If you were involved in evaluating potential opportunities in the CRM space about four years ago, you would not have missed the hype and hullaballoo around the idea called social CRM. The idea promised a lot — bringing together the personal touch of social media communications and marrying it with the technologically advanced CRM databases of organizations, delivering unprecedented control over customer relationships. Did the idea translate into revenues for CRM brands that quickly started promoting their social media integrations? Yes. Were the promised benefits passed on to enterprises? Not quite.
Social CRM: What went wrong?
Well, it all started well and sounded right. However, many social media platforms backed out and blocked access for CRM firms. The scope, access, and limits allowed by APIs between social media and CRM solutions, as a consequence, were highly suffocated. Facebook, in particular, closed its doors on many CRM firms, and LinkedIn joined its ranks, being very selective about what kind of accesses it allowed to which CRM companies.
Also, even for brands that had already spent the dollars on social CRM, the promised benefits never came. The technological advancements that first-gen social CRM products brought to the fore weren’t able to substitute for the human touch that made enterprises great at customer relationships management.
Why should we bother about it now?
It’s natural for any enterprise to think about why it would need to keep itself aware of the innovations happening in the social CRM space, the second time around. Good question. That’s because like every technology, social CRM is evolving, and finding its feet again. In this guide, we will cover some of the aspects of this evolution so that you can make smart decisions about choosing a CRM solution, or upgrading your existing CRM solution to latch on to the power of social.
Social as a feature
The biggest mistake that vendors committed a few years back, when the idea of socially integrated CRM burst on to the scene, was to market it as a whole new breed of CRM software, with social undercurrents to all features. Today, however, vendors have taken a more realistic stance. Social media is now looked on as one of the critical integration points for CRM software. Social media has become a feature embedded in the overreaching CRM scope, and is becoming an enabler for customer-facing processes.
For instance, consider CRM software that can integrate with your business’ Twitter account and start monitoring for brand mentions. It can report positive and negative brand mentions in real time, and help your team pitch in with appropriate responses. This kind of social media listening has become a strong point of customer relationship management software.
Better customer categorization
Customer relationship software has always come equipped with the capability to organize and categorize customers across different groups, helping enterprises understand distinct purchase behaviors, and devise strategies targeted at groups with predictable behaviors. However, the era when basic demographics and purchase history could be used to profile customers is over.
Today, a customer’s social media activity is a very realistic and integral indicator of their likes and dislikes, aspirations, and preferences. No CRM software can truly hope to deliver empowering user-profiling services without incorporating the social element. This is where modern CRM software is offering the capability of connecting with public information of a customer’s social profiles, in order to extract information that helps your business understand the customer’s purchase preferences, fine-tuning your marketing and sales actions accordingly.
CRM software is becoming increasingly adept at understanding the meaning of these social signals and building intelligent customer profiles that truly represent individual preferences. As these tools become more mature, the value they add at every step of the social engagement lifecycle of a customer will increase manifold.
LinkedIn integrations — post-Microsoft acquisition
After Microsoft acquired LinkedIn in 2016, speculations pointed towards the opening up of the platform towards CRM solutions. The proverbial wall that LinkedIn put between its data and CRM vendors has been a major roadblock in the journey of social CRM.
That’s because LinkedIn is the numero uno of social media platforms for the business community. Particularly for B2B companies, the benefits of a CRM software well-integrated with LinkedIn are immeasurable.
It is expected that soon enough, Microsoft will start offering basic LinkedIn integrations for a price to traditional CRM solutions, and the latter will then need to absorb the costs and pass on the integration benefits to enterprise users. Though this is nowhere near the dream of augmented data entry based on social media integrations within traditional CRMs, it’s still a step in the right direction.
Rise of social chatbots
2018 is being touted as the year that will belong to chatbots (or Bumblebee, since Bumblebee will have his own "Transformers" movie, but let’s move back on the right track line here). The marketing hype notwithstanding, brands will need to jump on to the social chatbots bandwagon to offer enriched brand interaction experiences to end users.
Social platforms are offering the capabilities of natural language processing (NLP) technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) (not like what is shown in the amazing “Chappie” movie — that is still a couple decades off) to brands via chatbots. By integrating such a chatbot platform with the CRM database, brands can deliver information-rich and value-adding interactions to end users.
Because human interactions are an invaluable component of a brand-customer interaction, social chatbots can be set up to direct conversations to human customer support reps when appropriate. In this way, social CRM can serve as an enabler for automation of customer-facing business processes, social chatbots being one of the applications.
But they can also be extremely annoying. Dealing with the automated computer systems that PayPal and Fidelity use, for instance, can be aggravating. This technology still has lots of improvement that can be made to make the system work better and so a caller has a much better experience when trying to reach a human being that can help them with their situation.
Too good to be true?
Like most technologies, the initial expectations around social CRM were crazily inflated, and too good to be true. Very quickly, the bubble busted, and everyone involved got a reality check. Thankfully, customer relationship management service providers and social media innovators have been able to pick up the debris and rebuild a must stronger, even if less grand, ecosystem, where brands can make the most of customers’ social data to deliver enriching experiences.
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