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Sage Observations, Advice on Social CRM
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May 26, 2011

Sage Observations, Advice on Social CRM

By Brendan B. Read
Senior Contributing Editor

The social channel, and with it Social CRM, are new and rapidly changing customer interaction means and strategic methodologies and applications. Understanding and deploying them can be bewildering. Yet the pressure is on by both customers and senior management to get the social channel and Social CRM (and CRM) right.

Here is some (literally) “Sage” advice from an interview between TMCnet and Larry Ritter, who is senior vice president and general manager, Sage CRM Solutions.

TMCnet: Customers are, have been, and will be social. What social media tools appear to have done is to spread their comments – and with this their influence on whether to buy products and services – to far wider audiences in near real-time.

Should we not talk about “Social CRM" anymore as distinct from CRM but instead comprehensive “CRM”?

LR: We’ve always been social in sales efforts with CRM. The advancements of web-based social media technologies have simply given us another set of channels, and often more efficient ways, of keeping up with and learning about each other. For the time being saying “Social CRM” helps denote these still relatively new capabilities that people are trying to figure out how to use most efficiently in their professional lives. And many of these capabilities will become a “normal way of doing things” as time progresses. Recall how e-mail was shiny, new and disruptive to our ways of communicating when it first came along and now is something most people wouldn’t work without.

TMCnet: Three of the issues that have been identified with the social channel are:

1.         Identifying the largely anonymous commenters to build and develop relationships with them

2.         Sorting out from the vast amount of material on the social channel any valuable information on product/service issues: including spotting and chucking out disinformation

3.         Determining and attaching a social or “referral value” to customer lifetime value

Please discuss these as they relate to Social CRM/CRM strategies

LR: CRM offers the filtering, organizing and managing that social media for business requires given the vast amount of information generated. As vendors, we are integrating the logical social integration users need and developing advance ways of using information obtained from social channels.

1.         People making anonymous comments do so for a reason. Businesses need to create reasons for these people to want to eventually identify themselves. Sage being both a developer and user of CRM systems has found success using online communities to support and help market its CRM product portfolio. Our Sage ACT! online community, the official community for our contact and customer management system for example, has had 60 million page views since inception and through various forums, blogs and beta testing programs is helping us connect with more customers as well as identify and market to prospective customers. Details captured here feed into our own CRM strategy.

2. and 3.          These areas are of high relevance to CRM and applying analytics to determine sentiment and predicting behavior is an area of considerable interest. By using analytics to filter the information, it is possible to store the relevant parts within the CRM system to keep it focused on what it does best. Which is: to collect and capture relevant information that can be recalled and auctioned as needed. Various approaches to sorting can be applied. They include simply passing a contacts name (or other criteria) to social channels like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (News - Alert) for dashboard viewing within our CRM systems. They also include text mining/searches that measure buying sentiment and feed these contacts into the appropriate sales funnel process as specific requirement thresholds are met.

TMCnet: What effect if any has the shift of customers to wireless had on Social CRM and CRM?

LR: I think we’ve been saying “this is the year of mobile” for the past several years and I really think “this is finally the year of mobile.” Mobile, social and CRM all use some similar web protocols like REST and HTML5 among others to speak the language of the Internet in efficient, real-time fashion so many systems can talk to each other regardless of location. At Sage we’ve even developed our SData protocol to further integrate data sharing among our various systems (e.g. CRM, ERP, Payments) as well as with third-party systems.

Mobile and cloud technologies have provided tremendous advances in how people access and use CRM. With today’s technologies we are helping them achieve a familiar, secure CRM experience whether using Sage SalesLogix, for example, on their desktop, iPad, or even a web terminal at an airport or hotel. The big impact of mobile is it creates greater CRM use and adoption. The more the CRM experience is part of the daily work experience the more powerful the information becomes because it is fresh. Much better than typing in a few notes the next day when back in the office.

TMCnet: Discuss social community, such as the wide open posts and Tweets versus company-hosted sites as means of interacting with the social customer. Which is the trend and why?

LR: I don’t think a winner has been declared here. It depends on the preferences of an organizations customers and prospects (where and how they want to engage) and the organization participating, responding and where appropriate helping facilitate.

Like many businesses, Sage is using both its own communities and open social channels like Facebook (News - Alert) and Twitter. Often we direct commenters from our open channels to our freely accessible communities to provide a collection point and enable collaboration built upon the wealth of information they can benefit from.

Admittedly, what people say is not always flattering but having the visibility is better than not.  Other times an immediate response on an open channel is best. Here monitoring and measuring again comes into play, which will help businesses determine if one format outweighs the other in the future. But larger organizations with a diverse customer base should plan on supporting each for the long haul. Sage, for example, supports over 6.2 million small and mid-sized businesses with software and services worldwide.

TMCnet: Where do you see Social CRM go from here?

LR: I think we’ll see Social CRM become a meaningful set of capabilities within CRM, possibly returning to be referred to just as “CRM” as use of these technologies within CRM systems become a normal part of workflow as time progresses.

In addition to integrating social channels within our Sage CRM Solutions product portfolio we’ve found use of online communities for our products to be a best practice in the technology industry. We’ve seen success running beta programs for upcoming software releases on our communities. They are giving us 24/7 feedback, an idea generator and incubator for product enhancements, and overall generating goodwill through the close connections with many customers. This is a frequency of connection we could not achieve without social media technology.

Brendan B. Read is TMCnet’s Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

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