Serve Your Social CRM Customer

By Kyle Lacy, Stephanie Diamond, Jon Ferrara

The state of social customer service for Social CRM should remind everyone of Malone’s Laws of Technology, created by Michael S. Malone, former editor of Forbes ASAP and the author of The Guardian of All Things: The Epic Story of Human Memory (St. Martin’s Press).

The law states, “All technological revolutions arrive later than we expect, but sooner than we are prepared for.” Such is clearly the case for social customer service. It’s here, but most companies aren’t ready for it.

If you’re just getting started in formulating your social CRM plan, consider the following:

  • Use the right platform for the type of complaint — fast versus slow. If your product demands quick answers (in an industry such as information technology, for example) integrate a platform like Twitter that allows you to monitor customer concerns in real time. Customers will appreciate that you understand the urgency of their questions.

  • Use video or step-by-step documentation in help and support areas on your website. Create quick videos or step-by-step documentation based on your FAQs to help those who learn better using different formats. Seeing the answers in action satisfies customers.

  • Be generous with service. I know this one is obvious, but sometimes it’s ignored in favor of cost cutting. If anyone questions whether this strategy works, just ask Zappos. (They quickly built a multibillion dollar online shoe company by strictly focusing on customer service.)

  • Make sure employees understand that responding to negative comments in kind is forbidden. One customer’s negative comments can become a war of words with employees. Shut this one down before it happens. It becomes a food fight and everyone but your company will enjoy the play-by-play. Share a set of clear commenting guidelines with anyone in your company who responds to customers.

  • Give enough information online so that customers can make the right buying decision the first time. One easy way to get this done is to assign yourself the task of buying one of your products. On your website, look around, check out the data, look at shipping information, find out how to return an item, and so on. The key is to do it yourself.

Make sure that you understand why your customers use social media to connect with you. A study by IBM called From Social Media to Social CRM found that the top two reasons why consumers interact with brands on social media are for discounts and purchasing links. Companies, on the other hand, put those two reasons on the bottom of their list. It’s important to have the facts.

It’s always fun to compare your own company to others. When it comes to social media, the stakes are high. In 2009, Wetpaint and the Altimeter Group did a study called Engagement: Ranking the Top 100 Global Brands. They looked at the social engagement of the top brands to see whether their participation in social media impacted revenue.

They found that the brands fell into one of four engagement profiles. Why not see how your company compares? Here are the profiles:

  • Mavens: These are brands that are engaged in seven or more social channels (the term channels refers to platforms like Facebook and Twitter) and that have a high engagement score. (A high score means that they actively monitor and communicate through these channels.)

  • Butterflies: These brands are engaged in seven or more social channels but have a low engagement score.

  • Selectives: These brands are engaged in six or fewer channels and have high engagement scores.

  • Wallflowers: Brands labeled Wallflowers are engaged in six or fewer channels and have low engagement scores.

The most important finding in the study was that financial performance correlated with engagement. Brands that had higher social engagement with their customers had higher revenue returns. That’s a great incentive to increase your social engagement right now. Nobody wants to be a wallflower.

Now that you’re formulating how your social CRM program will work, you’ll want to think about what key social metrics you should capture. According to Debra Donston-Miller in The BrainYard, an InformationWeek publication, you should consider several social metrics, including the following:

  • Quality of fans and followers: This is a key distinction. Sometimes managers use the number of followers as their only measure of how well they’re doing. This is half the picture and won’t bring the returns you hope for. You may have acquired followers by virtue of one blog post or one offer, and they’ll never return again. You want to evaluate how much engagement your followers display.

  • Social demographics: Understanding your customer demographics is a must for any business. Psychographics tell you about customer attitudes and opinions. Knowing who your customer really is ensures that the content you create and the offers you make will hit the mark.

  • Most popular pages, posts, and tweets: Examining the response to your content is another must-do. Your content is the foundation for all your efforts. For example, if you see a great response to an article or topic, you may want to consider how to monetize it. If customers are very excited about several articles you’ve written about a topic, perhaps you want to create an expanded e-book for sale.

  • Conversions: This one is everyone’s favorite goal. It’s the one that keeps the lights on. But conversions don’t only refer to purchases. It could be anything that turns an observer of your business into a participant.

These are a good start. You’ll want to add several others as you get more familiar with how you can integrate your social data with your standard CRM data. Remember that metrics must be meaningful to your business. If they’re not, find ones that are.