social crm

Photo courtesy of Sean MacEntee(CC Attribution)

The term social CRM burst onto the scene a few years ago, and ever since, it has been quite a hot topic for discussion and debate within business circles worldwide. So, what is social customer relationship management, and how does it differ from traditional CRM, if at all? In this article, we attempt to not online define social CRM, but to understand its evolution and its applications as well.

What is Social CRM?

Social CRM is a business strategy with a focus on improved interaction and engagement with the customers, rather than on transactions, through the use of social media, and various related tools, techniques, and technologies.

While the definition of social CRM, and its application, might differ from one organization to the other, depending on each company’s own particular set of challenges, it is still essentially a solution for data processing and analysis. It is important to remember that even though social CRM constitutes a strategy in and of itself, it remains but one component in the extensive process of developing an internally and externally collaborative or social business organization.

The Distinction between Traditional and Social CRM

It is important to remember that social CRM is not a brand-new phenomenon. Rather, it is simply an evolved version of CRM as it has been always known. However, as is inherent to evolution, the successor has certain features that help distinguish it from its predecessor, a range of traits and values that set it apart from what came before.

Traditional CRM, as beneficial as it was, had its own limitations. The primary constraint of the system was that it constituted of one-way communication only, so that an organization focused on guiding customers towards sales, and on encouraging to keep coming back to purchase even more products and services. As such, sales, marketing, and services and support flowed from the company to the customers.

Social CRM, by contrast, places the customer at the centre of everything and relies heavily on two-way communication to both understand and combat future business challenges. In social CRM, therefore, a company engages with its customers continually, collaborating with them, gaining valuable firsthand feedback and criticism, and allowing the customers to practically design the products and services they require and expect from the company. As such, sales, marketing and services revolve around the customer, and on the customers’ own terms.

The Evolution from CRM to Social CRM

The gradual, yet inevitable, evolution of CRM into social CRM has largely been driven by customers themselves. In the age of social media, the customer has risen, and taken over the entire marketing and sales process. The changes wrought to the system can be tracked as:

  • CRM is no longer the sole province of assigned departments within an organization, but is driven by everyone, with customers being the primary guides.
  • The CRM process is now almost entirely defined by the customers instead of the company, through feedback and criticism from increased interaction and engagement on social media.
  • Where business was usually conducted between the traditional hours of 9 to 5, it is now a round the clock activity, as customers expect to be catered to in the middle of the night should they so desire.
  • Companies no longer even control the channels of business or of communication, as these channels move from the defined to the dynamic on near universal customer demand. According to the Cone Business in Social Media Study, 2008, a staggering 93% of all online customers in the US expect brands to maintain a strong and active social media presence.
  • Traditionally, businesses were driven by transactions, where they would develop products and services and provide them to customers. Today however, companies are dependent on constant interaction, and all development relies on a stream of customer feedback and criticism.

In today’s world then, the challenge for organizations is no longer to anticipate what a customer might expect, but to adapt themselves to be able to simply listen to their customers through engagement and interaction on social media websites.

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