CRM, and even eCRM, have been around for a while. What was the rationale behind producing this report?

The emergence of social media is shifting the plates as far as eCRM is concerned. We wanted to help marketers address the challenges and opportunities this brings. What quickly became clear was the importance of ensuring that any new social CRM initiatives were built on rock solid foundations and were integrated with rather than separate from more traditional eCRM programmes.

This necessitated us taking a step back and locking down a clear theoretical framework and functional model for eCRM which we could then build on as we considered how to future-proof this.

In doing so we wanted to remind marketers of the core disciplines and principles of eCRM to ensure that these, rather than the latest shiny, new social media platform or technology opportunity, underpinned their eCRM roadmap.

Who should be reading this guide?

  • Senior business executives looking to understand the strategic context of eCRM, the opportunities for leveraging their existing investment in it and organisational implications of doing so (understand the big, strategic picture).
  • Senior marketers looking to understand eCRM in the broader marketing context and consider how to integrate it with other marketing strategies (understand the big, marketing picture).
  • CRM planners and front-line marketers looking to future-proof their current eCRM programmes and enhance their customer experience and value proposition (define the eCRM roadmap).
  • Senior technologists looking to understand the business imperatives and consider how to integrate their organisation’s technology roadmap with the eCRM roadmap (the big, IT picture).
  • Senior operations executives looking to understand their role in delivering the new, customer-controlled eCRM programmes (the big customer service/support picture).

Very briefly, can you explain the impact that social is having on CRM?

Social CRM is all about empowering consumers to leverage social media to meet their goals. Connecting them with other consumers, supplying them with valued content and engaging with them directly (when requested) in a timely and relevant manner via the channel of their choice enables brands to enhance the consumer experience.

The aim is to help consumers help themselves and support natural, on-going conversations with them that promote on-going engagement. When the consumer needs help (service) or wants to buy something (sales) then the brand will hopefully be a) top of mind and b) accessible for the consumer and able to respond to their needs in a way that will ultimately lead to brand advocacy and future sales.

There are many similarities here with more traditional eCRM programmes and social CRM should be an extension of the existing, direct to consumer brand. The fundamental difference is the consumer-centred nature of the engagement model.

This fundamental philosophical re-orientation requires marketers to re-visit every aspect of their current eCRM model (across all business processes and channels) and ask themselves “How can social media add value to my consumers?”.

Social CRM at its best should be about:

  • Promoting strategic realignment by re-orientating the philosophical basis of the business.
  • Enhancing the customer experience and creating value for the consumer (and the brand) across all customer touch points.

Are eCRM and social CRM separate disciplines or all part of the same thing?

eCRM and social CRM are different components (defined by channel) of a single, integrated customer relationship management process. Separately delineating them is as artificial as say, separating pricing from product design. Both are clearly integral to the customer value proposition, inherently intertwined.

From an internal management perspective it helps to focus on each area with specialist expertise, tools and methods but ultimately an integrated approach must be applied to package them into a compelling consumer proposition.

A common customer-centric, insight-led, value-driven planning approach is the common thread that will help marketers seamlessly knit the two threads of CRM activity together into a coherent, brand enhancing, value-creating consumer proposition.

To what extent is technology the answer to business requirements in this area? Are there any compelling software platforms which can straddle eCRM and social CRM?

Technology is the enabler – as it has always been for eCRM.

As social media matures, the high-end technology platform vendors (Oracle, Salesforce, SAP, Microsoft, IBM) will standardise and integrate these into their offerings. Gradually second-tier vendors will follow suit and eventually key functions (e.g. social data management, analytics, campaign management and content management) will become common place.

We are in the first phase of this process and I’d suggest that the technology capability (what we’re capable of doing) is currently ahead of eCRM strategies (what we should be doing). We are therefore seeing lots of experimentation with pockets of success and best practice emerging.

New businesses with blanker sheets of technology paper and fewer systems legacy issues (e.g. Spotify and giffgaff) are leading this charge and being followed by other big brands with the budgets to invest in social CRM (e.g. KLM and first direct) or smaller specialist/entrepreneurial players who can react quickly (e.g. and Lenovo).

The real magic is in understanding what the technology can do and relating this to what the consumer wants and what the brand needs. This is why the planning process has to be multidisciplinary and CRM planners must know enough about all three areas to co-ordinate and energise the planning process to ensure innovation, ambition, customer centricity – but with a healthy dose of operational, commercial and technical reality thrown in there.

Are there any examples or case studies of companies who are getting it?

There are some great examples of best practice starting to emerge with the likes of Zappos, Burberry and all using social CRM as catalysts for strategic change within their business.

Other more specific best use cases are:

  • Cisco – voice of customer and co-creation
  • The Palazzo and The Venetian Las Vegas – user reviews
  • Dell – social sales/social commerce
  • Best Buy – customer service
  • Jet Blue – online PR/reputation management
  • Ikea – social campaigns/content sharing

How have you structured the report, and what do you regard as the key sections?

The guide is split into five main sections covering:

  • eCRM Theory – the historical context and theoretical framework of eCRM and its alignment with broader business strategies.
  • eCRM Practice – practical application of this theory to support a rigorous and effective approach to eCRM strategy and planning.
  • Social CRM Theory – the backdrop to the emergence of social media channels and their impact on the traditional eCRM model.
  • Social CRM Practice – the practicalities of designing and implementing social CRM programmes and integrating these with more traditional eCRM programmes.
  • Integrated Planning – a planning framework to support an integrated and customer-centric approach to eCRM and social CRM programme design and definition.

The key point is that whilst eCRM and social CRM can be viewed as separate disciplines it is vital that they are synchronised via a single, integrated planning approach that is rooted in customer (and brand) value creation. The guide very deliberately set out to adopt a balanced approach:

  • Across the two disciplines – to promote deep appreciation of the role and capabilities of each type of CRM activity.
  • Between theory and practice – to provide practical guidance to marketers but based on a strong academic base.

The final section on integrated planning demonstrates how this can be applied to ensure that eCRM and social CRM are tightly coupled and the connection between them systematically exploited.

To learn more about the Customer Relationship Management in the Social Age Best Practice Guide, download the report here.

For a deep dive into CRM, check out Econsultancy’s eCRM Masterclass, taking place on 9 April 2013. This three-day intensive programme, run by Andrew Campbell, will help you understand how CRM can help your business and give you the practical skills to apply and assess CRM techniques in the real world.