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Social CRM challenges to overcome in 2011

17th Jan 2011
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If 2010 saw the validation of social CRM, then 2011 should be the year that organisations start to get to grips with the realities of it.

The past 12 months have borne witness to Gartner’s Social CRM Magic Quadrant, as well as the analyst’s prediction that a billion dollar submarket in social CRM services and applications will emerge, while use cases from Altimeter have further served to stamp a seal of authenticity on the sector.
But while the market may have been validated, this doesn’t mean that social CRM has been properly executed as yet. And there are a variety of hurdles that organisations will have to overcome before social CRM projects begin to realise anything like their potential.

Getting your head out of the sand

“There are many companies that are still just ignoring social media,” says Laurence Buchanan, head of CRM and social CRM at Capgemini UK. “They are taking an ostrich, head-in-the-sand approach, because they just don’t see the relevance of setting up a Facebook page, or listening to Twitter, or whatever. We are just about at the stage now where you can’t ignore it because customers are talking about your brand, whether you like it or not.”

Using social media as a two-way channel

“Organisations are still getting social media wrong by viewing it as an outbound broadcast channel,” says Buchanan. “Typically, the organisations who I speak to who are relatively immature in this space will have social media owned purely by their marketing or PR team, and if they are not experienced in social media they view it just as a broadcast channel. They tweet out special offers. They put them out through Facebook. They maybe put videos on YouTube. And they just assume that their customers will just forward them and retweet them and engage in a positive way. But these organisations are in no way set up for two-way interaction. Last year Eurostar used its Little Break account on Twitter to tweet out special offers, but when storms hit and thousands of passengers were stuck on the trains customers wanted to interact two ways by tweeting back to the account for information about the delays. Eurostar had absolutely no ability to respond because it wasn’t set up as a customer service channel.”

Making it personal

“Typically the problem that businesses have is that they don’t understand that because they are engaging in a different place than they’re used to that they have to function differently,” suggests Paul Greenberg, author of CRM at the Speed of Light and president of The 56 Group, LLC.
“So they may tend to involve themselves on Twitter but they keep it impersonal for example, which is a common mistake. They instead basically just treat it as a new form of email blast. It is an impersonal channel for blasting out something that they hope will get retweeted which simply doesn’t do the job. So one of the things that is imperative is that they understand that the way they handle it is always personal.”

Changing the company culture

“Another mistake is that a lack of cultural change goes on when it should be going on en masse at the company,” explains Greenberg. “Firms may utilise some of these social channels to do things but they don’t really make any attempt to accept the fact that the customer is in command of the conversation. They don’t make an attempt to deal with that and that is actually wildly problematic given that if you don’t deal with that then essentially you are going to attempt to impose in the customer’s actual environment. It is like coming into a restaurant, overhearing a conversation about yourself and just deciding that you are going to sit down at that table because you want to. That doesn’t work. You have to figure out other ways to take care of those issues. You have to cede control of the conversation to the customer. You have to. And it is something that the industry just does not get.”

Ensuring social media isn’t siloed

“Some businesses are still viewing social media in isolation from the rest of the customer experience,” Buchanan explains. “All these organisations at the moment can listen and respond on Twitter, but it is not connected into the CRM system. They are unable to start a process on one channel then transfer over to another and it is not recorded against your core customer master record. It is a very siloed and disjointed approach. Virgin Media, for example, listen and respond well, if you tweet a complaint you’ll get a response. But it is not connected into the CRM system.”
“Comcast’s Twitter channel – which was run by Frank Eliason before he left for Citibank – was probably the best example of how to do it when it came to successful customer engagement on a social channel,” adds Greenberg. “24 hour response time and empowered representatives and escalation procedure in place. Not only was it available to customers to get their complaints resolved but at the same time the process was very strong and evolved and organic and mature.”

Adopting an outside-in philosophy

“As soon as you start drilling into social media and social CRM it becomes obvious that you can’t approach it with an inside-out mindset,” says Buchanan. “If you think back to CRM, nobody ever said that it had to be inside-out, but many people ended up treating it that way and taking a command-and-control, internal data-centric approach that ended up being about controlling salespeople, controlling customer service people through scripting tools, it ended up being inside-out.  
“If the term ‘social CRM’ has done one really good thing it has been to get people thinking outside-in and it may well be that in the long-term the phase disappears – it just becomes part of CRM just as eCRM has disappeared to become CRM. To be honest I think the terminology is pretty irrelevant. But if using the term social encourages people to think outside-in from the customers’ perspective then I’m absolutely fine with that.”

Replies (3)

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By ray.brown
17th Jan 2011 06:48

 Good assessment Neil well done. I agree in general with your comments but I think we have a long way to go. I also think we need to address the impact of social CRM on existing silos. The reason marketing uses twitter as an outgoing channel is because that's what their training and experience has taught them to do. Having the skills, authority and personality to behave and influence cross functionally is a big change. I believe we have a bit to go in terms of structure and language to get full value from the developments in the market. 

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By relenta
23rd Jan 2011 06:48

Great post Neil! Tough challenges indeed. One other huge problem that every business faces is data fragmentation.

Social media makes it much worse. It used to be email that was a huge distraction and generated an enormous amount of work. Now you have 3-4 social media sites that you regularly use, in addition to email accounts, calendars, CRM, chats, IMs etc. So your customer data and conversation are spread across dozen different platforms and browser windows.

Unless the data fragmentation problem is solved, social CRM will remain a futile effort. So I'd add to your list a social CRM challenge number 6:

Find and use proper tools

Could be a good idea for a follow up article BTW.

As an aside, here's a fantastic advice from Jacob Morgan on how to evaluate risks associated with social CRM implementation.

Keep up the good work!

Dmitri Eroshenko

Founder and CEO, Relenta

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By 123Contracting
07th Feb 2011 13:24

I think social CRM is so important at all levels. I recently went to purchase a pair of running shoes for a marathan and did some research on specialist shops in London. I checked out all the main running forums and two shops came up top by a long way. I found a couple of bad reviews for each as well as the hundred + good reviews. One of the shops had responded to each bad review in a very positive manner showing great after sales service, the other had not responded and when I asked the shop if they looked at their reviews on line the manager said "no I don't like to see these things - you just do the best job you can" - kind of burying your head in the sand.


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