People, process and technology are three primary dimensions that determine the success or failure of any business initiative. Social CRM is no different.

From a process standpoint, the traditional processes need to be tuned to integrate with social inputs. Whereas the traditional processes may be more detailed or cumbersome, the social media related processes need to be agile. The integration of processes is essential to ensure that social media doesn't become another channel working in a silo.

From a technology standpoint, the enterprise needs to choose the right social media channels that are most relevant to their business and stakeholders. It may also need a new set of tools that can gather the right intelligence from these channels and make the information beneficial to the CRM processes.

Last but not least is the people dimension. Employees, customers and partners are the stakeholders in a social CRM initiative. They will adopt social CRM only if they gain something from it. These gains can different for different stakeholders, for example improved experience, higher productivity, reputation, response time, etc. In the following sections, we will further explore how an organization can manage the risks of failure related to people changes and ensure the best possible experience from its social CRM initiatives.

Challenges in Social CRM Adoption

There are a number of challenges that need to be overcome for a successful social CRM initiative. If not managed properly, these challenges can become a threat for the social CRM program. The key challenges are:

  • Cultural shift: Conversation control shifts in favor of the customer. Customers can go viral with their complaints damaging the brand. The mindset of the organization needs to change to “engage” customers rather than “control” their relationships.
  • Lack of trust: Customers’ lack of trust in the organization or brand will be apparent via the social media messages. An open and transparent relationship with the customers with a genuine interest to meet the customer needs will need a change to the way a customer relationship is managed.
  • Resistance to change: Social CRM requires a change in the way employees or partners go about their daily activities. This change can be in terms of processes managed, responsibilities handled, etc. Unless the benefits of these changes are made clear and the changes percolate through the system, there may be a high level of resistance hampering the delivery of the social CRM initiatives.
  • Lack of skills and guidelines: An employee's presence on Facebook doesn't mean that he can become a good social agent. Without the right set of skills and guidelines, employees may put out incorrect communication or divulge confidential information and cause a negative impact on social media.
  • Working in silos: Lack of collaboration between different units/partners will lead to isolated social CRM initiatives. Their adoption will be limited and within the boundaries of the unit. This will lead to inconsistent customer messaging and a potentially disconnected experience for the customer.

As these challenges relate to people, there is a strong case for a well-defined change management approach that will gradually bring about the change in the mindset of the various stakeholders.

Change Management Process

A typical change management model for a social CRM initiative can be represented as below. The three key stakeholders – employees, partners and customers – need to be considered during all stages.

Prepare for Change

The “social” way of working requires a change to the culture of the organization. The social customer exercises a much higher level of control. The conversations are visible to a large audience and may consist of criticism more often than appreciated by the organization. In turn, the organization has to listen, learn and act from this vast source of unique conversations in social media. The organization needs to assess the readiness of its key stakeholders for adapting to social changes.

Customers: There are various factors that impact the level of adaption of social media of customers for organizations. These may be geographic (developed versus developing countries), demographic (Gen Y versus Gen X) or industry (retail versus utilities). An organization with significant customer presence in social media has a higher opportunity to improve customer engagement via that channel. Other organizations may need to plan on providing specific incentives to encourage customer adoption of social media. These incentives can be defined in terms of reputation related rewards, loyalty points or direct rewards, such as coupons.

Employees: Employees at different levels within the enterprise need to be aligned with the social CRM initiative. At the senior management level, there needs to be strong sponsorship and commitment toward imbibing “social” in the CRM processes. In more traditional or conservative organizations, there may be a need to bring in change agents who can spread enthusiasm and accelerate employee on-boarding.

For employees who are actually going to participate in the social initiatives, there is a need to empower and train them with the right set of processes and tools that can help the organization benefit. As an example, social media usage policies and guidelines need to be created. Employees would need to be trained to use different social media and may even need special skills related to building virtual gaming or community environments. Reward and recognition practices would also need to be tuned to capture social media metrics such as determining SLAs of customer service issues via Twitter. Identification of these metrics would need to be done during the planning phase.

Partners: Partner organizations in the value chain are in a position to influence the success or failure of a social CRM initiative. It is important to keep the partners involved in the social CRM strategy process and get their inputs on the initiatives being planned. If a car company is planning a social media campaigns for the launch of its new model, all dealers need to be engaged to handle leads from these campaigns. They also should be sending out the same message via their own social CRM initiatives. Integrating the partners from the planning stage itself will ensure that there is no disconnect during implementation.

Involving these stakeholders from the beginning of the social CRM initiative and communicating the strategy and purpose regularly via appropriate channels can help build a stronger buy-in. Also, getting inputs from the experts in these different constituencies in the strategy and planning process can reduce resistance and improve the possibility of success.

Manage the Change

This phase involves the actual implementation of the social CRM initiatives. Starting small with a pilot or trial program is an excellent method to introduce social CRM. The pilot should preferably involve people from different units within the organization, partners and customers. It should have some identified metrics that can be tracked to measure its success. For example, a Twitter service account can be a suitable pilot for a customer service-oriented organization. By measuring metrics like call deflection or customer satisfaction via Twitter, the organization will be able to measure the success of the pilot. A successful pilot can serve as a stepping stone to a full-blown social CRM program.

Customers: From a customer perspective, they will use social CRM only if they see a benefit. Customers will not use a social channel that is primarily used to send unsolicited marketing messages or take feedback without action. It is, therefore, important to:

  • Identify, recognize and reward customer advocates that create or contribute content;
  • Provide consistent messaging to customer across different channels including social media;
  • Ensure that customer insight from social media such as their interactions with the organization via Twitter are factored into 360-degree visibility; and
  • Provide customers the visibility to the resolution of issues or implementation of their suggestions so they feel valued and are willing to spend their time and energy contributing to the organization.
  • Define some social media usage guidelines for customers, such as no swearing or abusive language, to ensure that the experience of using a “public” media remains pleasant for all participants.

Employees: For continued support of the social CRM initiative, senior management needs to see measurable impact to the top line/bottom line of the organization. Therefore, it is necessary to build in the right metrics in the implementation of social CRM. Tracking these metrics on a periodic basis is key to ensuring that the senior management has visibility into the health of the initiatives.

Depending on the organization structure (such as centralized versus decentralized), the employees can be engaged in different manner. In a centralized organization, one authority is typically responsible for governing and implementing all initiatives. Social CRM is a business strategy, not an IT initiative. As different business units have differing needs when it comes to social media, this central model may lead to more resistance and lower acceptance of the social CRM program.

A decentralized organization will need a federated approach where a steering committee is formed to implement social CRM changes coming from and spread out to different units. The representatives from each unit would be considered the key points-of-contact responsible for ensuring the governance and messaging of the social CRM initiatives in their unit. Each unit would be empowered to decide on their social CRM initiatives while fitting into the overall framework determined by the steering committee. This model, though complex, has a higher probability of success.

In either structure, continued employee engagement is necessary to reduce resistance to the social CRM initiatives. Their feedback can be sought to improve the processes. This can be done via channels like internal social networks or focused discussions.

Partners: Collaboration between partners and the organization is a critical requirement to manage the change from CRM. Sharing is needed in areas such as customer insights, stocks and inventory, and joint marketing messages. The leadership in the partner organization would also want visibility into the success metrics of the social CRM initiatives to justify their investments into the same.

Each stakeholder needs to be closely involved during the social CRM implementation process in terms of providing inputs, collaborating with others, getting visibility into progress and having a clear understanding of how social CRM is mapping to the overall goals.

Reinforce the Change

This phase involves gathering feedback, making improvements, managing resistance and acknowledging success of the social CRM initiative.

Customers: Sharing social CRM success stories with customers is as important as sharing them within the organization. The customer success stories need to mention customer benefits with customer testimonials. The viral nature of social media can be leveraged to widely circulate these stories. The public nature of social media also ensures that any customer appreciations are visible to other customers by default, thereby reinforcing customer's usage of social CRM.

Employees and Partners: As with any change, reinforcement is necessary to get the change anchored into the corporate culture. This can be done by:

  1. Sharing success stories of pilot projects that can help build confidence for the initiative.
  2. Publicly recognizing the team members/change agents that supported the success of the initiative.

Employee/Partner feedback needs to be gathered to measure how social CRM has helped in their day-to-day work. While some of this feedback may be qualitative, it is still useful to measure success or failure. Some feedback questions could include: Has social CRM enabled employees to establish a closer connection with their customer through a prompt resolution of a service issue? Has it enabled them to close leads faster from customer insight via LinkedIn or Facebook? Has it enabled the salespeople to put together sales content from collaboration with their peers on Web 2.0?
This phase also provides the opportunity to make improvements. Feedback may result in identification of needs such as additional employee trainings, changes to policies and guidelines, and additional social media tools/access that are needed for improving work efficiency. These improvements can be evaluated and implemented over time.

There are numerous examples of failed social media implementations due to reasons such as poor customer adaption, employee miscommunication, corporate priorities and lack of sponsorship. Each set of stakeholders has their own needs and goals. For customers, it is the benefit that they will get in terms of better service, reduced cost, price savings, etc. For employees, it is efficiency improvement, meeting key performance indicators  and customer satisfaction. For partners, it is closer collaboration and synchronization of objectives.

The changes brought about by social CRM will be embraced with minimal resistance if they map to the goals of each of the stakeholders. These stakeholders need to be empowered to benefit from social CRM and should be involved and informed about the benefits and progress to ensure success of the initiative.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Information Management content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access