One year ago (June 15th, 2010 to be precise), I wrote a post titled Social Media: The New Front End of CRM System in which I highlighted that in spite of undergoing a fascinating technological transformation over the last decade, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems essentially record transactional information using pre-determined fields on the screen (front-end) and store that information in database. This customer transaction data repository is essentially at the heart of any CRM system.
In “Social” age, customers are empowered like never before as they can share their experiences and opinions about brands/products on Social Media channels and marketers have no control over what customers are saying about their brands/products. This discussion is visible to all including other customers, potential customers and competitors.
The best any marketer can do is to Listen and Learn from what customers are saying and Engage them in meaningful conversations. In other words, Social Media channels are the new front-end of CRM system and CRM system should be designed in such a way that it captures all relevant information from Social Media channels and uses Predictive Analytics and Knowledge Management tools to derive insights and help in decision making.
Here’s how five key technological trends are driving evolution of CRM into next generation Social CRM systems:
1) Cloud Computing/SaaS CRM:
Social Media channels (like Twitter and Facebook) generate tremendous volume of user generated content created by millions of users. Not possible for CRM system to import/store the data “locally”. This is unlike “traditional” CRM, where data was generated by few users and stored in “local” database. SaaS Model makes it possible to store information in the “cloud” (shared space) and access it from (Social) CRM application “on-demand”
Social Media space is changing and evolving rapidly. Very difficult, if not impossible, for any CRM vendor to incorporate all new channels and feeds “locally” for every installation of CRM system. Under the SaaS model, it is not difficult to add new Social Media channels/feeds to the “hosted” (Social) CRM application and make it available to users “on-demand”
2) Service Oriented Architecture (SOA):
Service Oriented Architecture and Cloud Computing not only make it easy to integrate applications, but also facilitate “plug and play” modules and add-ons that can dramatically reduce time and cost involved in extending functionality of the application. SOA design is of great help in Social CRM as new social media tools and functionality can be added without expensive customization or upgrades as was the case in traditional CRM systems.
3) Real Time “In Process” Analytics:
Predictive analytics has made it possible not only to analyze past customer behavior, but predict future behavior too based on statistical models. Predictive analytics logic/modules can be “embedded” in Social CRM work-flows to analyse and predict customer behavior from “real-time” social network data feed and take corrective action by triggering appropriate work-flows based on pre-defined business rules. For example, if a customer (or a group of customers) tweet about their dissatisfaction with a product or service, predictive analytics can help in identifying who among them are most likely to defect so that company can take corrective action before it is too late. Better still, if they happen to be customer(s) of a competitor, company can make an attractive offer and win them over. And thanks to SaaS model and SOA, this level of real-time “In Process” analytics functionality is available to small and medium sized companies with no large scale investment requirements upfront.
4) Smart Phones and Tablet PCs:
Mobile phones have evolved from “simple” telephones to mobile multi-media communication hub connected to internet via “always on” wireless broadband connection. This is going to be one of the big stories over the next couple of years that will fuel exponential increase in Social Networking Sites and their user base. It is estimated that currently more than 650 million people worldwide, or 13.4% of mobile subscribers, use the Web via a mobile device at least once a month (see this link). This number is all set to skyrocket as inexpensive smart phones continue to flood the market.
Similarly, Tablet PCs, given their large hi-resolution screen with multi-touch input, Accelerometer sensor for UI, touch-sensitive controls and high speed internet access via 3G/4G or Wifi/WiMax have the potential to change the way we use Social Media tools and take Social Networking to a whole new level.
Current Social Media tools such as Twitter or Facebook are “text” or “web-page” UI based. NextGen Social Media tools will leverage full range of functionality available in Tablet PCs and make media consumption for information & entertainment or playing online games a truly Social experience.
5) Enterprise Application and Data Mashups:
In any large or medium enterprise, we have a diverse range of applications such as “on premise” CRM or SaaS CRM, BPM, MDM, ERP etc. to name just a few. Adding Social Networks to Enterprise Application landscape increases complexity of integrating and managing all the applications exponentially not only because of amount of data generated by users on Social Networks but also the need to monitor and respond in “real time”. Enterprise Application and Data Mashups can solve this problem by combining data or functionality from multiple applications and presenting information in the required format in a seamless manner.
In a Social CRM system for example, Enterprise Application and Data Mashups can be used to combine data/functionality from multiple applications such as CRM, MDM, ERP etc. and new services can be created “on the fly” or specific work-flows can be triggered based on pre-defined business rules in a user friendly way.
All the five tech trends discussed above, namely Cloud Computing/SaaS CRM, Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), Real Time “In Process” Analytics, Smart Phones/Tablet PCs and Enterprise Application/Data Mashups are now converging and are set to transform how marketers engage their customers through social media with goal of building trust and brand loyalty!
What do you think? Please do share your thoughts and opinion: