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My House is a Mess just Like CRM

Posted on : 17-04-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Customer Service, Social Media


I worked from home today because I traveled all day yesterday (I was out of the house at 4:30 AM and returned around 11 PM).  Needless to say I was tired.  I still got up at 6:30 and I drank lots of coffee.  Since I was not motivated to get dressed I never did get the girls to day care.  By the time I got around to it, it was already 11 AM.

This did not take away from the work I had to do.  While I was working, Lily and Robyn were playing on the floor.  At one point they were in the kitchen “making dinner” at the little play kitchenette that we have.  I have to say they were really cute.  At least until I looked around and realized the mess that was all over the family room and kitchen.  Toys are everywhere.  

Lately I have been thinking a lot about CRM or Customer Relationship Management and believe it or not, it really fits with the way my house looks today.  There has been discussion on the net about CRM and social media, especially regarding Twitter.   Well on Sunday I will be traveling to Bonita Springs, FL to talk at the Frost and Sullivan Customer Contact 2009 MindXchange.  So this is why it is on my mind.

I will not get into all the other discussions on the internet, but here are the posts that may be of interest to you.  The first one I read was by Paul Greenberg  on ZDNet called “Is Twitter Social CRM? Nope.”  I do agree that Twitter is simply a communications channel, just like phone or email.  I also feel there are many other channels such as blogs, forums, Facebook or numerous other social networking websites that are also communications channels.  In his post he also links to Jeremiah Owyang’s post “The Future of Twitter: Social CRM.”  I agree with Jeremiah that a good way for Twitter to monetize itself, “if they were to take the challenge” is to sell the data being collected by people answering the question “What are you doing.”  Companies already spend a lot of money to learn how people use their product or interact with their business.  And this information is readily available on Twitter.  The other post Paul Greenberg mentioned is one by Brian Solis “Twitter and Social Networks Usher in a New Era of Social CRM.”  My favorite quote from Brian is:

“Twitter is forcing the next level of reinvention for how we identify, track and respond to online conversations that are pertinent to brand perception and resonance. Twitter is the catalyst that will spark the change for how brands truly engage across the Conversation Prism a.k.a. The Social Web.”

Brian you are correct that Twitter is going to cause companies to reinvent how they respond online.  First the space is easily searchable, unlike Facebook.  Also the costs of entry are virtually nothing.  I would expect companies to do just that and for those that don’t, their employees will do it for them.  

Now lets tie this all together and put the pieces of the puzzle into a nice form.  Literally as I write this I am doing that with items on the floor.  Today CRM is highly organized data used by most organizations to measure phone, email, chat, mail or self service options, but it excludes a key component:  social media. Companies understand regular interactions but social media interactions are not done by many companies or, when they are, they are not tracked as well as they could be.  Many companies are still trying to determine how social media fits in and how they would measure it.  It is not hard to search the net, or even ask around to find debates on who should own the social media strategy.  Usually the debates are between marketing and PR departments, but Customer Service should be in the mix as well.  We know that click through rates on ads are weak and going to a blogger with a press release probably does not work.  At the same time marketing and PR do a great job at measuring sentiment on the web and the overall Customer base.  Customer Service departs usually do well at measuring the Companies need to figure this out. 

My advice is all areas in a company need to work together and define a strategy.  There is plenty out on the net and with a good plan in place you can create a great Customer experience with solid performance measures.  Twitter might be a great place  to start because the cost of entry is cheap and information is readily available via Twitter search.  But the keys are understanding where your Customers (or prospective Customers) are and what are your goals for being in the space.

Now to the other pieces of the mess.  I have always struggled with the term “Customer Relationship Management.” I am not sure a company can manage the relationship as they have in the past.  They can strive to know as much as they can and track interactions but as social media has shown, the true control is shifting to the Consumer.  I think the groundswell on this is still small but growing  stronger with each Amazon review, tweet, blog post or Facebook mention.  With the limited amount of management taking place we need to think more about the relationship as the key component.

Over the past 20 years the key message was self service and limit the relationship building.  Things like handle time were implemented to keep calls short and complicated IVR’s were put in place to try to answer questions without an agent.  Today the trend is growing to want to talk to Customers, especially those that may leave.  Most companies are no longer reviewing handle time on an agent level.  Instead they use Customer call backs and Customer survey data to determine success.

Within the posts by Brian, Jeremiah, and Paul there was some discussion regarding CRM tools.  Well I think at times people should stick to what they do best.  CRM companies can continue to make CRM tools and companies like Radian 6 can make there social media tools.  I would then recommend that they work to integrate the 2 allowing for the best of both worlds.  I would not expect Radian 6 to know all about CRM and contact center management, and I would not expect a CRM company like Salesforce.com to know all about social media.  Companies do not have to be every piece of the puzzle, but if you make tools that play nice with other, your Customers and their Customers will win.

As Companies look to take a fresh look at CRM it is so important they they clean up and organize first, including all the components that exist today.  It is also imperative that they include the sentiment on the web and look for ways to personalize that relationship.  Part of this will be no longer waiting for Customers to call but finding ways to proactively reach them.  Review your existing CRM goals and work to tie them into an overall social media plan.  It will not always be clean but it will be a start to some great relationships with your Customers.