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 brand stores exhibit a preview of the collection spring and summer. Concerns, complaints and questions that are expressed through lengthy discussions on the forums, facebook status updates and twitter messages.
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. CRM is becoming ever more customer-centric and personalized, moving beyond the concepts of segmentation of target groups. A recent study by Forrester (“Navigate The Future Of Customer Service In 2014”, February 6, 2014) states 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.
The following paragraphs will outline some considerations.
To meet those new challenges and opportunities the classic CRM can be enhanced by social network functionalities in the form of a 'Social CRM'. The Social CRM adds value to the existing CRM structure in companies, allowing to use social networking as a communication channel in CRM processes already in place, in order to generate more meaningful interactions with users.
In social networks and web environments customers play increasingly the role of a partner of the company and can add value to the business of the companies. With their ideas and their expectations they have become an active part in the process of product development, they help to increase the 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, to monitor and map the consumers, are numerous whether it's products or services.
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, best prices of a car. The informational role played by the network is so strong that recent studies show that about 43% of those who are interested in changing the car, be it a new or second hand one, rely on the network as the preferred source of information, hence the importance of Social CRM instrument for the automotive industry.
Currently all 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 coming models. It is interesting that many of these followers could not even drive a car because they are under age and 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, so 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 for his social community a specific contest, with the request to design the painting for one of his most successful sport models. The contest has generated much interest and many nice suggestions, and the winner, in addition to receiving the official award from the management, being mentioned in the social community and in the specialized magazines, has even seen his suggestion being implemented in a car. That has 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 interest 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 timely understood the impact of this digital era. As a result they have redefined the priority of software investments, in particular the ones supporting customer centered business processes in areas such as Marketing, Sales and Customer Service (Post Sales). This trend is reflected on the supply side, where software providers must meet the needs of business with CRM solutions not only technologically adequate but also effective in terms of business and processes requirements
Digital competition for customers
To sum up, in order to succeed in the digital competition for customers, the challenge for the companies of the future will be to integrate social CRM into their existing CRM landscapes by implementing new CRM technologies and by managing the required organizational and cultural changes. This digital transformation can be facilitated by dedicated support in the 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 BPM 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 Customers programs are driving action and demonstrating results: 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 CxO 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.