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Social CRM gets a dose of Lithium

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23rd Jul 2009
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"Social CRM allows every executive to become the ‘chief customer officer'," according to Lyle Fong, CEO of Lithium Technologies. Stuart Lauchlan takes a look at how the firm is putting the theory into practice with the launch of its social CRM suite.

The concept of social CRM has attracted a good deal of attention in recent months, most notably pushed by enterprise applications giant Oracle. The most recent converts to the cause is Lithium Technologies, which has unveiled the Lithium Social CRM Suite.

Lithium defines social CRM as 'the strategy and applications that harness the power of online branded customer communities, broader social networks and traditional CRM systems to turn customers into advocates for brands and ultimately become [those brands'] most-important competitive advantage'.

“Our research is showing that over half of all executives place the value of a customer advocate at over $50,000 per year,” says Lyle Fong, CEO of Lithium Technologies. “Social CRM allows every executive to become the ‘chief customer officer’ and take advantage of this significant opportunity to deliver value to the enterprise through a new social network of customers.”

According to Lithium's definition, a social CRM solution will contain a suite of customer community applications, a profiling engine for reputation management, workflow-based integrations with traditional CRM systems and with social networking applications such as Facebook or Twitter, and actionable analytics to measure  business value. To that end, the Lithium Social CRM Suite is made up of a number of products designed to support a network of customer-advocates across the social web and to integrate customer conversations into social media channels and existing CRM business processes and systems.

To kick start its social CRM push,  the company is introducing three new products: Tribal Knowledge Base, CRM Connect, and Social Web Connect. Tribal Knowledge Base is intended to help customers identify and aggregate the best content from online discussion forums to develop articles that can help other consumers. CRM Connect brings  community activity and social web behavior into more traditional sales force automation and customer service systems. Lithium currently offers integration with RightNow Technologies and Salesforce.com but plans to add many more. Finally, Social Web Connect enables companies the ability to set up search terms for real-time conversations happening on the web and to track them.

A more satisfying customer experience

Lithium has specialised in developing online customer service communities, so the extension into the social CRM space is seen as a logical and expedient move. “Customer service professionals must find innovative ways to engage with 'social customers' via emerging social media technologies,” notes Natalie Petouhoff, analyst with Forrester Research. “Online customer service communities make self-service a more satisfying customer experience, in addition to reducing costs for the provider.

"Companies that are still spending money on self-service solutions that don’t deliver good customer experiences are hurting their brands and their bottom line. The time to shift gears and join the social media business revolution is now.”

Lithium says its existing customers are enthused by the concept of social CRM. "Lithium’s Twitter integration is a perfect fit with our vision to engage with and stay connected to Best Buy customers wherever they choose to congregate online. A key part of our strategy is to harness the power of the voices of our most passionate customers, so we couldn’t be more pleased with the direction of Lithium’s social CRM vision,” says Lisa Smith, vice president of enterprise customer care at Best Buy.

Kevin Ryan, vice president of social media at bookseller firm Barnes & Noble, adds:  “As a customer with a lively community on the Lithium platform, we're enthusiastic about the social CRM vision. The readers engaged in our online book clubs at Lithium also have a significant presence in the larger social web, and helping them share the B&N experience elsewhere will bring more people into our community and strengthen our social commerce efforts across the board."
  

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