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The importance of integrating social CRM tools into a CRM strategy

Customer engagement is no longer about simply handling a phone call or letter. Organizations must also be at the ready to address issues on social media.

Adding social CRM tools to traditional approaches increases the complexity of how organizations and customers interact....

But the principles and management of customer interactions have not changed.

In its simplest form, CRM is the methodology organizations use to build and enhance relationships with customers. The major goal of CRM is to have an ongoing relevant conversation with customers, leading to higher retention and spending.

Early on, CRM utilized the specific knowledge an organization collected about individual customer spending patterns and behaviors, categorizing customers into predefined segments for targeted messaging. Organizations would then converse with customers, utilizing the channels of communication available to them at that time.

Even though CRM has become more complex with the addition of new channels of communication, the same principles apply for successfully managing social CRM. The development and utilization of social channels, including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, increases the complexity of CRM. Previously, it was a private, one-on-one conversation with customers; now, it's a highly visible, one-to-many conversation with customers.

In the past, if customers had service issues, they would pick up the telephone and call the organization to have the issue resolved. In the world of social CRM tools, if customers have service issues, they may communicate via a social channel the entire world can see.

In the early days of social media, marketing departments managed the channel and focused on providing proactive communications to segments of customers. When necessary, the department would protect the brand when a customer service issue arose. Over time, organizations moved the social channel into mainstream customer service and now handle inquiries in these channels in the same manner as they do other communication channels.

Adding social CRM tools to the mix

Organizations face many challenges when interacting with customers in social channels -- many of which existed before the arrival of social media. Some of these challenges include the following:

Customers have a stronger voice and can be heard by the entire world via a simple keystroke.

Identifying conversations that require a response. In old-style call centers, agents answered all inbound phone calls, thereby responding to every customer request. Even if the customer wanted to speak about the weather, an agent was available. In the world of social media, it might not be necessary or cost-effective to respond to every single customer comment. It's critical to respond to queries by customers who communicate some type of problem or seek guidance on the use of a product or service. There are mixed views on whether other types of customer queries, such as a general comment on a product, require some type of response. It may not be realistic to respond to all customer comments, but the more an organization can engage customers, the better the CRM outcome.

Ensuring agents have the appropriate skill sets. Past conversations used to be most frequently conducted with customers on the phone. Agents needed strong verbal communication skills. With the growth of additional channels of communication, organizations must hire staff members with broader sets of skills to work in omnichannel environments, including strong writing, multitasking and problem-solving capabilities.

Tracking customer conversations. When a limited number of channels existed in contact centers, the goal was to track as many interactions as possible so that the organization had a detailed understanding of the full relationship with the customer. That was a challenge, but many organizations had desktop systems that allowed agents to enter all interactions. With social CRM tools, the goal is the same, but advanced analytics tools enable companies to capture all relevant customer information and perform thorough analyses. The challenge lies in identifying all of the points where the voice of the customer can be captured and implementing effective listening posts to capture key information, including self-service channels. It is also challenging to identify specific customers as they cross a variety of communications channels.

Learn how to choose between on-premises and the cloud for CRM strategies.

Pivoting across channels. Dial transfers in call centers are considered a pivot between two telephone agents. With the growing number of communication channels, the concept of pivots has expanded to include customers moving across channels to continue a conversation. The principles are the same for all types of pivots -- customers do not want to repeat information and expect the agent to know the research they have already performed. The increasing complexity of pivoting conversations forces organizations to capture detailed information of the customer's experience during each step of the communication process. If a customer is researching products on the web, then it's imperative for the organization to understand the research performed and present this information to an agent when the customer pivots to a chat interaction.

Measuring effectiveness. In traditional contact centers, basic metrics were gathered regarding how quickly a call was answered, the volume of interactions, how long an interaction took and various quality measurements. The same types of metrics are critical for measurement in social channels and are a key reason for moving the management of the social channel from marketing to operations. What has changed as a result are the specific goals of the various metrics, primarily quality and customer effort. That's especially true as consumers are connected at all times via their wireless devices.

More deeply integrating social CRM

The CRM world has changed, and the development of social media has been one of the great drivers of that change. Customers have a stronger voice and can be heard by the entire world via a simple keystroke.

Organizations must take advantage of the new opportunities presented by this change and adapt their internal processes to include social CRM tools. But service is still service, and the things that were important in the simplistic world of the call center are the same in the brave new world of the omnichannel contact center.

Next Steps

How implementing CRM tools can benefit an organization

Why you should engage customers on social media

The impact of mobile and social tools on customer engagement

This was last published in August 2017

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