Archives For Social Business

When I think of great customer relationship management (CRM), I think first of customer service. In a global marketplace that brings you incredible brands like Amazon.com and Coca Cola or fantastic products like the iPhone and Lexus GS (I own them both), your products alone don’t set you apart from your competitors any more. The way you treat your customers, the relationship you build with your customers is what sets you apart from your competition. In today’s information overload world, customer service is marketing. Just ask Zappos or Rackspace. It’s in their logo!

In the early 90’s I studied for a year at the University of Heidelberg. My lifeline back to home in California was the local Deutsche Bank office where my parents wired me funds every month. I remember that bank office fondly, not just because that was where I picked up my bar money each month. I remember how friendly the bank tellers and the bank manager were. Even though as a university student I had very little money, they always treated me like their most important client. From greeting me by name at the door (it was a small branch), to thanking me for my business that day to wishing me well as I left, great customer service was clearly the mantra of that branch office.

Years later after starting my own business, I have learned that great customer service doesn’t just happen by accident. It’s a philosophy that must be part of a company’s culture. Managers must be relentless in demanding it, employees need to be enthusiastic in delivering it and your customers will quietly smile and come to expect it.

I have found that the philosophy behind great customer service is a simple one. I call it the “Golden Rule of Customer Service”. Treat your customers the way you would like to be treated.

We all enjoy and appreciate it when we are treated well and get the product we are looking for. Certainly if a company can deliver great service with a smile, it will earn my continued business quickly. If the company can consistently deliver high quality service and high quality products, I will become that company’s loyal fan and recommend them to everybody I know.

At this year’s SugarCon on April 23-24 in San Francisco, you will learn all of the latest tips, tricks, techniques and tools for treating customers they way you would like to be treated and how to create a legion of loyal fans. Join us for the fun and you will walk away with the knowledge you need to accelerate and grow your business.

–Clint

SugarCon 2011 (#scon11) is here and it is the place to be.  If you couldn’t make the annual pilgrimage to San Francisco, I’d like to share with you the ideas and direction the Sugar team is discussing this week with our fantastic community of users, customers and partners.  This series of blog posts over the week of SugarCon will give you insight into the ideas shaping our product roadmap, community focus and the direction we are taking the SugarCRM business.

If there is one thing that has become abundantly clear past year, getting business done as we know it today is going through a transformational, “once in a generation” shift.  Powered by open source software and brought to the forefront of our daily lives by social collaboration tools like Twitter and Facebook, we are living through, right now, profound changes in the way companies and customers interact with each other.

We call this the social business, an “always on” dialogue taking place with and around a company using every social collaboration tool imaginable from social network providers like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing, Yelp, IBM LotusLive and more.  This social dialogue about your business covers every topic possible.  Your new customers are comparing notes with other customers.  Your prospects are asking existing customers why they should buy from you and not your competitor.  Your employees are discussing with customers on how to improve your business.  And of course, your customers are letting you know in no uncertain terms what they think of you and your business.

Paul Greenberg, a luminary in the world of customer relationship management and the author of CRM At the Speed of Light, describes the impact of this very public and very transparent dialogue as putting the customer finally in full control of their relationship with you, their vendor of choice.  Remember, you no longer control the customer experience.  Your customers control the customer experience.  The Internet is their stage and everybody is their audience.  Social collaboration tools make social business happen.

With the evolution of the social business, we at SugarCRM clearly see a massive opportunity in front of us to put the focus of the social business on building productive, meaningful relationships that help your customers solve their business problems.  Communication and trust are the foundation of a relationship.

Social collaboration tools deliver the communication part of that foundation.  But how do you build that trust?  That will be the focus of the next article in this blog series.

Many of you may have taken part, or at least seen the results of our recent Social Media Survey.

Some of the highlights of the survey were interesting, but not all that surprising.  Among them, these points stand out to me:

  • Only 26 percent of respondents said they currently integrate their customers’ social networking information with their existing CRM data.
  • 72 percent of respondents said they plan to integrate their customers’ social networking information into their existing CRM data within the next year.

When you put these two together – it would seem that ideally EVERYONE would be undergoing social CRM initiatives in the coming months. That is a huge opportunity, but also a bit scary. There is an amazing propensity for people to overpay “gurus” and point vendors with no real solution in place, and thus not see results because they did not properly align business goals with the IT work underneath. (Really, there is not much difference between the potential social CRM miscues we could see and the high-level “CRM failures” of the Siebel era.)

The plus side?  A lot of the tools needed to “get social” can be accessed (albeit in a more ad hoc or manual manner) for free. This certainly lessens a lot of the financial risk associated with a new IT initiative.

I had an online chat with InformationWeek’s Dana Blankenhorn and he gets it. In his write up on the survey, Dana points out that this need not be an expensive undertaking.

Overall, I think we can safely say that Social is here to stay…now, the real question is – how will you leverage social in your organization to better your business in 2011?

Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in the UK-based B2B Marketing magazine blog series. And, since I think these are points worth repeating (and I wanted to get a blog post out this week!) I am reprinting my thoughts hereAlso note, while it’s true I am too lazy to change spelling back to American English – I think the British English stylizing gives my thoughts a bit of an air of respectability ;)

The explosion of social media over the past several years has certainly begun to make its mark in the business world. What started out as a primarily consumer-driven concept has become big business on many fronts: companies are marketing to customers via social networks; supporting customers and identifying trouble spots via Twitter; and leveraging these new social channels for market research and to qualify leads.

While social channels present an opportunity, companies must not forget the core foundations that actually manage the core data and processes within the organisation. New concepts like ‘social CRM’ are appealing for many reasons. But, ultimately, are not a replacement for traditional CRM. Rather, it is more important to augment existing CRM strategies and systems with social tools – because abandoning core systems could lead to chaos inside the organisation.

To best navigate your move into social CRM, it is useful to ask yourself five simple questions before spending precious time and other resources towards a social media endeavour:

1. Where are my customers and prospects aggregating online?

This seems fairly simple, but might be more complex than it seems.  For large B2C organisations, it may be enough to blast messaging across sites like Facebook. But for more niche markets and products, or more specialised B2B sales models – it may take some more research and listening to your customers before you begin any outreach via social channels.

2. How will this social initiative enhance the customer experience?

Just being social for the sake of being social is useless, and can backfire. For many B2B sales and support organisations, social media should be a means of adding convenience to the sales or customer support cycle – not an intrusive waste of time. Insure that your social interactions are a benefit, not a detractor to the overall customer experience.

3. Am I using social media to hide deeper flaws in my business?

Many companies are using social media as a “band-aid” to hide poor support processes or other problem areas. Customers who tweet about a bad experience get preferential treatment; but what does that really solve?  Before adding layers of social engagement, try to insure your customer-facing processes are already strong before exposing them to the hyper-critical social channels.

4. Who will be responsible for our social outreach?

This is a huge problem area for those looking to jump into social business. If you are going to generate leads, or attempt to handle customer complaints via social media – insure that a proper escalation path is in place. If a customer reaches out via social media and gets no response – it is almost worse than not having a social policy. Insure the right people are in place to quickly and consistently manage inquiries received via social channels.

5. How will I track and measure success?

It is very easy for a social media initiative to create even more data silos, with loads of data not providing insight. However, if you tightly integrate your social tools and data with well-structured existing systems like a CRM tool, you can more effectively track interactions and outcomes. Again, social CRM is not a new concept in itself – we are just using new technology to do what we have always done as  businesspeople: attract and manage customer relationships.

Are you searching social networks for leads? Connecting with potential partners on LinkedIn? Are your support agents reaching troubled customers with Twitter?

If you are using social media as part of your CRM strategy – we want to hear from you!  We have put together a short survey to learn how companies and individuals are leveraging social data in their business life.

So, wether you have a full-scale company wide social CRM agenda, or are simply a savvy ales rep using LinkedIn to eliminate cold calls – We’d love to hear from you.

Take the short survey here: Social Media Survey

In addition to providing some valuable data on social media usage, you can qualify for a Free iPod Shuffle prize pack!

I will share the results of the survey on Outsiders once complete. Thanks for providing insight!