Over the past several weeks I have been trolling around the Customer Service organizations of nine seperate companies, each of which has been focused on CRM for at least ten years. They also have Social CRM projects. In conversations with their customers I’ve asked which is more important to you: ‘participating in the conversations about the company’ or ‘getting what you want from the company?’ In every instance, what customers most want is to be treated fairly. The ‘control of the conversation’ or ‘engaging about the company’ or whatever variant of social CRM that one throws at them comes a distant fifth. Price/Quality/Convenience/Fairness are the top four – bar none. You will find that electronics manufacturers, online retailers, car companies and restaurants outshine businesses like facebook or almost any wireless provider, in no small part because the ‘four P’s’ of Price, Promotion, Product (which includes customer service as part of the ‘solution’ aspect), and Placement – things we learned as first year business students – were solved for.
Yes, yes, yes, I know that the nabobs of social media will try to refute my position. What they will not do is bring statistically solid empirical evidence. Instead they will blather on about the many examples of where ‘participation’ and ‘reviews’ are what made business success possible. I have heard all of this evidence. I know that shopping networks and online retailers would not dare give up Bazaarvoice ( http://www.bazaarvoice.com/). And companies like comScore will argue, cogently and correctly, that customer reviews are a must for success of many products. I agree. This reinforces my point rather than refutes it. Social aspects – in this case consumer reviews – are amplifying the truth about the Four Ps. Get these right. By all means use social channels and processes. But stay focused – social is a way of peeling back the dross. Customers will tell us a lot. Let them ‘control’ the conversation, but do this by providing the guardrails, the train tracks, subtly. Your customers will like the transparency of you saying: “Hey all! We are supporting, aggressively, your conversations. Why? Because we want you satisfied that we are getting the basics right.” Social CRM is different than Social Media or Social Networking in that it is highly intentional – focused on customer advocacy and excellence. Not conversations or engagement generally.
The crucial derivative benefit of analyzing what the customer community is saying about your Four Ps is that you will be better able to focus on where to invest in marketing, sales and service. Where should you focus? What is a process gap and what is a technology gap? Which problems are about real-time decision support and which about lack of channel integration. Again: this is Intention Social CRM, and it works.
As an aside: Check out the ACSI website for details on customer satisfaction in the United States (http://www.theacsi.org/). If you know of analogous sites for Europe and Asia, let me know.