Consumer buying trends have changed quite a bit from the days when consumers depended on a salesperson to provide them with any possible information about a product or service. According to the Cone Online Influence Trend Tracker, more than four out of five consumers (81%) now go online before deciding whether to purchase products or services, specifically through researching product/service information (61%), reading user reviews (55%), and/or searching ratings websites (43%).
This statistic is the leading reason why brands needs to integrate social into their CRM strategy because consumers are primarily adopting social media as their preferred way of communication, research, and engagement.
CRM solutions have been traditionally viewed as a tool to manage customer relationships, which are often seen as a linear progression from prospect to buyer (sales conversion). Social CRM is an added strategy that is supported by tools and technologies, making social monitoring and tracking more continuous and aids in managing the customer relationship to ensure a customer’s happiness.
Social CRM is based on customer engagement and interactions. Sales conversions are not the end goal, but are a natural byproduct of the system. Social CRM uses CRM as a back-end process for managing social interactions and allowing customer relationships to blossom and develop. Ultimately, it converts social media fans and followers into customers and brand advocates.
The benefits of integrating your CRM with social media include the further incorporation of public relations (PR), customer service, marketing, and research and development (R&D) all into one.
Brands who are wise enough to work on their social CRM have seen the benefits. They can now talk to and collaborate with customers to solve business problems — empowering customers and motivating them to further build stronger relationships with the brand.
Social CRM also provides a 360-degree view of the customer. Not only are interactions between you and your customer now visible, but also customer-to-customer and even customer-to-competitor interactions, which could help you to scoop up a new customer after a negative interaction they had with your competitor.
To guide you through the adoption of a successful social CRM strategy, here some tips and best practices from social CRM experts:
1. Choose a good platform.
A good social CRM platform aids in making information regarding the 360-degree view of the customer accessible to everyone in the company. The platform also helps to create a context for each interaction that helps build personalized relationships with customers.
It should also integrate with other key applications such as sales, marketing, and e-commerce. Social CRM is not a silo and cannot be used by a single department. It is customer-centric and involves the management of all interactions with a brand across all social channels, regardless of the context.
Choose a platform or tool that unifies and centralizes customer-related communications. Adam Root, CTO and Co-founder of HipLogiq, says “Conversations with your business prospects and existing customers happen everywhere including email, Twitter, Facebook, and even through your help desk ticketing system. Having one portal where communication with your customers or prospects is available to everyone paints a comprehensive picture and allows problems to be solved quickly and lets your customer know that every department in your business is in tune.”
2. Talk with your customers, not at them.
Katya Constantine, Founder of the Digishopgirl Media, says, “If your brand is looking to build a social media presence, make sure that you are having a two-way conversation with your customers, not just pushing information at them.”
Brands often treat social media as a one-way communications channel, not taking advantage of the opportunity to interact on a personal level.
3. Put a human face or name on your social media conversations.
Peter Friedman, Chairman and CEO of LiveWorld, advises that along with being as human as possible when interacting with friends, fans, or followers in social media, a brand’s social media representatives should be encouraged to bring their own personalities to the accounts.
Customers don’t want to feel like they are talking to robots, and humanizing interactions is a great way to address this, as long as you stay within the guidelines of your brand traits and goals.
4. Align social media messaging with your brand image.
This might be contradicting the best practice tip above, but Chris Apaliski, the Social Media Director of Magic Logix, says, “You want to be sure the tone on your social sites is still in line with your company.” This can be followed even when consumers want to feel like they are talking to “real” people.
Though it is important to have a human touch, professionally maintaining brand image is still of the utmost importance.
5. Do not ignore basic CRM functions.
Assigning tasks, logging calls, and following up on meetings may be more traditional CRM activities these days, but they are just as important. These basic functions will still help you unify your customer data and keep the progression of your interactions on track.
Just like regular CRM tools, simply purchasing a social CRM tool is not enough. As with any other technology, there has to be appropriate planning and implementation considerations for effective utilization. It is important to select a tool that specifically fits your business needs and take the necessary steps to incorporate the new technology into your business processes.
Remember to get everyone involved early and support your business through the transition. Proper use of social CRM will mean that brand mentions will never go unnoticed again.