Interactions With Transactions: Understanding Social CRM

I’m a recovering search engine optimizer. I used to work at an agency where I helped lead search strategies for Fortune 500 companies (clients such as Adobe, Salesforce, Conde Nast, and SanDisk) and eventually started my own SEO consulting practice.

So, how did I get involved with social customer relationship management (CRM) and Enterprise 2.0 (basically customer, partner, and employee collaboration strategies)? I became much more interested in the behavioral aspects of business, mainly how people interact with one another, share information, and collaborate.

Don’t get me wrong — SEO was/is great and I still use many of the strategies and tactics on my own web properties that I learned years ago. But I wanted more than rankings, conversions, and site traffic. I wanted to get more involved with business process and changing how organizations work from the inside. This led me to where I am today.

Before reading on, keep in mind that definitions matter little, if at all. Social CRM means different things to different people. The reason I highlight it in this post is to provide some context around things that we’ll be discussing in future installments.

Traditional CRM

Traditional CRM

CRM has traditionally focused around getting and tracking as much data as possible about a customer so that organizations can get them to buy more stuff more frequently.

When most people hear CRM, they think of tools such as Salesforce, Zoho, and Microsoft Dynamics. All of these tools are usually supported by a CRM strategy and process; technology is simply an enabler.

The problem with traditional CRM is that it did little to help or support the customer. The interactions were all one way — from company to customer. There was no collaboration or customer involvement in any way.

From an SEO perspective, it’s similar to you telling your organization what to do to improve rankings and they just look at your recommendations and sit on them. We’ve all been there before, and it’s frustrating.

One-way communication isn’t that effective and, quite frankly, it’s antiquated. CRM has an inside-out based approach to customer relationship management. Now that has changed.

An Introduction to Social CRM

Traditional CRM

Social CRM builds on a lot of what CRM has established in terms of strategy, processes, and tools (many traditional CRM tools now integrate interesting social features). The key difference between CRM and social CRM is that the customer is now involved and that empowering advocates and improving the customer experience is a key focal point. Customers now talk among themselves publicly (online) and with companies.

CRM was focused on transactions; social CRM is focused on interactions with transactions oftentimes being a byproduct. Social CRM didn’t come about because of technology, but as a result of cultural and behavioral shifts, technology simply allowed customers to have a much louder voice.

Paul Greenberg helped define social CRM:

“Social CRM is a philosophy and a business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules, processes and social characteristics, designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted and transparent business environment. It is the company’s programmatic response to the customer’s control of the conversation.”

How is Social CRM Different than Social Media?

Social media refers to the channels that people interact on. Social media campaigns or “strategies” are great for building (often short-term) awareness and visibility. Social CRM takes it a step further by building long-term engaging communities with customers, which integrate customer data and records with social data and interactions.

Social CRM focuses on the front-end customer interaction, but also heavily on the back-end process that makes everything work. We’re not just talking about sending out tweets or discount offers on Facebook. The backbone of CRM still plays a crucial role here in terms of customer segmentation, customer/company value, back-end processes, and business rules.

We’ll cover much more of this in future columns, along with examples, but for now let’s take a deep breath and perhaps a few drinks to make sure we’re on the same page.

Until then, please ask any questions or post some comments below.

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