Archives For social business

By Clint Oram, Co-founder and CTO at SugarCRM

Think you know who in your organization is part of your customer service team? Think again. The fact is that almost every employee is potentially customer facing in today’s social era, compliments of Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, to name a few.

Fifteen years ago the customer relationship management dynamic was entirely different and much more finite. Back then employees in just a handful of departments engaged with customers through traditional channels — email, phone, chat or face to face. But the landscape evolved and direct lines of communication to customers have been extended to everyone in an organization — even back-office or “invisible” employees — via social channels. (Here at SugarCRM, for example, several of our engineers might blog for us, and these blogs are read and commented on by our customers.) This practice is not unique to SugarCRM. Many companies encourage their employees to responsibly engage with customers via Google+, Twitter or other social channels.

Unfettered access to a range of employees is a major benefit to customers who want to consocial-customer-care-1nect with company representatives apart from those in the marketing, sales or customer service departments. Today’s customers want to make a human connection with “regular people,” and know, like and trust those they do business with. Social media facilitates this type of connection. But the challenge is ensuring customer engagement is consistent and effective across the company regardless of which communication channel is used. It’s also important to provide value to the customer in each interaction, so having critical, up-to-date customer information at hand is critical throughout the customer journey.

In a recent article on ZDNet, best-selling author, Paul Greenberg, argues that customer’s voices, amplified by social media these days, makes them feel entitled to an amazing customer experience at the speed of light and woe to companies that don’t give it to them. He also goes on to say that if companies want to provide an amazing experience, they really need to understand, and be in close contact with, their customers. They need to be engaged with their customers. What a concept!

So, how do you stay ahead of this challenge and create a customer-centric culture at your company? Here’s a start:

  • Choose a CRM system that extends across the organization to all employees. With traditional CRM systems, we see that they are typically relegated to users in marketing, sales and support. If CRM was extended to everyone in the organization, imagine the customer relationships that could be nurtured and imagine the level of customer satisfaction that could be achieved.
  • Pick a CRM that is social-ready with an advanced user experience. Sugar helps you manage all social interactions with collaboration tools and contextual intelligence within a single dashboard.  This turns every individual into a customer expert by uniquely personalizing their interactions, creating a 360-degree customer view and driving true customer loyalty.
  • Recognize that great customer service is not solved by technology, but rather supported by it. Truly becoming customer-centric may require significant cultural changes inside an organization. Invest in this initiative. By getting every potential customer-facing employee to understand the value that they bring to the organization as a brand ambassador, and equipping them with the tools and information to facilitate superior customer experiences, the results will be overwhelmingly positive.

In our hyper-connected world, it’s imperative that all employees have the same access to customer information to deliver a consistent experience and avoid appearing fragmented and siloed. In essence, all employees can/should evolve into “customer experts.” This is how you ensure customer experience integrity is maintained in the 21st century.

This mission has guided SugarCRM throughout its decade-long history — well before the social media wave hit our shores. The company was, after all, founded on the idea that customer relationship management is more than marketing, sales or customer support automation. We have always inherently championed the individual, and emphasized that each customer-facing employee (these days that means everyone with a Twitter handle or Facebook profile) should be empowered to create extraordinary customer relationships.

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Welcome to our roundup of customer relationship management (CRM) industry news from across the web. This week’s roundup will explore the power of social media within the enterprise in regards to CRM. We’re hunting the ‘net for the latest and greatest, and bringing them to you here, in one convenient weekly post.

Is your business socially-enabled? Have you dismantled your company’s organizational silos? Does your organization possess to the tools that empower individuals to more effectively engage with their customers?

By department, the largest users of social media in enterprises are marketing (with 78% using social media to a moderate to great extent), IT (64%), sales (63%), and customer service (62%). The functions using social media least are operations (46%), supply chain operations (36%), risk management (35%) and finance (28%). (Deloitte University Press)

In order for a company to function effectively in today’s business world, every customer facing employee from customer service, all the way to the C-suite need to participate in the conversation in order to facilitate higher quality customer engagement. The following articles share studies and insights about integrating social media into your business, and also offer an opportunity to learn first-hand from experts within the industry on creating a consistent client experience from administration to sales.

Effective Social Media in your CRM: Loyalty
“Both B2B and B2C companies are relying on CRM to organise these insights about what customers are doing and buying, and to help establish predictive ability to know what and where to target next.” – Simon Chapman

Understanding who your customer is, what they care about, and what they like to do can help complete their 360-degree view to facilitate a consistent customer experience with anyone in the organization who interacts with the customer.

Don’t miss Simon’s track session on Social CRM at this year’s SugarCon – Register here!
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From Social Media to Social CRM-KAM
This presentation by IBM’s Friedel Jonker highlights the social business transformation that IBM underwent in order to help other businesses become  fully socially-enabled enterprises. Their journey investigates the early technologies of customer relationship management (CRM) and key account management (KAM) and later explores the importance of putting the individual back into the social enterprise. IBM defines a social enteprise as “any company or organization that has integrated and operationalized social media within every job function to generate and implement value driving ideas by smarter processes and technology.”
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CRM, Omnichannel and the Quest for Customer Intimacy
“CRM has promised to create a complete, holistic view of the customer, but failed to break organizational silos and to deliver better customer experience.” – Gregory Yankelovich

Gregory acknowledges the trend in global population growth as it is apparent that it there are no plans of it to slow down. As the global reach of the enterprise increases, the customer’s demands and expectations do as well.
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Creating Exceptional Customer Experiences with Social CRM
Sign up for this free webinar presented by SugarCRM, IBM, and Highland Solutions (4/10 3:00 p.m. EST) that will discuss: engaging Customer 2.0 and the benefits of being customer-centric, empowering employees with integrated social business technology, creating a consistent client experience from administration to sales, and more.
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Put the individual back into CRM and into the social enterprise. I hope this was helpful for you and your businesses wherever you are in your social business transformation. Got ideas for other great articles we should include in future CRM Roundup posts? Let us know in the comments below!

I had a great talk this week with the always enlightening Esteban Kolsky. I was briefing him about Sugar’s latest and greatest,101007_curve_sign and our evolving messaging, and he brought up a really nice point: SugarCRM acts as a “change agent” inside our customer companies.

So, what does this mean?

To explain, let’s assume that the majority of organizations out there have constant goals: acquiring customers, supporting customers, retaining customers, driving revenue, controlling costs, etc.  However, the path to those goals changes constantly. Macro-level trends, such as the economy, the explosion of social as a channel, the emergence of mobile as a preferred communication channel, etc. affect how your organization reaches its goals. On a more micro-level, executive management changes, enhancements to internal processes, reactions to customer demands, etc. also force change inside your organization.

The question becomes, then, how do we remain focused on our goals and work towards meeting them – without being either bewildered or bogged down amidst such rapid change at all levels? Many organizations rely on internal “change agents” to help see the proverbial curve in the upcoming road. These individuals are visionaries and usually go above and beyond in helping companies adapt to changes.

But – can a change agent be a thing, and not a person?

Esteban and I outlined how SugarCRM has been a change agent for a lot of our customers. Their goals, as stated above, were constant and solid. But the method for attaining them became more and more difficult. However, rather than get “stuck” trying to achieve their sales, marketing and support goals, many were able to adapt because their CRM technology was forward thinking, “future proof,” or in other words ultimately flexible.

Now, other products might offer “modern” CRM tools (think: social, mobile, cloud) – but very few offer the strategic advantage of being so deeply flexible and channel-agnostic that companies can adapt to the changing tide BEFORE the vendor releases packaged features to address these issues. Our customers, in a lot of areas, are adapting faster than our roadmap – because that’s the luxury deploying Sugar affords them.

And when you combine that flexibility with the kind of strong TCO Sugar provides – the combination makes Sugar an even more attractive change agent. Sure, many products can be customized or altered to fit changing needs, but at what cost? And on whose terms? Adapting to change is one thing, doing so in a strategic and cost-effective manner is another.

So, when thinking about deploying or upgrading your CRM, think about the state of change. And think about how you can adapt to changes with the tools you have, or are thinking to deploy. Again, goals stay the same, the path constantly changes. Is your CRM going to be a change agent seeing the curves far ahead in the road, or a road block on the path to CRM success?

When I read GigaOM’s Mike Jones’s great contribution to the growing discussions on the future of SaaS, one thought kept going through my mind. Who’s taking the customer side in this discussion? So far the SaaS vs. XaaS discussion is mostly a technical and infrastructure discussion. “Acronyms as a Service” is a great idea, but really, shouldn’t it come down to giving customers choices?

It’s not up to our industry to dictate what solution customers should use. It’s up to us to create the solutions that enable customers to choose the right deployment model that meets their specific requirements. For some customers that will be SaaS, for others that will be IaaS or PaaS.

So to add to the discussion and focus it a bit more on CRM, what customers need is choice:

  • The choice to freely move their data between different clouds;
  • The choice to where they want to deploy their CRM instance;
  • The choice to integrate with any open social platform;
  • The choice to access their CRM solution from any mobile platform;
  • The choice to change their CRM when they run against the limitations that come with legacy CRM solutions; both on-premise as well as SaaS.

And for that CRM needs to be open. Today, SugarCRM is the only solution in the market that is open and built for the cloud. This flexibility offers customers choice.

Many have probably seen that Salesforce.com has acquired web conferencing tools provider DimDim for $31m. (The rumors of this deal had been percolating since before Dreamforce so for many this was no surprise at all.)

The deal pits Salesforce.com in many ways against some big companies and very popular products – Citrix’s GoToMeeting and Cisco’s Webex, in addition to IBM’s Lotus Live set of offerings. With its recent platform buy in Heroku, and this new move, it is funny to see Salesforce continue to add competitive concerns and look to enter in large markets where it has no clout, rather than look to live above the competition in one market where it already does well. Confident move?  Yes. Smart move?  Well, we’ll just have to wait…

And while the DimDim acquisition clearly places SFDC in competition with the likes of WebEx and GoToMeeting, Salesforce would like to look at this differently. Salesforce instead sees this as a pocket acquisition to bolster its Chatter functionality – a tool it is already basically just giving away to gain some stickiness for its actual paid apps. So, if SFDC does not really see much future for DimDim save for part of what is now a free add-on, then the $31m price was not a huge price to pay to make a cool new collaboration feature a little more robust.

But again, if Chatter is basically free at this point, why buy DimDim? The product was open source under the GPL. Couldn’t SFDC simply create an integration to the free tool and offer up that integration along with a simple installer to add video and screen sharing tools to Chatter?

I think the answer here is two-fold. One, I have not yet seen SFDC do anything that resembles open source. Yes, they have opened up their toolkits and platforms for developers, but everyone does that. There is just not that type of culture alive at SFDC in my opinion. This is a company steeped in the grand history of proprietary software.

The second reason (which is definitely intertwined with the first) is that due to SFDC’s multi-tenant model, adding DimDim-like resources without wholly owning the code would be problematic. As we know, in order for SFDC to really have a tight handle on anything its users touch, it has to run on its monolithic platform. This makes upgrades and other things easy, but does set limitations on how SFDC can go to market with technology it doesn’t own.

It will be interesting to see if the nature of a GPL licensed piece of software sitting inside a huge multi-tenant database has any effect on the way in which Chatter users are empowered to make, own and redistribute changes.

All in all, this is chump change for SFDC, and while it plots them theoretically against big names like Webex, I can’t see Salesforce actually making any huge headway into standalone video conferencing with the DimDim technology – most likely Salesforce.com will only relegate the functionality as a nice add-on to Chatter.