Amazingly my $0.02 on questions you need to answer in mapping out your Social CRM strategy still ring true:

  • Where are your customers?
  • Where do they go when they have issues with your products and services?
  • Is that channel cost effective for you?
  • How open is that conversation?
  • How are you making them successful?
  • What keeps them from flaming the CEO?
  • How many are willing references?
  • How many are actively referencing business to you?

Any others?

Social CRM is gaining momentum to be the next big buzz word. Some great posts on the subject have been making the rounds, but none more than “Why CRM ain’t CRM if it isn’t Social” by Dr. Harish Kotadia. His points are clear and intiutively understood by most CRM practitioners. In my view, social media makes it possible for buyers and customers to signal intent on an unprecedented scale. Buyers signal. Customers signal. Signals can be positive or negative to the organization. Most companies, even great CRM companies, do not understand this shift.

    Before mapping out a social CRM strategy, answer these questions:

  • Where are your customers? Where are your prospects?
  • Where do they go when they have issues with your products and services?
  • How open is that conversation?
  • How are you making them successful?
  • What keeps them from flaming the CEO?
  • How many are willing references?
  • Where is your organization’s focus?

CRM is about being customer-centric. Sales, Marketing and Service are the usual suspects of customer-facing departments. Each has created internal barriers to what part of the customer that they own. These barriers erode in a socially connected world. Marketing tweets how great the product is and gets a nasty reply from an existing customer. Now it is out in the world naked and transparent. Marketing likely does not even know who to contact in their own company to get the problem fixed. This is real and happening today. I have seen it. I will continue to see it for a long time.

My friend, Robert Pease, wrote an interesting post arguing that sales equals support. I have been thinking about this idea as well recently. There are some interesting trends that anyone who is customer or prospect facing needs to consider.

Social media has made it possible to signal intent on an unprecedented scale. Buyers now signal. Customers now signal. The traditional walls that created internal barriers in the customer-facing organizations (sales, marketing and service) are eroding. It is important to understand that these signals are inputs. A lot of great companies who get CRM do not understand inputs. Essentially, signals are positive or negative. Sales, Marketing and Customer Support have to be able to filter and respond to the signals that matter to their mission. In the end, it is all about how you support the customer across the customer life cycle.

Why?

The traditional sales pipeline has been inverted. No longer is there an information gap between your prospect and customer and you. It is becoming increasing difficult to find the right decision makers and engage them. When is the last time a cold call worked for you? That well-timed email has better results. Responding to that tweet is even better than that. Sales needs to support the buy signal.

Marketing is tasked with engagement and building awareness. What is the barrier between you and customer if your product is a web-based service or a free application? Marketing needs to support the buy signal and deflect the negative signal.

Customer Service is about fixing the negative customer signals — fast. The only way to truly differentiate yourself in a signal based paradigm is through Customer Service. The negative signal is a customer who wants to stay a customer. In his post, Robert correctly states, “It is now the way you will engage, amaze, and retain customers.” By taking that view, your organization must also address the most overlooked area of customer service: Feedback mechanisms into the organization. Development needs to understand the customer service data and experience. Marketing needs to understand why customers are unhappy. Look at the companies who get the customer experience. Amazon comes immediately to mind. (Disclosure: My wife works at Amazon, but she does not read my blog.)

To be successful in this new social CRM world, it is important to understand the role of support in your organization. It is everyone’s responsibility. Social CRM as a trend has been generating a lot of buzz. Even Gartner says that Social CRM spending will soon top $1 Billion worldwide in their Predicts 2011: CRM Enters a Three-Year Shake-Up. I am not one to point at an analyst report and say “See, it is right here.” I point it out for 2 reasons. First, the trend is undeniable. Second, one of the authors, Matthew Goldman is very sharp and knows CRM. Matt and I worked together at KPMG.

CRM is about supporting prospects and customers. Companies that understand support across the three segments will dedicate people to look for the signals just as they would answer the phone.

Worthwhile read at Mitchel Joel’s blog. Check it out.

Six Pixels of Separation: People Should Not See Marketing

Solid read. Worth taking the time.

Read Write Web: Let’s Move Away From Social Media and Get Down to Business

Check out this solid read on social media and the enterprise Gia Lyons’ Connected blog. Interesting stuff.

Social Media is from Mars, Enterprise 2.0 is from Venus

Happy Monday.

Social Media University Reading List: Solid reading @ 800ceoread. Worth checking out these titles.

The post also mentions Six Pixels of Separation. I have been a fan of that blog for some time. Check it out.

Happy Tuesday.

Check out The C.R.M Iceberg and Social Software post.

Very solid read on the sCRM space by Ross Mayfield at the Socialtext Blog. He makes some interesting points such as people as a platform. In my experience, organizations that have great customer relationships have always fostered information sharing within. Call it a trickle down effect.