Social media make the customer more powerful than ever. Companies must re-learn how to listen and react. The customer is always right is one of the two ”commandments” of a super market chain in Connecticut. Their second commandment is “see rule number one”. Anyone who does not take this seriously will not do well on social networking platforms where customers have not only a louder voice, but also can be heard around the World in minutes.
Social Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is real time. It is not only complaints and questions, it is compliments and sales leads too. Over the last few years, we brought conventional CRM into the world of technology: alignment of help desk, marketing, customer service and business policies. We are able to attract new customers and satisfy current customers. Social CRM is just continuing what we do now, but adding in social platforms. Social CRM just forces everything out in the open. So all we really need to do is add social technologies to our tool bag.
Some of the things companies have found out are eye-opening and reinforce the move to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, et al. Customers are more anxious to contact on social media platforms--more so than by email or phone. Many of them turn out to be supporters of the products. Interaction at a service level grows to the customer participating in promotions.
The CRM vendors have adjusted too. Desk.com from Salesforce is Cloud-based and is only one example. The goal is to route customer “correspondence” to the correct internal party as rapidly as possible. Another upcoming tool recognizing social interaction will be Retail Universe.
Companies are finding innovative ways to utilize social media to reach customers and add value. It is all about communications. Getting the customer involved in the business process by making suggestions, discussing ideas. Even handling complaints can be constructive. Have to remember, people feel comfortable at their own computers. Time is important to the customer too. Good customer service pays back in sales and customer loyalty.
So the technology changed the culture AND the culture changed the technology? Well, social media allowed us to do better what we do anyway: socialize. The technology has changed to accommodate the culture. It all started with email, bulletin boards, blogs and GREW (with the aid of technology). Then technology grew too.
Some things for companies to understand and do: (1) recognize that social CRM allows organizations to connect with the social customer on the customer’s terms; (2) get the right technology; (3) listen to and collaborate with customers (it is not email where you could send ads out and expect results); (4) monitor the social media for conversations about your company.
While much of this discussion centers around “customers”, in the supply chain, we could easily substitute “supplier” (hence SRM is Supplier Relationbship Management). Lots of times suppliers come up with product or process ideas, discover new customers and are already a strong ally.