"Over the next five years every industry will have to redesign itself around social."
Not long ago, this statement-made by Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg during his speech at last year's Web 2.0 Summit-would have been quickly dismissed as hyperbole. But it's now clear that social media has become a transformative force across companies everywhere, changing every facet of the business.
From the standpoint of customer intelligence alone, social media is helping organizations gain access to accurate, real-time, and actionable information that would have been impossible to capture just a few short years ago. Unfortunately, fully harnessing and leveraging that kind of information is not easy. Not only is social data highly dynamic and complex, but most companies lack the systems necessary to enable and facilitate the type of two-way interaction with customers that's at the center of social media.
Quite simply, customer relationship management (CRM) systems haven't caught up. This technology filled a huge gap in the late 1990s, enabling sales, marketing, and service/support teams to finally centralize customer information. But these capabilities are no longer enough. In order to remain competitive and improve business performance, companies must find ways to infuse into their CRM process the wealth of customer intelligence available on the social web.
This requires a new generation of CRM solutions that can capture, harness, and manage this new level of dynamic information while enabling the company to adapt to the rapidly changing technology landscape. That's what CRM 2.0 or "social CRM" is all about.
What CRM was always intended to be
Social CRM is not a specific system or technology. It's also not a replacement for traditional CRM. Rather, it's an evolution of what CRM was always intended to be: a tool for enabling more meaningful dialogue with prospects, customers, and other influencers. Take customer service, for instance. In the new CRM paradigm, the customer is actually the focal point. Instead of pushing messages to customers, companies can now collaborate with customers to solve business problems and build stronger relationships.
From a marketing standpoint, social CRM is helping companies better target their offers and messages, based on more comprehensive social media intelligence. The ability to map the personal identity of your prospects and customers-including their likes and dislikes, physical location, preferences, hobbies, interests, and business relationships-is a very powerful capability.
By uncovering the sales relationship-building value of social media channels, sales teams can also speed up sales cycles and overcome potential obstacles before they happen. After all, having a clear picture of each influencer in the sale is one thing. But truly understanding what each individual cares about, what she is saying (and to whom), and how she's connected to others will often make all the difference in a competitive sales situation.
Traditional CRM needs to grow up
Unfortunately, most CRM systems and processes haven't caught up to the possibilities of the social web. They're not designed to enable true customer engagement and interactions or to develop a social or collaborative business.
Moreover, despite the ever-increasing need for mobility, a large number of CRM solutions don't offer tablet or smart phone access. This is surprising, considering that in this environment, the ability to act quickly on an opportunity can have a significant impact on the business.
That's precisely what this next generation of CRM solutions is about: providing organizations with greater flexibility to solve problems in a timely manner and in the face of unrelenting business change.
What to look for
When exploring options, businesses would do well to focus on CRM solutions that offer the following key benefits:
- Anytime/anywhere access: Executives, service agents, and salespeople are increasingly asked to do business wherever they are, whether it's on-site at a client or partner office, on a plane, at home, or in a hotel room. They can't afford slowdowns or delayed access to client information and CRM tools and resources.
- Ability to interact with social media platforms: Businesses must adapt and evolve to meet the needs and demands of today's social customers. To do this effectively, they must bring the power of the social web into their businesses where it's most relevant and valuable: their CRM system and processes.
- Configurable to meet rapidly evolving technologies: With new technologies and platforms coming out every year, the CRM system must be able to adapt to market demands and changes in the company's strategic direction.
- Flexible deployment options: The ability to choose from an on-premise, cloud-based, or hybrid (cloud/on-premise) deployment is a significant benefit for organizations that face a myriad of unique business requirements and regulatory considerations.
Keeping pace with today's accelerated business environment demands agile business technologies and business processes. And this new approach to CRM is rising to the challenge by turning CRM into what it was always meant to be.