Companies can no longer ignore that the dialogue with users and consumers and the management of their relationship with the company and their expectations (CRM) passes more and more often through the social web.
Looking for a hotel with certain characteristics in a particular district of a city, requests for a tasty but less caloric yogurt, angry comments about delayed trains for which no notification is given, curiosity to know which stores exhibit a preview of the spring and summer collections, concerns, complaints and questions that are expressed through lengthy discussions in forums, facebook status updates and twitter messages.
CRM is becoming ever more customer-centric and personalized, moving beyond the concepts of segmentation of target groups. A Forrester study from a couple of years ago documented this shift by stating that we are "in the age of the customer" where a major source of competitive advantage is based on understanding, connecting with, serving and delighting customers.
To meet those new challenges and opportunities, the classic understanding of CRM can be enhanced by social network functionalities in the form of a 'Social CRM'. Social CRM adds value to the existing CRM capabilities within organisations, enabling the use of social networking as a communication channel in CRM processes already in place, as a means of generating more meaningful interactions with users.
In social networks and web environments customers increasingly play the role of a partner of the company and can add value to the business. With their ideas and their expectations they have become an active part in the process of product development, they help to increase brand awareness through online word of mouth, or they provide assistance to other consumers by publishing their product experience in different web environments.
The potential use of Social CRM is impressive, and the sectors interested in monitoring and mapping the consumers are numerous, regardless of whether it's related to products or services.
Social CRM in the automotive industry
The automotive industry is an illustrative example of this change. Many readers will at least once have trusted online media, blogs, forums or social networks to obtain comments and information on the characteristics, reliability and best prices of a car. The role played by the network is so strong that recent studies show that about 62% of those who are interested in changing the car, be it a new or second hand one, rely on the network as a primary source of information. Hence the importance of Social CRM is instrumental for the automotive industry.
The majority of car manufacturers are present in the social arena, with a huge number of followers talking about the brand and exchanging opinions and views on existing and upcoming models. It is interesting that many of these followers may not be able to drive a car because they are under age or do not have a driving license. Nevertheless, their opinion and their voice is very important. They talk about the brand with friends and relatives, and with their views they can create interest for the brand, thus they are taken very seriously.
Consider an interesting example for the various activities that car manufacturers conduct to engage with these followers. A car manufacturer has launched a specific contest within their social community, with the request to design the colorway for one of the most successful sport models.
The contest generated significant interest and many popular suggestions, and the winner, in addition to receiving the official award from the management, was mentioned in the social community and in specialized magazines. There was even the notion that the winning entry be implemented in a new car release. This is a reward that had a big impact not only on the winner of the competition, but on the whole community of followers.
This means that effectively managing the company's relationships with those who buy or are just interested in the company's products and services has never been more important.
Culture, processes and skills evolution
In order for companies to fully exploit the potential of social media and Social CRM, it is necessary that they undergo an evolution of culture, processes, skills and roles within the company, supported by appropriate technological enhancements.
Many companies seem to have understood the impact of this digital era. As a result they have redefined the priority of software investments, in particular the ones supporting customer-centric business processes in areas such as marketing, sales and customer service. This trend is reflected on the supply side, where software providers must meet the needs of business with CRM solutions that are not only technologically adequate but also effective in terms of business and process requirements.
Digital competition for customers
In order to succeed in the competition for customers, the challenge for the businesses of the future will be to integrate Social CRM into their existing CRM landscapes by implementing new technologies and by managing the required organizational and cultural changes. This digital transformation can be facilitated by dedicated support in four key areas of CRM:
- Organizations will increasingly embrace the concept of the customer experience ecosystem. The right customer interactions, across all touchpoints, don’t just happen. Instead, they must be actively designed
- More organizations will move away from isolated Business Process Management and / or front-office CRM projects towards cross-functional transformation initiatives, supporting the invisible and non coordinated customer management processes critical to exceptional customer experiences
People & Organization
- Customer experience disciplines are cutting costs and boosting profits; organizations will start to adopt a more disciplined approach to transformation and start doing business in a new, more customer-centric way
- Voice of the Customer programs are driving action and demonstrating results, and more organizations will adopt the best practices that will help them determine process improvement priorities and enable back-office employees to better understand customer expectations
- Social customer engagement is moving into the mainstream: social CRM use cases highlighting proven business value will become more common
- Mobile applications are empowering employees and consumers: mobile CRM solution support will continue to evolve rapidly
- The customer analytics ecosystem is getting increasingly complex: enterprises will enhance their focus on data-driven marketing. Customer analytics will be tightly integrated with multiple technologies to complete the analytics ecosystem
Finally, the decisions required to meet the challenges arising from the impact of digital transformation in general, and from social CRM in particular, require strategic choices that impact all the higher levels of organizations. All CXOs will be involved in decisions that will transform organizations internally (strategies, processes, technology and organization) as well as the interaction with their most important asset: the client.