As I mentioned in my first post, Starting Over, I am trying to stay focused on topics that are applicable to small businesses. Last week I posted about the pyramid structure and internal operations of large and small businesses, today I am focusing on external relationships and operations. Specifically, customer relationship management tools and the need for them to be integrated with social media. Social media has changed the jobs of customer service reps, sales people, publicists and business owners everywhere, but I don’t think they are equipped with the right tools to handle it.
In today’s world, customers don’t only interact with companies via phone and email, many companies also have twitter accounts, blogs, forums and online communities. This means when a business is trying to understand how connected a customer is with the company, it has to do a lot of investigating to get the full picture. Companies like Salesforce.com, 37 Signals, Act, Epiphany, all have CRM systems to track customer activities, but they haven’t integrated with social media yet.
Over the last year, progressive companies hired community managers to try and get a handle on and participate in the overall conversation. This is a very important part of social CRM, but the process shouldn’t stop there. If the community manager is responding to a yelp review or a blog post or a tweet, this should all be recorded under the customer’s profiles. Right now it is left as an unrelated interaction. This means if the customer called customer service there would be no record of the interaction with the community manager under his or her profile.
Because of this disconnect, I am putting together a list of things that I think CRM tools should come equipped with.
- The most important change is language. Most CRM systems see customer interactions as inquiries or sales or marketing touches. They don’t converse, because that isn’t the goal. Most systems goals are based around getting a customer to purchase or to appease them when they call. Social media is about information sharing and participating in the conversation, which is a different bucket.
- Each customer needs a place for their blog under their record. Ideally, the system would subscribe to the feed and alert the reps if something was written about the company or a relevant topic. If the rep responds to the post in a comment this should be part of the history.
- A built in twitter updater and reader. This means that the customer service reps will need twitter accounts, but that should be a requirement, or highly recommended, for all reps.
- Each customer needs a place for their twitter account. Similar to the blog, the system should follow the person and send an alert if the company was tweeted about. In this case the conversation should be recorded, including the back and forth replies as well as any DMs.
- The system should be subscribed to search feeds like socialmention.com to constantly find new customers and handles being used to talk about the company. The system should create new customers automatically to track interactions with these customers/handles.
After putting these 5 points down, I realize this might be a running conversation and I hope we’ll come out with a full set of requirements to build the next generation CRM tool.