Calling in the crowd

By Guest Blogger David Beard - Sage

An investment in CRM software is key to customer retention strategy. But without social media interaction, a business'  can only "know" about the conversations had directly. What happens when those customers talk about a business in other forums - blogs, forums, social networking sites, etc ? What about if you could harness the power of ideas talked about in the social sphere to improve your business?

A survey from IBM Institute for Business Value, conducted  with 4,183 top executives across 70 countries, noted that CEOs consider technology the single most important external force shaping their organizations. Further, they and other members of the C-suite, believe that an entirely new set of dynamics is emerging. Specifically, they see that organizational boundaries will become far more porous, enabling greater collaboration with employees, partners & customers to accelerate innovation.

This report highlighted three key themes that will shape an organisation's future. I thought it useful to bring out two of these themes and how this lends further weight to the push for Customer Relationship Management as a foundational (#CRM_As_Foundation) discipline for all business.

1 - Companies will become even more open up to customer influence. Essentially this is all about bringing down barriers so as to extend collaboration inside and outside with customers. Taking this position (i.e. accepting customers as stakeholders in determining an enterprise’s future) has huge cultural and organizational implications. It's as if to say being customer-centric isn't enough - companies must be customer-activated. As one survey respondent noted "As customers gain more power over the business via social media,their expectations keep rising and their tolerance keeps decreasing.”

2 - Companies need to craft engaging customer experiences. The IBM survey describes CxOs as planning to spend more time improving the customer experience. What’s more, no matter what their role, every CxO wanted to become far more involved in managing the customer experience. I know, from a Sage perspective, this is something that is a part of every corner of our business.

However, even though these surveyed companies know that digital channels are a key mean of interacting with customers, initiatives to improve the customer experience were lagging in one area: the social component. Improvements to this area include activities such as the analysis of social data to understand customers’ core values and what’s happening in their lives. These lay the base for customer experiences tailored to the individual.

This, to me, suggests really putting the customer quite literally at the front of CRM - moving beyond the (albeit laudable) "first steps" of harnessing data & coordinating processes that we often talk about in this & other blogs.

So, bringing these ideas together:  Investing time in working across social platforms helps to gain an understanding of customers. Staying tuned in & monitoring the flow of conversation leads to insights & encourages information flow & collaboration within these communities. Harnessing Social Media is an essential part of a business' customer strategy & is, as IBM notes, key to a future where customers are key stakeholders within a business.  

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