Voices of CRM

Nov 10 2011   8:13PM GMT

Companies missing out on strategic social CRM

Rosemary Cafasso Profile: Rosecafasso

Many companies are running lukewarm social CRM programs and squandering strategic social opportunities because they are spending too much time in reactive mode – monitoring social conversations and protecting the brand.

A new Forrester Research Inc. report shows that the majority of the 100 companies it recently surveyed are using social tools for social monitoring, tracking their brand and performing occasional research. All the companies are using enterprise-class social software, not free Internet tools.

“They are ready to be proactive, but they are trapped because there is so much volume and always more to monitor,” said Zach Hofer-Shall, a Forrester analyst.

In the survey, 79% reported using social software for brand tracking, while 77% use it for market research and 73% for competitive tracking. Conversely, in the category Forrester designated as “proactive,” which includes activities such as marketing messaging and product innovation, less than half of the respondents indicated using social data in those efforts. Less than 20% of those surveyed reported using social data in sales or lead generation efforts. Respondents were able to make multiple selections to show their social activity.

These results beg a few questions, such as: Why is it taking companies so long to really start using social tools to change their businesses? And, is there a possibility that interest is social is waning?

Hofer-Shall and other industry analysts said there’s no evidence that interest is slowing down. Instead, they attribute the slow adoption to the significance of the changes social tools bring to both systems and organizations.

“You don’t just start using social tools the way you might start using another form of software,” said Denis Pombriant, president of Beagle Research Inc. in Stoughton, Mass. “You have to become a social company.”

Paul Greenberg, CRM industry expert and author of CRM at the Speed of Light, says the adoption rate is certainly slow, but no more so than the adoption of other major technologies that usher in truly big change. Greenberg said a good example is the adoption of CRM itself, which took years because “its value wasn’t obviously and measurably apparent and its [initial] failure rate was pretty well known.”

Hofer-Shall said CRM groups need to focus more on integrating social data with existing customer data to truly benefit from social channels. This will give companies more complete customer profiles, enabling them to better target sales and marketing efforts.

But other industry analysts have indicated that many companies still find keeping accurate customer records with just basic information a challenge, much less expand them with new data sources.

For example, when Salesforce.com recently announced Social Contacts, a function to associate social data with existing customer profiles, analysts dubbed it a good move, but one not quite ready for prime time.

Beyond the Salesforce.com platform, companies can create their own integration between social and internal customer data, but this task isn’t easy and requires database expertise.

Hofer-Shall noted yet another option comes from vendors such as Fliptop, Full Contact and Rapleaf, that provide social identifiers for customers, but also require customers to export their data to them. The Forrester analyst cautioned this could create privacy issues.

Instead, companies should consider the old-fashioned way of acquiring the data by simply asking customers to include Twitter handles and other social identifiers when they are registering for a product or service.

“The safest way is to just ask for it,” Hofer-Shall said. “Set up social fields in the registration pages.”

In addition, the companies can take other steps to link social and internal data up front.

Hofer-Shall suggested filtering social data into existing marketing dashboards to create “combined scorecards” to assess marketing efforts.

This can be low-tech and still effective, the analyst noted. In fact, he has seen marketing groups manually input social numbers, such as the number of Facebook “likes,” into an Excel spreadsheet and comparing it with other marketing data, such as web site visits.

Additionally, once companies have this fuller view of customer feedback, they can better determine what metrics they want to use to rate marketing initiatives. In essence, companies can create their own “customized metrics,” that demonstrate what is meaningful or unique to a particular company.

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