Traditional CRM is about gathering data and knowing all about your customer. Gaining insight into your customer and his or her behavior traditionally allows a company to better respond to it’s customer needs, provide better quality service and generally leads to market succes. Over the last 10 years companies have invested in CRM systems for Sales, Marketing and Service and gather quite a lot of data on their customers and customer behavior. Much of this data has been put to good use, it is a lot easier to get high value services from the companies you do business with and companies or government insitutions are able to adapt quickly to the changing needs of their customers / consituents.
Our behavior as consumers is changing however. They way we interact with companies, make decisions on which products to purchase has changed significantly since the late ’90s. The usage of internet has risen dramatically, using social networking sites like facebook and myspace have become part of our daily routine and do we even remember how we used to find information before Google? When I recently bought a new LCD flat panel HD TV I did most of my research online (but I still bought it at a brick and mortar store). This changed behavior provides companies new possibilities to interact with (potential) customers. The number of possible touchpoints has greatly increased, if a company is able to capitalise on the wealth of opportunities today’s Web 2.0 environment offers.
Image courtesy of Brent Leary (http://www.brentleary.com)
Not only are consumers searching for information about your company or your products or services online, web 2.0, communities, blogs and other tools offer companies a wealth of information on your consumers as well. As the graph above indicates social media users believe that companies should engage the customer in a conversation on Social Media sites. The challenge however is to use social media in a non intrusive way. No one wants to be ‘friended’ by a company on facebook, I however would like to have the opportunity to contact companies for service regarding their product online, possibly through branded communities. I would also applaud VRM like applications that would allow me to inform all the companies that I do business with of an address change online (perhaps through something as simple as Plaxo). Social Media also offers the possibility to research your clients and determine how to best serve or contact them. Using Social Media for CRM is far from mature, Oracle has started offering plugins for popular social media tools in it’s Siebel CRM application and others are sure to follow. We are on the verge of a new development in CRM and we’ll see loads of tools popping up that will allow companies and consumers alike to engage in mutually benificial conversations with each other. The future holds a lot of promise, let’s see what will happen in 2009.