CRM used to be about collecting and analyzing data about customers that could be used for targeted direct marketing campaigns. The R in CRM wasn't as much about building mutual relationships as it was about getting old customers to return and make new purchases by sending them reminders and promotions every now and then.
Now Social CRM is the buzzword on everybody's lips. But what is it really?
First of all, Social CRM is not a system or a process. Rather, it is an approach to increase the loyalty of customers towards a brand by making the brand a part of their social identities. The R in Social CRM is about establishing and maintaining a relationship between the brand and the customers by becoming part of their social identities - how they want to be perceived by other members of a group, such as their friends (that's why "Social" was added as a prefix to CRM). The perfect place to do that is at places such as Facebook where people build and maintain their social identities by communicating and interacting with each other.
Here's how such an approach could look like:
- Find out where the customers or potential customers hang out and interact to build and maintain their social identities on the web.
- Listen to what the customers are saying in order to learn what they care about.
- If the customers are open to it, establish a presence in close proximity to the customers.
- Be open to engage with any customers who turn to you to ask for information or to provide feedback.
- If possible, create and seed engaging andusable content that can start or fuel conversations or interactions between people.
When they do, the brand establishes itself top of mind. Whenever they think of a certain product or service, they think of the brand. When thinking about a sofa or home furnishing, they think IKEA and go to the IKEA store or web site to look for sofas. Whenever they think about a smartphone or computers, they think Apple and go to an Apple store or visit the Apple web site. And it doesn't stop there. If one of their friends needs a sofa, they will recommend him or her to check out the IKEA sofa range. And if the friend wants a smartphone, they recommend one from Apple and tell them about their own positive experiences. And they will do it at places such as Facebook or Twitter where lots of other people who listen to them might be influenced by their recommendations or opinions. The customers do the marketing for the brands while the brands can concentrate on creating and sharing engaging and compelling stories about their products or services.
Yet – we must never to forget that the loyalty of a customer towards a brand starts with a great customer experience, and it ends with a bad one. That's why businesses should at least perform step 1 and 2 (repeatedly) and use the input to learn how to provide great customer experiences.