Improving Customer Engagement with Social CRM

In a previous post I discussed how the social revolution impacted customer relationship management (CRM) and underlined that while processes designed to derive value in CRM remain valid, they are far from being sufficient in the context of social CRM (SCRM). Yet most organizations need structure to conduct their activities.

As far as CRM is concerned, the social aspect has brought to the surface what already existed but had been dodged by businesses, for a long time—the pervasive opinions and attitudes of their customers. By widely spreading individual opinions, social media has encouraged businesses to transform their exchanges with customers. As a consequence, quite a few businesses today have SCRM strategies in place. In this post, I’ll outline some of the potential benefits of SCRM to businesses and their clients.

Opportunity to Set Up Customer-engaging Projects

In a dialogue with Ms. Himada, PhD candidate in the interdisciplinary humanities program in society and culture at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada, about the “relation between theory and practice” in concept creation, Ms. Manning, research chair in relational art and philosophy and teacher in fine arts at the same institution, states:

“Each project creates its own conditions for experimentation and proposes its own techniques. But without attentive development of the potential of these openings, a project can easily fall flat . . . Each event is its own fine balance between choreography and improvisation.”

With Ms. Manning’s thoughts in mind, I see that SCRM has the potential to generate singular ‘choreographed-improvised’ customer-engaging projects. Such projects can take, of course, many forms but let’s try to look at them from two perspectives by simplifying sentiments into two categories: negative and positive.

There are two obvious reactions to negative collective sentiments. One is fixing or improving the product. The other is identifying the individuals that are acutely unhappy and loud, and collaborating with them. While both these actions may be necessary, they do not move toward appeasing the sentiment of the group.

A company need not stop at appeasing the most unsatisfied clients while ignoring the rest. But contacting each unhappy individual remains an impossible task for any company. Nevertheless, setting the stage to display the opinions of noise makers through online communities is one form of such ‘choreographed-improvised’ customer-engaging projects. What are the specific benefits to these types of projects?

Addressing Negative Client Sentiment

First, the sentiment and its presumed causes are stated. Additionally, organizations draw up a set of rules within which clients expose their experience or vision with respect to the sentiment. A mediator might or might not be needed. Clients can comment on the proposed sentiment-cause relationship or demonstrate other relationships. The end result is that the company is now aware of important information that helps shape client attitudes—which they can do something about.

Second, projects can be created to generate clarification or validation of problems. For instance, if certain customer complaints are absurd, such projects will prove them to be so.

Third, ethical and cost considerations behind the termination of certain lines of products can be brought to the forefront. Businesses and their clients can engage in dialogue with the understanding that some products need to be transformed or left behind altogether. This enhanced understanding on the part of the client can help appease their sentiment toward a wanted product that is no longer available.

One-on-one interactions with the client invite businesses to revisit their predefined notions of how to be professional in customer relationships. Customer-facing individuals can display a methodical approach to dealing with problems and client frustration. While doing that, they could also consider leaving the door open for improvisation and “the ability to allow [an encounter] to fail [or] to not take the shape that [was] imagined,” as Manning says.

A customer-facing employee may or may not be able to resolve or address the issue at hand. But, the encounter happens. To the customer, the employee’s interaction with him or her at that moment might be more significant than the actual resolution of the issue at hand. While the actual answer can be provided to the client at a later time, the dialogue cannot be re-enacted. What remains is the experience. And it is that experience that will be displayed on social media platforms.

Addressing Positive Client Sentiment

Positive sentiment can elicit two main types of reactions on the part of the customer-facing individual. The first is to have no response. The second is to try to capitalize on the positive by employing strategies such as propaganda, or pushy sales and up-sales.

Following the same notion of ‘choreographed-improvised’ customer-engaging projects, organizations could also set up customer-employee appreciation projects. This endeavor would set the stage for both clients and employees to introduce and share ideas for the future as well as recognize how the customer experience evolves over time—all in a relaxed atmosphere, with no pressure.

So, in conclusion, social technologies offer businesses the option to create collective irreproducible projects and in so doing engage clients and employees in a much desired zone of collaboration where notions regarding customer experience and satisfaction can be redefined on an ongoing basis.
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