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Making social CRM pay: Seamless sales, marketing and service programmes

4th Apr 2013
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SCRM and eCRM are complementary approaches - but how do you achieve this integration? In the first of a two-part series, Andrew Campbell explains.

Many marketers have experimented with social media, technologies and techniques. This usually starts in the marketing space with ‘social’ viewed predominantly as a sexy, new delivery channel. It’s all about ‘Likes’ and viral content to raise awareness, create engagement and build brand communities.

Depending on the success of early social experimentation, the prototyping often spreads to:

  • Sales with social properties and content focused at helping consumers through the purchase process with tactics such as user reviews, customer forums sharing product advice and click-to-buy capability from within social platforms
  • Service with the likes of Twitter offered as an inbound contact channel, central customer services responsive to issues raised directly with the brand or picking up issues discussed publicly on other social platforms.

These early experiments benefit from a certain novelty value, relatively low expectations and lack of clarity as to tangible outcomes. Unsurprisingly they seldom realise game-changing improvements in ROI. Many brands are currently in this phase of ‘social discovery’. However, the honeymoon period is drawing to a close. Executive management are now seeing best practice emerge in their sector from the leading social CRM exponents in the competitor set. The business case for further investment in social CRM is being scrutinised more closely and expectations are being raised in terms of payback.

Marketers must stay ahead of this curve. The secret to realising a step change in social CRM effectiveness lies in integration across two dimensions:

  1. Across the marketing, sales and service functions and customer touch points
  2. With existing eCRM programmes


Before considering how this might be achieved it’s worth clarifying what we mean by:


“A business approach that seeks to create, develop and enhance relationships with carefully targeted customers in order to improve customer value and corporate profitability and thereby maximise shareholder value”.

This approach covers all channels and customer touch points and the emphasis is delivering an enhanced consumer experience that reinforces the overall brand proposition.

Social CRM

“A philosophy and a business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules, workflow, processes and social characteristics, designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted and transparent business environment. It’s the company’s response to the customer’s ownership of the conversation.”

The focus is still on value creation and delivering enhanced experiences for the consumer across the entire business. The new aspects emerging are of engaging with the consumer on their terms and enabling them to collaborate (with each other and the brand) in order to meet their goals.

You can see from these definitions that social CRM is an extension of eCRM philosophy and principles. These are two complementary approaches which should be combined, rather than separate threads of activity. The practical channel is how to achieve this integration.

Marketing, sales and service integration

Customer-centric design will underpin this dimension of integration. There are three key steps:

Business requirements – the ‘what’ of CRM

Customers do not see or care about the artificial, internal boundaries that brands apply to organisational structures and business processes. The key to a customer-centric offering is to forget about internal functions, structures and processes and concentrate on the customer. Adopt an outside-in perspective that focuses on the customer and his/her goals, need states and objectives. Define customer journeys and consumer experiences that address these and deliver value (in whatever form this takes) as they move through the customer lifecycle and purchase process. Model all customer scenarios and target outcomes aiming to leverage customer data, insights and contact management to deliver an enhanced customer experience.

Once the ideal engagement model has been mapped out and outcomes have been modelled then these will define the customer and business needs that the CRM programmes must deliver to. It may be that you cannot deliver the perfect customer experience due to systems or structural issues. However brands should aim to get as close to ‘ideal’ as possible.

Operational requirements – the ‘how’ of CRM from an operational perspective

The next task is to decide how these customer needs, interactions and outcomes map to the marketing, sales and service processes within the business. This is all about who does what and when and most importantly what does it mean for the customer. The priority being to ensure:

  • a consistent interaction with the customer that helps meet their specific need at that point in time
  • a seamless end to end workflow across functions

The end-to-end workflow constitutes the operational CRM model for the business.

Technical requirements – the ‘how’ of CRM from a technical perspective

The final task is to translate the consumer interactions and workflows into the end-to-end data flows that will underpin them. This will highlight the key system interfaces, functional components, databases and content sets that must be integrated to deliver the target CRM programmes. This constitutes the technical, systems and data CRM model for the business.

eCRM and social CRM integrations

Integration on this dimension will involve re-visiting the customer experience design with a specific emphasis on enhancing it using the collaborative and co-operative behaviours enabled by social media. Enhancing and socialising existing CRM processes is a natural extension of the customer experience design process outlined in the previous article. It is go-faster CRM powered by social! To do it well requires:

  • an intimate understanding of customers
  • a deep understanding of the power of social media to create value for them and the brand

The design process should concentrate on the two distinct interaction types enabled by social CRM:

  1. Consumer-to-Consumer (C2C) engagement and conversations relating to the brand, whether conducted on third party social media platforms (off-site e.g. Facebook) or internal social media platforms (on-site e.g. a special interest forum run on the brand’s website). These will enable connection and collaboration with other customers.
  2. Brand-to-Consumer (B2C) engagement conducted via social media channels where the brand is joining the customer conversation to address a specific query, concern or point raised by the customer. This will initially be visible to all and be part of the customer conversation. However it may result in a private, follow-up conversation via another closed channel (email, telephone, instant message or text) if that is appropriate and agreed with the customer e.g. if specific account details have to be checked and discussed.

Integrated 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. In the next article, I will examine the different data consolidation routes that exist.

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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