CRM certainly doesn't feel very social if companies have to keep asking their customers to repeat the same basic information over and over. But that's what customers have to do if companies haven't yet managed to integrate their customer service channels.
That's why, as I wrote back in July, companies must make integration a priority if they want to offer a consistently excellent customer experience. I cited a great post from my IT Business Edge colleague Loraine Lawson in which she mentioned a study that found companies reaped CRM benefits by using four key integration practices: integrating more data sources, integrating offline data with online data, integrating external data and using an enterprise data warehouse or CRM-specific data repository to consolidate customer data.
These remain goals rather than actual practices for many companies, however. And this lack of integration is limiting the potential market for social CRM, opined Gartner in a recent report. Few companies are employing a holistic social CRM strategy or using appropriate metrics to measure results. Companies tend to divide their efforts into three areas -- sales, marketing and customer service -- often using different technologies and processes for each.
Salesforce.com just agreed to pay $50 million for Assistly, a purchase I wrote about yesterday. Assistly focuses on customer support, with technology that allows companies to consolidate and organize customer conversations into prioritized task lists and offers the abilities to filter conversations, access customer histories, automate processes and tap into social media conversations on Facebook, Twitter and other sites. Earlier this year Salesforce bought Radian6, a social media monitoring company. Both of these buys seem to relate more directly to customer service/support than anything else.
While Salesforce appears to be paying more attention to social channels than its competitors, I don't think it's satisfying what Gartner says is a growing demand for integration with applications such as analytics, master data management and ERP.
Salesforce uses largely proprietary technology, including its Force.com development platform. While I expect the company would love it if customers could find all of the apps they are looking for on its AppExchange, a better long-term solution would be using open standards. Loraine wrote about this issue back in April, wondering whether integration could (finally) become an issue for Salesforce.