Have you heard about social CRM lately? Probably not. The reason for that is simple — old social CRM model is dead, especially since the famed ‘LinkedOut’ event. For those not in the know, a bunch of early social CRM systems specialized in harvesting LinkedIn data. LinkedIn decided that this information is far too valuable, that LinkedIn users don’t enjoy being spammed, so they restricted API access to a group of selected CRM systems.
Likewise, all ideas to use other social networks for prospecting, be they Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, have mostly failed as well. And, to be perfectly honest, this outcome could have been easily predicted. After all, social networks have the right and the obligation to protect their users from unsolicited marketing, and protecting personal data is the key to this process.
Another early social CRM promise was data enrichment. CRM veteran Jon Ferrara founded Nimble CRM with this promise. It went something like this. Suppose you have a prospect named Peter. Peter uses social media, like Facebook and Twitter. If we import his recent tweets and Facebook posts to his CRM profile, then our sales person can sell to Peter more efficiently, because they’ll know what’s going on in Peter’s life from his social media activities.
Alas, this promise didn’t pan out either. Seven years later, Nimble, like all other early social CRM tools, is very much a niche player with a very limited audience. Compare this to social media management and social listening tools, like Hootsuite, Buffer or SproutSocial, some of which claim to have more than 10 million users and valuation that exceeds one billion dollars. Ouch!
Does this mean social CRM is dead? Well, yes and no. Yes, because prospecting, social listening and enrichment have demonstrated their practical limits and usefulness over the past 7–10 years. We know what works, what doesn’t work and to what extent. No, because social network potential is far beyond simple prospecting and data enrichment tools.
New generation of social CRM, like Bitrix24 Open Channels and others like it, treat social networks and messengers differently. First and foremost, they are COMMUNICATION CHANNELS, just like email or telephony. Second, they are ADVERTISING MEDIA, like television or radio. Compare that with the early idea that social CRM primary goals are social prospecting, signaling and data enrichment.
At a first glance, as far as customer is concerned, there isn’t much difference between email and social media, when you think about both as a communication channel. You have a question or a complaint, you send an email and get a reply via email. Or you call the company and resolve the issue over the phone. Or you contact company in Facebook and get your reply there. The reason why customers chose to contact company via social media is because you get response much faster. Social media are public and companies care about their perception.
But now look at social media as a customer communication channel from the business prospective. Most companies use helpdesk or contact center software, so when someone calls or sends an email, the call is routed or ticket is created. A responsible person is assigned to it, usually automatically. The call or email ticket can easily be transferred to another employee, like manager or tech support specialist. Priority level can be changed. Automatic responses are available. All appropriate information is automatically added to customer records. Clients can rate support agents.
NONE of those tools are available in social networks or popular messengers.
Suppose you list your company Whatsapp or Viber number on your website. You start receiving messages from clients. Can you carry on ten conversations at the same time? With phone or email — easily. With mobile messengers — no. There is no way to transfer Skype chat session from one employee to another. There are no escalation tools. There are no canned responses. We know what usually happens. One employee grabs his or her laptop and physically walks to another employee who knows the answer. It’s not a very efficient way to do business.
That’s why we’ve created Open Channels for Bitrix24. It’s clear that email and phone calls are on the decline and social and mobile messengers are on the rise. So, modern social CRM absolutely must have queueing and routing, conversation transfer, and other tools that have long been available for other managing clients via email and telephones. Bitrix24 already does for the most part (we are looking at you WhatsApp — it’s 2017 and you still don’t have public API available).
Now, if you look at social networks and messengers as an advertising media, the possibilities are even bigger. If you look at a traditional CRM, its primary sales tools there are email and telephony. Suppose somebody calls you or send you an email. That information is automatically added to your CRM (if your CRM is any good, that is). What happens next is usually one of these two things. You either schedule follow up calls or launch a series of automated emails. Or both. Which is all fine and dandy, but once again, it’s 2017 and you can easily target specific users in Facebook, Google and other places based on their email address or phone numbers.
Consider the following scenario. You receive a phone call or an email message. Your CRM automatically captures the lead and your sales person qualifies the prospect. You could keep calling and emailing the person OR you could do something different this time. You can now add this phone number or email address to your Facebook targeting group A and this client will start seeing your ads every time they log into their Facebook account, urging them to take the next step.
Suppose they do take the next step and sign up for a webinar or click a link or do any other action that your CRM is capable of tracking. You can then remove this person from the targeting list or move this prospect to targeting list B. Again, fully automatically. This, to me, sounds like a much more sensible strategy, then hoping to make a sale by reading person’s 10 last tweets. Would you rather have a CRM that automatically schedules a phone call ten minutes after it detects that your prospect has finally watched the presentation you’ve emailed last week or a CRM that sends you endless notifications that yet another prospect has updated her Instagram status? If you’ve picked #1, that’s the social CRM system we are building right now.
The final piece of a successful social CRM model in our view is omnichannel mode. If modern CRM systems automatically log and record phone conversations, attach email exchanges, store live chat sessions, it only makes sense if you Facebook Messenger or Telegram conversations are added to your CRM records as well. We are pretty far along this path already.
Granted, it’s likely we’ll make some mistakes along the path. Maybe a lot. Perhaps, some of our assumptions are naïve as well. But we have also taken precautions to avoid mistakes made by early social CRM pioneers.
First, we’d like our social CRM tools to be widely adopted. That’s why our social CRM tools are mostly free. Second, we integrate as many social networks and messengers as possible, because we don’t want to be ‘linked out’, like those who’ve centered their CRM around a single network. Third, we think that social CRM is still primarily CRM. Add great social tools to a mediocre CRM, and you end up with a mediocre social CRM, not a great one.