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Making social CRM pay: Consolidating data sets

15th Apr 2013
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SCRM and eCRM are complementary - but how do you integrate the data? Andrew Campbell lists the data consolidation alternatives. 

Integrating social and eCRM programmes will depend upon cross-referencing and consolidating eCRM and social data sets. This will become a core discipline that will be central to the long term success of Social CRM investments, in the same way that Data Quality Management (DQM) capabilities underpin current eCRM programmes. Without this data integration it will not be possible to enhance the customer experience across the social and eCRM domains. A number of alternative data consolidation routes exist.


Matching utilities, driven by email address and other available customer data (e.g. Gender, Date of Birth, Location), have now been developed and are in beta testing. A set of these search keys will be supplied as parameters and a call made to the social data matching utility. This will then search the public data sourced from third party social network platforms (via their APIs) to locate the customer whose details have been supplied in the call. These components are the social equivalent of the de-duplication routines that underpin the creation of a Single Customer View (SCV) marketing database. They are currently in the early stages of development but will become mainstream software components in the near future.

This data integration can be performed as a behind-the-scenes, batch exercise. The consideration here being whether accessing and using social data in this manner would be seen as intrusive by the customer. Just because it can be done technically, doesn’t mean that it should be done.

Possible customer matches will be returned with a probability score (reflecting the likelihood of a record found on an external social network being the customer whose parameters were supplied) and the public data set that can be extracted for that customer. The data consolidation application can then decide:

(Based on the probability score) whether to append social profile data to the eCRM data set. The three possible actions being:

  • Append/consolidate data.
  • Don’t append/consolidate data.
  • Refer for manual review where an operator will decide whether to append/consolidate or not.

The publicly available data set available depends upon the privacy and permissions operated by and API supported by each individual social media platform. This data set falls into three broad categories:

  • Social persona – the main identifiers for the individual in the social platforms they inhabit, e.g. Facebook user name, Twitter, Instant Messaging id. or Linkedin email address.
  • Social graph – the network of contacts, groups and communities engaged in.
  • Interest graph – the social activity  (e.g. Likes, shares, comments, uploads) engaged in.

The social and interest graph data available publicly, without express consent from the consumer will typically be very limited. The initial focus of the exercise is on identifying the social personas so these match keys can be appended to the eCRM data set. Filling in the social and interest graph data usually results from a systematic process of data enhancement as part of future customer interactions (see ‘manual – customer’ section below)

(Based on hierarchy of trust rules) which data set takes precedence where specific attributes (e.g. mobile phone number or Post Code/Location) are present from public data in social platform(s) and the eCRM SCV marketing database. These components are the social equivalent of the merge purge routines that underpin the creation of a Single Customer View (SCV) marketing database.

Manual – specialist data quality management team

A dedicated data quality management team could review all ‘Possible’ matches as a routine, on-going operational function. Based on other internal and external data sets, further investigation and human judgement they would classify the match as definite or not.

Manual – customer services agent

Front line, customer service interactions (sales or service related) provide natural opportunities for agents to enhance the social data set as a natural part of the dialogue with customers. The design of current customer interactions, across all touch points, should be re-visited to ensure a seamless flow across traditional eCRM and social CRM interactions i.e. at what point do communications cross from a public, social platform to a private, customer-to-brand conversation and how is this transition managed?

The automated matching process outlined above could be embedded in the front line customer services application and the append/consolidate process driven by the operator and an integral part of the user workflow/customer interaction.

A big feature of the integrated technology platforms (e.g. SAP, Oracle, Microsoft and Salesforce), and one that justifies their premium pricing, is the data integration capability across:

  • Social listening platforms (to identify relevant conversations – based on key word matching).
  • systems integration, third party API calls and data management (to drive the social data matching and subsequent append/consolidation).
  • Workflow management and decisioning routines (to prioritise and route these to front line staff).
  • front line customer-facing applications (to support a natural, seamless customer experience and agent productivity).
  • merge purge processing (to action the appropriate data consolidation on the master SCV database).

Manual – customer

The ideal scenario is where social data is collected direct form the consumer as a natural part of the on-going engagement. Consumers are well aware of the trade off with brands – the basic premise being that more they give the more they’ll get.

Specific techniques used to overtly bridge the social and eCRM domains and capture social identifiers for use as subsequent match keys and cross-referencing would be:

  • Use of Facebook sign on as a log in option for existing online and ecommerce properties
  • Customer ‘liking’/opting into the brand’s social media property in response to a possibly (incentivised) direct marketing campaign (typically email)
  • Invitation to specific social communities/groups of interest and value to the consumer as a call to action for a (possibly incentivised) direct marketing campaign (typically email)
  • Capturing social media identities (supplied by the customer) in response to explicit data solicitation (possibly incentivised) as part of: marketing campaigns; an extension of other operational interactions e.g. inbound customer service call; product registration or renewal.
  • Customer downloading a Facebook application conditional on permission for the brand to access to their Facebook data (profile, apps, Social and Interest Graphs) as part of registration.


The proposed systems and data integration are a challenge and involve a significant investment in data management. However these are no less essential or more onerous than the data management processes that underpin traditional eCRM SCV marketing database creation. Viewed in this context they should be seen as an unavoidable cost of entry for playing a higher order social CRM game and chasing the prize that it offers. The business case for the required investment will rest on the benefits of creating and then leveraging a more rounded, complete, single customer view across eCRM and social programmes, namely:

  • Reduce acquisition costs / increase response rates / reduce media costs -integrating eCRM and social marketing campaigns , exploiting synergies across them and gaining a rounded and accurate measurement of campaign performance (content, channel and offer).
  • Reduce churn / increase referral rates - create energised brand communities that build equity and collateral for the consumer and the brand.
  • Reduce cost to serve / enhance service proposition - delivering ‘full fat’ social media-accessed service offering and not just a Twitter access point that bolted onto the standard contact centre/help desk service offering.
  • Reduce costs / optimise resource allocation - establishing the connectedness of a customer and reflecting their degree of influence in sales and service decisioning.
  • Increase personalisation and relevance - correlating social profile information with purchase history so that you can identify and act upon customers’ social behaviours.
  • Optimise content marketing – maximise the re-use, reach and engagement created by content.
  • Increase speed and quality of decision making/Implement Voice of Customer - using sentiment analysis technologies, to gain early visibility of trends to provide insights into what the most important customers are saying about your brand, products, and competitors.
  • Maximise ROI from CRM programmes - establishing a more accurate understanding of customer value, and specifically quantifying the value of advocacy and referral.

We are still in the early days of eCRM and social CRM integration and the data management challenges that it poses. Brands will have to acknowledge the limitations of automated matching, be sensitive to privacy concerns and be mindful of the context and nature of social interactions which can make customer engagement signals difficult to interpret accurately and precisely. However, those brands that can overlay the social dimensions onto their core, eCRM SCV database can start to understand the customer journey across all channels and platforms. This will position them to distil this into actionable insights to enhance their social and eCRM programmes and deliver these via highly automated workflows across the marketing, sales and service mix. Brands that can work this smart, and this hard, will create a competitive advantage and see their CRM programmes deliver a step change in value for customers and ROI to the business.

Andrew Campbell has 25 years’ experience in leveraging technology in pursuit of marketing goals. He has run several CRM business and helped clients increase ROI from their CRM programmes. He has lectured/presented on IDM, DMA and Econsultancy training programmes, spoken at numerous trade events and is passionate about promoting best practice and excellence in the field of marketing and CRM. You can connect with Andrew on Twitter (@campbell700) or LinkedIn (Andrew Campbell).

Econsultancy is a global independent community-based publisher, focused on best practice digital marketing and ecommerce, and used by over 400,000 internet professionals every month. They have offices in London, New York, Sydney and Singapore and are a leading provider of digital marketing training and consultancy.

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