Oracle Hopes to Bring More Sales Focus to Social CRM

Ann All

One of my favorite points made by Bertrand Duperrin in a blog post on social CRM (SCRM) I cited in my own post titled Social CRM Moves Focus from "Management" to "Relationship" was that SCRM occurs not just on Facebook or other social channels but also over the phone or in person, in any interaction where customers are treated as stakeholders. That's easy to forget, as most SCRM discussions focus on social channels.


While social media is becoming an important channel for customer conversation, plenty of information is still conveyed via the old-fashioned channels mentioned by Duperrin. And guess what? They still trump social channels in some ways, not the least of which is the more direct nature of the communication.


Gathering that information -- and more importantly, turning it into actionable ideas -- is behind Oracle's addition of the Accept360 product innovation management application to its CRM On Demand and CRM On Demand for partner relationship management.


An InformationWeek article about the deal calls it crowdsourcing, a concept I wrote about last week. I guess it is, since the article mentions the product will allow Oracle customers to support both external- and internal-facing communities and to form private communities to further refine crowdsourced concepts.


I suspect, however, that many organizations will choose to test the waters by having sales representatives enter ideas they've heard from customers into the system rather than emailing them to colleagues. The ideas are automatically linked with their CRM profiles, offering valuable context by showing sales reps and marketing managers related information such as organization size, current use and business challenges.


According to the article, users can employ applets that appear on the home page of Oracle CRM On Demand to see ideas from various perspectives, including most popular, most recent and watch lists. The user-configurable applets also can show campaigns, accounts, opportunities and contacts. This "will add valuable social collaboration-based ideation to provide deeper visibility into market needs and create a single repository of ideas and product requirements," said Steve Fioretti, VP of Oracle CRM strategy and product management, in a written statement.


A CRM Buyer article on the solution doesn't mention crowdsourcing and focuses more on examples involving sales reps entering information into Oracle CRM On Demand. It also mentions additional features such as the abilities to search for similar ideas, categorize and group ideas, and monitor the collaboration on specific ideas or groups of ideas.


As interesting as products like these are, organizations may have to work with their sales reps to get them to accept them. Oracle's continued addition of social tools to its CRM applications indicates they may be going over better with salespeople than I thought they would when I wrote about some of the company's earlier social features back in 2008. And since then, and others have also introduced social features to help sales folks track customer conversations and collaborate with their colleagues.


Yet as Umberto Milletti, CEO of SCRM software provider InsideView, writes on Mashable in a piece called Why Sales Is Still Missing from Social CRM, sales folks haven't taken as readily to social tools as their colleagues in customer support. Why? He offers four reasons:

  • Many salespeople are skeptical of technology. There are likely fewer technology enthusiasts in the sales ranks than elswhere in the organization.
  • Salespeople want to see a strong illustration of how social tools can make them more productive and successful -- and such examples have been largely missing. (This is true for other types of social tools as well.)
  • Oracle notwithstanding, CRM vendors have remained largely focused on integrating social media into their service and support offerings, while sales functionality has been mostly left to specialized third-party providers.
  • Salespeople want training on new tools and processes -- and again, this has been largely lacking.


But, says Milletti, a "wave of social customer interaction education is starting to form, with initiatives like the University of Toronto Rotman School of Management's Social CRM Program and Social Selling University leading the way." And, he predicts:


Just as early and effective adoption of the web gave competitive advantages to forward-thinking businesses (Amazon, eBay, Cisco) in the 1990s, in this decade, companies that effectively leverage the social media wave to improve their customer-facing business will thrive while those who don't will stall.

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