Posted by: mcgratha | January 2, 2011

Customer engagement

Continuing the theme of the Future of ECM … trend #5 …

Social CRM

And so it starts, reminiscent to when we started putting an “e” in front of everything back in 1999 (such as eCommerce, eBusiness, eBay), it now looks like there is going to be a flux of “social” everything. Social CRM (Customer Relationship Management) kicks things off on the business front.

Social CRM is about utilising social media tools to listen and interact with customers, engaging with them at a more personal level across a multitude of online touch points. It introduces a new angle on top of traditional CRM, in that instead of just dealing with and managing customer data, transactions and money, Social CRM deals with conversations and relationships with the customer. Social CRM focuses on a strategy for customer engagement, not managing customer data.

Prior to buying a product or a service, customers are increasingly influenced by their online peers, with reviews, comments, observations made by others online about a company or its products heavily factoring into the purchasing decision. As such it is very important that companies monitor and react to their brand perception online. However, Social CRM is not about trying to respond to the vast amount of information that is posted about them across every customer contact point (such as blogs, forums, tweets, Facebook, etc). That would not be scalable, they would quickly become overwhelmed and switch into “fire-fighting” mode, and it just wouldn’t make sense.

The real value will come from being able to extract common patterns across all social touch points, identifying shared problems and requirements, collaborating with customers to help give them what they want and improving the overall customer experience. This will hopefully lead them to leave positive comments about their experience online which others will read and be influenced by.

So how is this relevant to the future of ECM? Many of the same social tools as discussed in my blog The Collaborative Office will also be required to deliver Social CRM. It is just a different focus in how they are used. This focus isn’t just from an external context, but also from an internal perspective as Social CRM business activities are likely to lead to the generation of lots of new content, such as sharing ideas for innovation, generating brand awareness and visibility, capturing direct and indirect feedback on social networks and communities, creation of new content to aid sales and help customer service (for example, “how to” videos), polls/voting, surveys, etc.

It will accelerate the need for a much greater fusion between CRM, social computing and ECM (specifically the web content management side, see my blog Evolutionary Road).

Sentiment Analysis

The uptake of Social CRM, and the associated social digital marketing activities that accompany it, has created a need in the market to be able to monitor and track the effectiveness of customer engagement initiatives and brand perception. This need has been met through what is largely referred to as Sentiment Analysis, which analyses content across many sources  over the Internet (sometimes referred to as listening posts – e.g. Twitter,  Facebook) to derive the public sentiment (typically positive, neutral or negative) about a certain brand or topic, which enables companies to understand their brand perception and take early action. Sentiment Analysis tools can provide significant value-add around areas such as campaign launching, new product launches, brand monitoring and measuring, competitive intelligence, and crisis management. For example, sentiment analysis might be run against a specific product that a company sells capturing information on how that product is perceived by consumers. Based on this information, the company might make changes to its web site to address common issues/concerns raised by consumers. Running the sentiment analysis again, say, a month later, will identify if the issues/concerns have been addressed.

Some companies (such as Gatorade and Dell) have set up Social Media Command Centres, akin to a “war room”, to monitor conversations about their brands in real-time across social media channels, and quickly act upon the feedback received.

I expect that Sentiment Analysis tools will be increasingly used hand in hand with web content management and social computing tools within an overall ECM suite.

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