I like the idea of using social channels to improve service and, ultimately, build better customer relationships. But I think it will backfire badly if companies focus on social channels while neglecting their more traditional customer support channels, a point I made in a post titled "Social CRM a Complement, not a Replacement, for Traditional CRM."
More folks are using social channels to comment on their service experiences. (Not long ago, I posted a flip Twitter comment about a a service outage with our hosted Exchange e-mail at the office, sharing a VP's comment of "Welcome to the cloud." I got a quick and perky response from someone at Microsoft, saying he/she hoped the service was back up.)
Yet Gartner analyst Michael Maoz recently talked to customers of nine companies that have made serious investments in CRM, including social CRM, and found they were more interested in price, quality, convenience and fairness than in "conversation." Social interactions are great if used as a means to achieving those things, but all too often such channels can be a dead end.
Vendors like Parature are introducing software that promises to help companies incorporate social channels into customer-serivce efforts.
Writing on CMS Wire, Joe Shepley offers a concise list of five functions one should look for in a social CRM application, with the aim of creating a logical workflow for responding to customer issues:
I like Shepley's list, although I do think a social CRM app should also trigger automated responses and/or offer self-service options for customers when appropriate. It would also be nice if an app could route customer comments into an system where they could be analyzed and used to show trends and patterns that could lead to service improvements.
For example, if lots of customers are griping about billing issues, it's probably time to examine your billing process. Similarly, if comments show positive response to a new product or service, you can craft promotional offers that will engender an even greater response.
Shepley also highlights an important benefit of social CRM done right:
The payoff goes beyond satisfying a single customer (as is the case with traditional customer service), because the resolution occurs in a public forum for all the world to see. Each customer service issue that arises in the social space, therefore, is a marketing and PR opportunity to show everyone who's watching just how much your organization values its customers-or doesn't.