We found an interesting article on CRMToday.com regarding the projected impact of Social Media on CRM systems.  As businesses are seeing the benefits of taping into social media, it makes sense that utilizing CRM systems to help manage them is the next logical step.   

Social media is all the rage, and not just with the kids–we use these networks to share information and, increasingly, to conduct business. We’ve seen the statistics on the staggering growth of social networks, most notably Twitter and Facebook. We are now beginning to realize the potential when used correctly by businesses.

The most interesting aspect of social media isn’t the individual social networks, but the evolving ecosystem engendered by their openness. This results in unprecedented creativity for network integration, application development, and content management for businesses. This is where customer relationship management joins the story.

Customer relationship management (CRM) has always promised the vision of managing customer interactions at the right time, in the right place, and in the right style to maximize customer value to the company.  The tipping point of social media gives us the perfect opportunity to revolutionize CRM and build true customer relationship programs.  Social media offers four of game-changing extensions to existing CRM capabilities for the creation of truly unified customer experiences.

1. Listening.  Customers are talking about your company, your products, and your competitors.  The information waiting to be harvested from social media conversations is invaluable.  Social media monitoring isn’t just about public relations or periodic brand audits; it is about listening to what your customers want.  Listening to social media is an active process that generates insights that should inform all of your activities:  direct marketing campaigns, Web site management, search marketing, offers and promotions, call center scripts, and competitive intelligence.

2. Responding. Once you are listening, it will be abundantly clear that your customers are using social media at this very moment.  Buying behavior, or lack thereof, will be the ultimate outcome of these sentiments, but by then it’s too late.  Social media gives CRM practitioners the ability to participate in these conversations in real time and talk directly to the most engaged and active customers and prospects.  This involves using social networks for customer service: proactively reaching out to customers who are having problems.  It means identifying and mediating potential problems before they explode in the public consciousness or in the media.  Finally, it means engaging with influencers and the networks where customers are active to be a participant in the story of your brand online. 

3. Consolidated Customer and Prospect Profiles. The first two ways CRM intersects with social media is as a participant, but now it’s time to starting using this information to address individual customers and prospects to directly generate more business. The CRM system already knows each customer’s promotional and transactional history, and social media provides another facet of information about each individual.  It provides information on which social networks customers use, what they are saying about you, what needs they have expressed, and what the sentiment of their activities is.  This expanded customer profile supports the development of a more productive customer experience across all contact points.  In B2B CRM situations, it provides critical color for sales reps as they manage customers through the sales cycle.

4. Self-Managed CRM. If enterprises can successfully engage Social Media as a component of their CRM strategy, then customers and prospects should expect to self-manage their participation in CRM in the future.  These efforts have already started as many organizations offer self-service portals and websites, but it is going deeper as customer service reorganizes into genuine communities where the enterprise and customers collaborate.  These activities will span existing public social networks as well as enterprise-sponsored communities where customers and partners opt in to participate.

These four capabilities are major changes to the CRM playbook.  In the long term, these will become seamless as social media becomes fully integrated in CRM processes, data management, and execution at customer touch points. But despite this inevitability and feelings of pressure to get on the social media bandwagon, organizations need to carefully consider their approach to bringing social media into the mix and determine what is appropriate based on their own industry, CRM goals, and organizational maturity.  Social Media is a component of CRM that is still evolving–as are consumers’ expectations.  Everyone is learning together on this journey; this is a golden opportunity to make CRM everything it was intended to be.