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Six ways the customer engagement dynamic is changing

3rd Mar 2015
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Social CRM demonstrates why being all-business, all the time isn’t the best idea.

Being business-like is good. But if your CRM strategy is all business, all the time, you’re missing opportunities.

Why? Because your customers are more than what they do at work. As you accompany them along the customer journey, you aren’t interacting with a filled-in form or a LinkedIn profile. You’re engaging with a living, breathing human being.

That person defines themselves a lot more broadly than a job description.

If you interact with your prospects and customers only through business channels, it’s a bit like giving a one-handed hug and missing. To really engage with your customer today, your CRM application has to deal with the whole fruit. Not just a slice of it.

Today’s CRM applications are starting to realise this and are developing into social CRM, or SCRM. It means a lot more than a bit of banter on Yammer or Chatter. It means treating social media channels as part of your entire engagement strategy - making your processes and engagement more human.

Let’s look at six ways the customer engagement dynamic is changing.

1. From sitting in departments to circling the world

Much of CRM targeting has revolved around job function, with an emphasis on title. If you’re selling hardware, it’s sensible to seek out the IT manager. But - surprise, surprise - customers don’t sit in their departments all the time.

What if your best prospects never read IT Management, but do have an interest in travel photography? They won’t be talking about that on their “Meet the Team” page, but they might be shouting it from the rooftops across Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. If you could be there with them - not lurking, but listening - outside the office, you’ve got an advantage. By listening, you’ve learned more about your prospect and understood them better as an individual. This will help you to push forward their position in the sales funnel a stage or two sooner.

Social CRM makes it easier to join those out-of-office conversations, by bringing the channels most important to your customer into your CRM orbit.

2. From guided customer journey to customer defined journey

Wasn’t it great when you defined your customers’ journey? From first touch at the Expo to final handshake in the boardroom? It’s a lot more complex now.

They’re not passively consuming your marketing communications over the sales cycle. They’re checking you out on Yelp, reading your reviews on TripAdvisor, looking up your reputation on Trustpilot. Through your Facebook posts and tweets, they’re building up their own picture of you - one that doesn’t always accord with the image you have of yourself.

The solution: be there with them. Take part in the conversation. Find and answer every negative review, thank every positive one. Respond to every tweeted question. If you’re where your customers are, you can head off one about to churn or turn a mildly interested one into your advocate.

Social CRM can make these “dark pools of communication” visible. It’s worth seeing how much they can add to your marketing efforts.

3. Open For Business is now Open All Hours

It’s a simple one, but still ignored by too many marketers. While “the work” may get done at the office, a lot of the reflective thinking that secures a purchasing decision happens when your prospect is “offline”- relaxing at home, chatting in the bar or even toying with their rubber duck in the bath.

So if you schedule your CRM communications only during the working day, think again. What might the value of a Purchasing Checklist posted on your Facebook page at 7pm be? Or an article released to at 7.30am when your customer’s reading the news?

All of these little touches here and there add up to a lot of influence and SCRM gives you the tools to do it.

4. A defined set of channels becomes a chaotic mix of them

Facebook. Twitter. WhatsApp. Sky TV. Mumsnet. That’s a lot of customer channels. Which of them matters most to you?

Answer: whichever matters most to your customer.

Their experience of you is what you sum to on their social channels. The content they consume on BuzzFeed and Mashable. The photos they share on Facebook. The people they follow on Twitter. The conversations across mobile apps. (Not to mention that little thing called “real life”.)

That mix isn’t the same for all customers and it doesn’t stay the same. Fashions fade and tastes shift, different apps become popular at different times. Their popularity isn’t based on what’s best for business - it’s based on what’s cool.

If you’re checking out social CRM, make sure the app makes it easy to add or remove. Also ensure you can update channels for any prospect in your database.

5. From the transactional to the interactional

Most business relationships are based on transactions: you pay me this, I give you that. But human relationships - real relationships - aren’t transactional. They’re based on trust and likeability, past experience and reputation. Sum totals, not individual touches.

So if your SCRM application tells you you’ve got 8,000 prospects using Twitter, don’t just think “I need to reach out to my Twitter users.” Think where else those Twitter users are hanging out. Links in tweets can be useful indicators of what websites your top prospects like. Try meeting them there, on their terms. As a trusted friend, not a salesman.

6. From the inside reaching out, to the outside peering in

Lastly, let’s remember the upheaval in customer interaction over the last five years or so: from the one-way outbound communication of a marketing campaign, to the inbound conversations of true sCRM.

It’s the idea that prospects are most open to your information when they’re ready to read it. When they’ve got a genuine need for it and search or click towards it to find you. They won’t appreciate being constantly hammered with marketing messages arriving in their inbox.

A CRM system that notes these “moments of truth” along the customer journey is true sCRM. It engages customers when they’re most amenable. Top CRM applications like Microsoft Dynamics CRM are leading the charge towards true Social CRM. If that sounds like the kind of relationship you want with your customers, explore sCRM today.

Billy Lyle is managing director of Redspire Ltd.

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