December 24 2014 0comment

Social CRM

Let’s consider a scenario. Your company has launched a brand new product ‘X’. However, the latest quarterly report indicates that the product ‘X’- despite all the marketing investments and sales propaganda -has not been generating any revenue for the company. Despite pressure from the strategy team, you believe that the product holds potential and hence you are unwilling to scrap it completely from your bucket. In order to gain insight into why the product has not been picking up, you then employ the services of an external consultant- who after a detailed analysis reports that although the product features has been gaining approval from the target market, the quality issues and the customer care responsiveness were detrimental factor in the product sales. In addition, the pricy consultant reports that the web is swarming with negative comments and reviews about the product which are driving away potential buyers. If this scenario or a variant of it strikes a chord with you as a strategist or a product manager then you or your organization is in dire need of a Social CRM initiative!

The need for Social CRM:

Let us take a few extra minutes to look deeper into the scenario mentioned above. If you have ever launched a product or service offering, you would realize that every offering’s journey is unique and no one gets it right on the first go. Every offering ever launched goes through a series of iterations – eg: product recalling (lately predominant in the automobile sector) and re-launches to finally be able to deliver a product that at least in theory achieve 100% customer satisfaction. Even post that, it takes superior customer care services and marketing efforts to attain a high level of brand loyalty and customer retention. Not to mention the peer group influence that can have serious repercussions on generating sales.

In the case of product ‘X’, it took an outside sales consultant to help the organization realize that the customers were quite dissatisfied with the quality of the product and that the in-house customer care agents were not responsive enough. The fact that nothing was ever done to find out proactively or react on the negative social media reflects the company’s inability to evolve with the ‘social customers’ of today. Not to mention that the company actually had to hire an external consultant to tell them these jarring truths when the same could have been taken care of by a superior customer relationship management executive with access to the social media posts. This is where Social CRM steps in.

Facebook, Twitter, microblogging and other public social network platforms have become the unofficial soundboard for customers to express their sentiments and feedbacks about a particular brand or product. In addition, lately, organizations are also deploying social community platforms in conjecture with their existing CRM applications where customer care representatives can engage in 2 way conversations with current and potential buyers – thus extending the reach of the sales representatives beyond the corporate firewalls into the social web. When combined with existing transactional applications such as in-house CRM or ERP, these data sources can be leveraged to understand the key sentiments about a particular brand and product and engage customers better.

Social CRM complements existing Customer Relationship Management methodologies, practices and tool. It can crawl through the social web to aggregate unbiased product sentiments and feedback from a multitude of such social channels. It then uses state-of-the-art statistical tools and analytical capabilities such as text processing, big data analysis, sentiment analysis to analyse the aggregated data to extract meaningful, actionable and quantifiable information. At the core of such analysis is the use of Natural Language Processing (NLP). Statistical analysis in general can look at the relative frequencies of word occurrences and the relationships between words. But it is the NLP which helps social CRM tools achieve deeper insights into the meanings of conversations. The result, on a macro level-are reports providing actionable insights. On a micro level, any negative comment can be notified to the concerned customer care representatives in real-time who can then take the appropriate actions thereby improving customer experience and sometimes exceeding customer expectations. In the case of Product ‘X’, such reports could have given key marketing decision makers and customer care executives, real-time feedback as well as predictive intelligence on the performance of the product. This would have helped them deploy proactive or corrective measures well before the ramifications of negative social comments could influence other potential prospects. It could also have helped them identify potential peer group influencers (technology blogs, reviews etc.), connect with them, understand the reasons for product dissatisfaction and take corrective actions.

The power of Social CRM also lies in its ability to take analytics out of the exclusive hands of the statisticians and into the hands of front line managers and customer care representatives who can then deploy it in their day-to-day operations. Such tools are often enabled with clear visualization abilities which can help business users to slice and dice data to gain insights often without writing a single line of code.

The power of Social CRM is immense. But choosing the right technologies is also an important aspect of a solid Social CRM initiative. Understanding the organizational objectives, setting the right expectations, choosing a solution provider with the right blend of technology, business process and end-user training expertise can also play a key role in the successful deployment Social CRM in organizations. However, once successfully deployed, it can have tremendous impact on the way organizations can engage with their customers.