the transformation of your business into a more open and responsive enterprise that engages successfully with online customers.

Workflow tools – these tools will ensure that information created by online customers is accessible to everyone in the organisation and precisely tuned to their specific needs. This creates a context for each social CRM interaction and will enable the social customer to engage with you in a way that is most relevant.

Business-wide social strategy – a social business strategy is the ultimate goal. Without change on an organisation-wide scale, the Social Customer will continue to be a lost opportunity and a fear factor, rather than a real opportunity to build engagement and ultimately drive value.

4. Engage
Social CRM isn’t just about engaging consistently, within a reasonable timeframe and adhering to corporate guidelines. The engagement needs to be relevant and useful, and not always in the form of a simple text-based response. Content can be used to engage without a complaint and to convey a key part of your offering. So don’t just think of engagement as a response. Think of it as an opportunity to build a conversation.

Let’s also be clear that you should not hold back from engaging until you have completed the three previous phases. Of course you need to engage before you have successfully implemented your social business strategy, otherwise it could take some time before you actually respond to your customers. However, the point remains we should not look at engagement as the quick fix or the first action point. It is important to respond to customer issues, but as we have said previously, engagement is so much more than just responding.

Engage Service focuses:

Social media engagement guidelines – These shouldn’t be an onerous book of dictations. The social media guidelines are important to communicate key aspects of the business dos and don’ts but they are not a script. The key here is `guideline’. We are not trying to stop our brand from engaging with humans as humans, and do not be tempted to speak in rigid legalese.

Content development – Online content is extremely powerful, from expressive video to simple slideshares and these “social assets” will make your brand more accessible, better understood, more useful. Think of content as your social currency. Build it up but don’t rely on the irrelevant and the slapdash. Quality beats quantity every time.

Not all content is the same and poor content will encourage a negative response so get the right advice from those who have done it before. Use the information from the listening phase, where you will learn exactly what it is that your online customers want, to develop the right content. You can find a recent case study example of a content community here.

Social tool management – Using social tools to monitor, extract useful information and identify points of engagement and conversation with the social customer on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social spaces is a very simple part of the process, but very easy to get wrong. Tone, frequency and subtle understanding of the organisation, underpinned by effective guidelines, will make all the difference.
Invest in experience and training and heed the many case study examples of success and failure. Allocate resource relevant to your social/digital footprint and customer base. Look outside of the business if the skills are not in-house, do not give this job to the intern, because if/when something goes wrong, blaming an intern is not a plausible excuse.

If you’ve reviewed this paper and ticked off the elements you want to take with you for your business or reconfirmed focuses that you have already got in place, I hope the information was useful and best of luck.
However, if you have written off Social CRM because your customers don’t act `that way’ – think again. Your customer is no different, you are now dealing with the social customer who doesn’t play by traditional rules and does not accept that your organisation is in charge. The social customer owns the relationship, and you need to earn his/her trust.

Social CRM audit

1. Listen

  • Website – are you open to customer listening/engagement?
  • SEO – can your digital touch points be found online?
  • Social channels – are you available for customer engagement and listening outside of your direct website?
  • Social Media monitoring – data is only relevant if it is acted upon.
  • Team – Consider your customers and the amount of conversation about your brand. Do you have the team to support this volume of data and conversation?
  • Training – Your business needs to understand the key elements of Social CRM and act upon them.

2. Capture

  • Data Capture – Website analytics and data captured from every customer, and relevant community will be vital.
  • Data Analysis – Understanding and knowing how to use this data is essential, otherwise you could either strangle the process with too much data, or starve it of any useful information by only feeding it with the basics.

3. Learn

  • Internal communication of findings – each message should be automatically routed to the right person, classifying it by type, content, sentiment, action needed and influence.
  • Workflow tools – these tools will ensure that all social information created is accessible to everyone in the organisation in the same way.
  • Business-wide social strategy – A social business strategy is the ultimate goal.

4. Engage

  • Social media guidelines – These shouldn’t be an onerous book of dictations. The key here is `guideline’. Five clear points is enough.
  • Content development – Think of content as your social currency and remember that quality wins over quantity every time.


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