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How social are your CRM and Customer Service?

Home/Business Solutions, Customer Relationship Management, English/How social are your CRM and Customer Service?

What makes a CRM social?

We found a lot of material about social CRM with various definitions, interpretations, guidelines and some really impressive graphs about the character of a social CRM. This is a clear indicator, that there is no official truth or definition available.

We therefore take the freedom to create our own definition:

A social CRM manages all identities and interactions of a business contact your organization deals with during the whole lifecycle of a contact.

Simple definition, spectacular side-effects

What sounds easy at first glance shows up to have a lot of hidden side-effects, when the definition is taken seriously. Let’s look at the 4 most important social dimensions: contacts, interactions, lifecycle and value chain:


Instead of managing a contact in the CRM you manage a contact plus all his identities – and all its identities’ attributes. As a user you want to open your CRM and then have the currently relevant contacts presented on your dashboard. And for each contact you want to know in which social networks you can find its profile.

The CRM must tell you, that there is a chance to connect to a contact on a social network and if you connect, you want to do so from inside your CRM.

As each identity might have different information about a contact, you don’t want to edit and modify your information in the CRM, you expect the system to show all information that is relevant for that contact. A social CRM should not duplicate all information, but only use those chunks of information that are relevant to you.


Contacts are the anchors, but social interactions are the fuel to make a social CRM social. On all channels. On all networks. Around the clock. Social never sleeps, but you hopefully do. So we need support for queuing, delegating, prioritizing and automating to be able to focus on the right things at the right time.

Interactions sounds a bit fuzzy so I am going to define some samples.

Message interactions
  • sending a personal social message to a contact
  • sending a public post to a connected network or group
  • receiving a personal social message from a contact
  • receiving a post from a contact from any connected network
  • sending or receiving a “classical” message as E-Mail, SMS, FAX etc

All described actions relate to messages and posts from whatever source. The important thing is, that a social CRM should take care, that information from any source is displayed in one stream. If you respond, the CRM must know which channels are to be used for a response and should offer an editor that ensures, that your message can be send properly to the selected target.

Remember: One contact might prefer to receive his message per e-mail, even though he sent his request per Twitter. And if the CRM knows, that the specified user prefers to be contacted via mobile, the message should not embed big attachments fpr that specific channel.

Contact interactions

If your CRM helps you to manage communication via messages, you still might want to acquire new contacts. If you use LinkedIn, XING or other social networks, you know the feature to see contacts of your contacts which helps you to identify potential prospects. You can now contact somebody or have yourself being recommended by your contacts, but your CRM does not know nothing about these interactions.

A social CRM helps you to identify relations between people, common interests, common group memberships, participation on posts etc. And the social CRM lets you add additional information that is not available elsewhere. Data enrichment might be a competitive advantage in several cases.

Compared to a social network a social CRM does not only know what a contact does on one network, it will join all data from all networks to give you a full picture of a contact and its environment and ecosystem it “lives” in at least virtually.

You can even try this manually:

  • Take your time to gather the data of one contact in your CRM, enhanced by all its data on all relevant social networks.
  • Then analyze the person’s posts and comments over a period of 3-6 month to find out the major interests of that person.
  • Analyze the e-mails you exchanged with that person and take a look at all attachments you exchanged.
  • Don’t forget to take a look at all opportunities with that contact.
  • Find out, if other people of your company had anything to do with this contact. You can probably find some information in your CRM, but also on the social networks, where you probably can also find out, which people of your own organization are connected to your contact.

By now you should have a decent picture about your contact, you are just missing all information of inbound marketing activities and you don’t know what other people in your company have discussed with that contact.

If you tried the “manual tour” for one contact in full, you will probably gain a first understanding of a social CRM’s power.


In a typical CRM a contact is entered either because of an existing connection or because somebody has bought address material to populate the system for cold calls. But you completely miss what happens on your websites, landing pages, social networks and in the worst case you do not even know about interactions in your support.

In a social CRM the lifecycle of a contact starts in the marketing phase and might end with a failed re-engagement. But this lifecycle is much longer than ever before. And it requires a complete redesign of the value chain.

Value chain

A lot of us remember “the good old times”, when marketing and sales did not have to interact. When support and product management did not know each other. When websites have been dumb business-cards without interaction. When users did not dare to criticize publicly. When complaints were sent in letters and response times of 8 weeks have been fully acceptable.

In a social CRM there is NO OPTION TO NOT TIE THE VALUE CHAINs of marketing, sales, support and hopefully product management TOGETHER.

Classical CRM tools can’t be just updated to be social

If we look at just the core dimensions we defined, we have to admit, that even the best classical CRM tools can not be updated to be social CRM tools. Social CRM covers a completely different philosophy than classical CRM systems and that is reflected in the process- and value chains implemented in those systems.

If a classical CRM system suddenly becomes a social CRM, it is mostly the result of a marketing slide, nothing more than that. Social CRMs must be social by design, from scratch.

Let’s be social. Get out of here!

One of the biggest challenges with social CRMs is probably the fact, that established comfort zones, silently erected barriers and budget disputes between

  • Marketing and Sales
  • Sales and Support
  • Sales and Product management

and other players are suddenly amidst the discussions.

Inventing a social CRM means rethinking everything. Considering if a company really wants to go that way. And we all know: It is hard to find people welcoming you with open arms, if you ask them to change something.

Since the transition to a social CRM cannot be covered by a simple software update, why should one bear that burden at all?

Don’t start without a clear reason

For any project we have to accept, that change causes resistance. So change has to create value to make the efforts acceptable. But why should anybody start a “social CRM” project at all?

It seems to be uncomfortable, causes efforts and costs, the employees don’t want it and managers probably don’t want it either. So what is the point?

Internet has changed our customers

Well, that is the point. Internet has delivered a market transparency that has changed not only the customer behaviour but their expectations. Nowadays people expect easy access to service, immediate response and open communication and information.

And people start hating traditional sales, direct marketing, old fashioned advertising or plumb attempts to hide mishaps of a company.

Customers rule the market, it is long time ago that the vendors ruled the customers. 

The classical CRM processes and tools are implemented for a market that has been there 10 years before.

Customers expect you to deliver like the vendor of tomorrow.

And this is exactly the point that causes pressure for all those that do not jump on the social CRM train, no matter how hard it hurts to jump.


As always the basic rule of thumb is: If you don’t take the train at the right time, your competitor might sit in the first class apartment sipping some drinks with your best customers.

So, start checking out today how far you are away from being a player of tomorrow.

Ich schreibe über Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Customer Service, Customer Journey, Inbound Marketing, Content Marketing, Social Media, Software, SharePoint, Office 365, über Projekterfahrungen, Projekt-Turnarounds und Startups.
Ansonsten bin ich Trailrunner, Mountainbiker, Zuhörer, Erzähler, Startup-Macher und CEO
By |July 16th, 2014|5 Comments