A Dozen Ways to Improve Your Social CRM

Thursday Jun 9th 2011 by Jennifer Schiff
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Social CRM experts reveal their tips for how businesses can best use social media to improve customer relationships.

Just because you have a customer relationship management (CRM) system, a Facebook page and a Twitter account doesn't make you social CRM savvy — or even mean you are truly connecting with your customers where they socialize (and share feedback and reviews with their friends).

So to help you improve your social CRM, Enterprise Apps Today polled dozens of social media marketing and CRM experts and put together their top tips. Herewith is a list of a dozen ways to improve your social CRM.

Make sure your email system is integrated with your CRM system so that all emails can be added to each contact's interaction history automatically, said small business consultant Matt Mansfield of Matt About Solutions.

Capture customers' Facebook and Twitter handles when setting up or updating customer records so that when issues arise, you'll know "if that hair-raising Twitter or Facebook comment is from one of your customers or prospects," said Jordy Leiser, CEO and co-founder of STELLAService. And you will be able to "gain a 360-degree view of the customer and the perceptions they hold about their interactions with your brand."

Sign up for a free social marketing tool such as HootSuite or TweetDeck or Roost to optimize and streamline your social CRM experience. "With many social marketing tools and dashboards to choose from, be sure to select one that is made especially for the business user, while also keeping the experience professional, fast and easy," said Chris Brubaker, vice president of Marketing at Roost. To that end, Brubaker says to look for a social media management tool that allows you to:

  • Connect your Facebook and Twitter accounts so that you can manage all your social media in one place;
  • Quickly schedule posts for the day, week or any timeframe;
  • Easily post content (like articles, blogs or famous quotes); and
  • "Band together with your closest business associates and share each other's posts [with permission], providing branding and engagement opportunities across each other's networks."

Engage with your clients instead of talking at them. "Many companies use social media as another avenue to talk at their clients, prospects and other contacts," said Rachel Honoway, founder of Honoway Interactive. Instead, they should be using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to engage customers in conversation and "build solid relationships."

"The power of social comes from peer-to-peer connection, not just listening to a company blasting out messages to followers or friends," added Phil Soffer, vice president of product marketing at Lithium Technologies. "Social relationships are built on engagement, so stop flooding social media channels like Facebook and Twitter with your marketing message. Rather, engage with your customers by providing them with things they find interesting or useful and that encourage return visits and sharing," such as useful articles, promotion codes and helpful advice.

Pay attention to reviews left about your products or services — and respond. When customers leave reviews of your products or services on sites like Facebook or Yelp or TripAdvisor, be sure to reply in a timely fashion, especially to negative reviews. "Reply to your positive reviews with a personalized thank you and maybe an invitation to engage with the customer again in the future" such as inviting them to an upcoming store event, said Jason Goldberg, CEO of America's Floor Source.

As for those negative reviews, Goldberg said you should look at them "as an opportunity to resolve an issue with a customer and exhibit your commitment to high quality customer service." To that end, when you receive a negative review, "openly apologize to the customer, inquire as to what went wrong and do whatever is necessary to correct the error." Customers like when you respond to them online, and it lets other visitors "see the lengths to which you went to make an unsatisfied customer happy."

 

Make it easy for customers to contact you. In case a shopper wants or needs to contact the company for more details — which social media platforms aren't really made for — "the consumer should not have to go anywhere else or dig on another site to find out how to contact the company via email or phone," said STELLAService's Leiser. "In practice, this means clearly displaying the phone numbers and emails for the company on all relevant Facebook, Twitter and other pages."

Reply to Facebook and Twitter queries in a timely fashion. Whenever a customer pays you a compliment or asks you a question on your Facebook wall or on Twitter, reply as soon as possible (within 24 hours). "Taking a second to acknowledge a wall post makes customers feel like they've been heard and is an important part of building a rapport," said Goldberg of America's Floor Source.

Tag your contacts and interactions so you can group them by project or campaign or sales cycle, advised Mansfield of Matt About Solutions.

Add design customization and branding to your social media messaging. "Most of the major social media platforms allow implementation of custom graphics, but few businesses take full advantage of this feature," said Matthew Fellows, copywriter and content manager at Rightlook Creative. "If you're serious about interacting with customers via social media, show them by designing a custom layout that matches your website, blog and brand. Custom-branding your social media account will not only set you apart in a sea of default layouts, but will encourage users to interact [with you] ... and show them that their interactions are with someone who really cares."

Turn bad buzz about your competitors into business for you. "Monitor negative tweets about the competition, route them to your sales reps, and make the tweeters an offer [a promotional discount of coupon, for example] they can't resist," advised Fergus Griffin, vice president of product marketing for Salesforce.com's Service Cloud. "It's a great way to find receptive prospects — and beat the competition."

Solicit customer feedback — and reward them for it. "Ask customers for their feedback on products and services you offer," suggested Eric Groves, senior vice president of strategy for corporate development and innovation at Constant Contact. Then "reward them for their patronage" with, say, special offers or discount codes. "A valued customer is a loyal customer, and a loyal customer is an advocate" for your brand.

Use online chat to better connect with customers. "While Facebook and Twitter are well-established as quick tools to address customer questions, one untapped area with lots of potential is online chat," said Jennifer Bach, marketing manager at TELUS International. "Not all troubleshooting can be answered in an online forum or 140-character burst," she said. And online chat provides businesses a safe, secure, more personal way to immediately connect with customers and provide them with the answers they are seeking in real time.

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff is a regular contributor to Enterprise Apps Today and runs a marketing communications firm focused on helping small and mid-sized businesses.

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