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Social CRM and the permissions minefield

9th Apr 2012
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There’s obviously an implicit desire to interact with a brand when you ‘like’ or ‘follow’ – but what does that mean in terms of CRM? Steve Richards explores.

We need to talk about permissions.
It’s certainly not the most fun bit of the equation, but going back to the basics of CRM – the decades-old science of talking to your customers at the right time (and with their permission) - could hold the key to the social’s future.
The problem for a brand is that they know they’ve got customers – they sell to them every day. And they know some of these customers: their names and personal details, because they’ve got a CRM database.
But they also know they’ve got some massive advocates and notable detractors in social spaces. Some of these might be the same people. And it seems theoretically possible that we should be able to identify and link some of these names together. Bob Jones in Winchester might be BobJones77, and he might be @bobjones77.
If only it were that simple. Even the best social CRM platforms currently seem to merely plug in a brand’s Twitter and Facebook interactions – none (that our research shows) currently make an obvious song and dance about being able to overlay customers’ social profiles to their existing CRM data, though this nirvana-like state of total customer knowledge is eminently possible.
The problem lies in those little boxes you tick when you sign up to enter, say, a competition online. You need to consent to receive certain information by assigned channels. Currently, no one is asking, or has defined, the legal niceties of permissioning around Twitter and Facebook.
CRM implications
There’s obviously an implicit desire to interact with a brand when you ‘like’ or ‘follow’ – but what does that mean in terms of CRM?
Does liking a brand on Facebook mean I want to receive emails from them? And does complaining about a brand I don’t follow on Twitter mean they can add my Twitter handle to my CRM database entry, flagged ‘troublemaker’? Have I given permission for that – and do I need to?
The potential carrot, though, is compelling. You’d be able to call or email disgruntled customers as you’d already have their information. You’d be targeting people truly according to their preferred channels (Facebook over email, Twitter over Facebook?) and responding to them in the way that they wanted.
You’d be plugging social into everything you do, from NPD to advertising and sales. It enticingly adds a layer of genuine consumer behaviour to demographic profiles to reveal an enriched ‘single customer view’. Currently, we might guess that @bobjones77 is the same as the man we’ve been emailing for six years, but we can’t be sure without asking and we would seem to be on legally shaky ground by linking those two together without explicit permission, public channel or not. Cross-reference social CRM with, say, MOSAIC data to reveal a customer’s relative value and you’re really off to the races.
Given the storms that have flared up in the past over email opt in/opt out, it’s hard to believe this isn’t at least being more widely discussed. At the moment, what’s called social CRM remains a theoretical dream. Until we’ve sorted out how we can legally link everything together, what we’re looking at is actually traditional CRM with added social customer service.
Truly integrated, a fully compliant single customer view is an interesting prospect that could underwrite the business case. It would embed social at the core of communications plans of all successful companies. Managing and solving the permissions and privacy issues will be worth the effort.

Steve Richards, MD of Yomego.

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