There are hot industries, and there are volcanic industries. Within the enterprise business solutions world, you can't get much hotter than social CRM right now. Social CRM, of course, is the place where social media, customer service and customer relationship management (CRM) meet. Increasingly, customers are relying on social media to interact with their favorite (or their least favorite) companies, and they're expecting action. Few companies, thus far, are capable of giving it to them to the extent they require.
This is a scenario that can't last long for any company wishing to remain in business, writes Forrester Research (News - Alert) analyst Zach Hofer-Shall for Forbes.
“We’ve entered the age of the customer, in which companies must obsess over — and meet the dynamically changing needs of — their customers,” writes Hofer-Shall. “In the age of the customer, successful businesses must be ready to connect with consumers in any channels they desire. Social is the hottest today and any customer relationship focused technology must meet those requirements.”
When social media first debuted, most companies saw a nice way to get a little extra exposure. Build a Facebook (News - Alert) page and hope someone “likes” it. Many of them were horrified to find, not long after, that social media had become a major customer interaction channel: not just another place to hang their banner and engage in some one-way marketing, but a two-way channel that required immediate and real response to customer queries and complaints.
The large enterprise solutions providers have been readying themselves for social CRM for at least a year now, and their activities in this market have really heated up. Earlier this month, Oracle purchased social media management provider Vitrue to add to its platforms. Last week, Salesforce.com countered announced the acquisition of Buddy Media (News - Alert). Also last week, Oracle announced another acquisition: Collective Intellect, a social intelligence company. These large technology providers are essentially building more social media innovation into their portfolios without having to build the capabilities from scratch.
Are their customers ready for it? They had better be, because it's time to catch up, according to Hofer-Shall. One thing that's certain...their customers – individual consumers – are not only ready to be able to interact with the companies with which they do business, they expect it. And piece-meal, slap-dash attempts at using social media as a customer service channel just won't do.
Edited by Stefanie Mosca