Social Client Relationship Management: What Is It, and Why Might You Need It?

Customers crave conversations with businesses, and they don't expect these conversations to be limited to traditional channels like phone and email. Companies may recognize they need to engage their customers on social media channels, but sometimes, their CRM solutions weren't originally designed with these modern exchanges in mind.

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What Is Social CRM?

Social client relationship management, also known as social CRM, offers businesses a way to meet their customers' expectations for proactive and personalized service on their preferred channels. Here's what social CRM is all about, how it differs from regular CRM, and how businesses are using it to provide stellar customer experiences.

As customer relationship management (CRM) becomes more sophisticated, it has begun incorporating conversations from social media channels, where customer engagement now routinely takes place. Social client relationship management brings these interactions to the CRM so businesses can gain a more complete understanding of their customers, proactively resolve their concerns, offer personalized care, and deliver an even better customer experience across the board. Customers, for their part, can enjoy a more relevant, helpful, and satisfying customer experience when communicating with a business that embraces a social CRM approach.

What Is the Difference Between Regular CRM and Social CRM?

CRM software was originally designed as a database for sales and customer service representatives to centrally store and access important customer information. This way, they could provide timelier and more accurate service. As cloud-based CRM solutions became more popular, sales teams were able to view customer records from anywhere — whether they were working from laptops at home or toting their mobile devices to client meetings. Eventually, many businesses began integrating their CRMs with their business productivity software and their unified communications systems to unlock even greater internal productivity improvements.

Although these technological advancements now allow customer support professionals to provide far more efficient customer service than in they could in the past, they did not account for the massive explosion in customer engagement that would happen on social media channels. In many cases, this created a gap between customers' expectations for what good customer service should look like versus the quality of customer experience that some businesses were able to deliver.

As findings from the Vonage Global Customer Engagement Report 2022 make clear, customers take multichannel customer service as a given, and they are not necessarily willing to make accommodations for companies that do not provide it. Not only that, they expect to be able to seamlessly move conversations from one channel to the next without losing any crucial context or having to repeat themselves. However, regular CRM solutions, which were originally designed to track information from phone calls and emails, are not always readily able to retain contextual data from social media exchanges.

This is where social CRM comes in. Unlike regular CRM, which typically stores a discrete set of customer information and makes it readily available so that customer service representatives can quickly call it up before responding to a customer call, social CRM also encompasses the customer conversations that businesses are having with those customers on social channels. This expanded capability is key to a conversational commerce approach, in which businesses are expected to nurture ongoing conversations with their customers in order to earn their continued loyalty.

How Do Businesses Use Social CRM?

Businesses can use social CRM to improve the customer experience in several ways. For example, a company can tap social CRM for social listening (also known as social media monitoring), following conversations about the brand on social channels as they are happening in real time. This capability allows a business to better understand how its products and services are perceived by current and potential customers. It may even discover opportunities to develop new products and services that better meet customer preferences as they are evolving, opening up a competitive advantage in the market.

A company can also use social CRM to resolve customer concerns before they become full-blown complaints. If the customer service team spots negative feedback as part of its social listening initiative, it can proactively join the relevant conversation while it's in progress and make the situation right. In doing so, the business can demonstrate its commitment to excellent customer service. Customers are known to favorably view companies that take the trouble to proactively resolve problems in this way, so this social CRM functionality offers businesses a particularly effective way to increase customer satisfaction.

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What Are the Benefits of Using Social CRM?

Social client relationship management can benefit a business on multiple levels, both in the near and long term. For starters, it allows your company to provide proactive, personalized care on all the social media channels where customers spend their time.

Meet Customers Where They're At

If you're not engaging customers where they spend their time, you're missing out on valuable opportunities to help them or make it right when they have a less-than-perfect experience with your brand. Social client relationship management empowers you to connect with your customers on key channels such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram, and WeChat. It also leverages your own first-party data to help you accurately answer customer questions, quickly resolve issues, and extend personalized offers directly within these channels, increasing your credibility among customers who use them and earning your business a strong brand reputation as a forward-thinking, customer-focused company.

Personalize Customer Experiences

Businesses can only glean so much about their customers using the data points that a regular CRM is designed to collect. This limited insight, in turn, makes it harder for companies to provide the personalized customer service that customers now expect. With the valuable context gained from social media exchanges, businesses can offer personalized recommendations and address customer concerns in real time. This kind of attentive and personalized care inspires customer trust, which can increase customer satisfaction and even motivate satisfied customers to become brand advocates.

Proactive Customer Engagement

Rather than simply sitting back and waiting for customers to engage with you due to lack of capacity, social CRM allows you to proactively engage with customers via their social media comments and their private messages to you. With this intentional social outreach, you can increase conversions directly within social channels. By applying automation and artificial intelligence to these customer service processes, you are continually providing the same level and quality of engagement at scale as your company grows. Customers appreciate the attentive service, which allows them to get their questions answered or complete their purchase without having to switch channels.

Signs That Your Business May Need Social CRM

How will you know when it's time to invest in social client relationship management? If your company is struggling to provide prompt, personalized service at scale on your customers' preferred social media channels, that's a sign you might need social CRM capabilities. If you're not proactively engaging your customers on social media or participating in conversations about your brand on social channels, then you might benefit from adopting a social CRM approach.

Additionally, if your current CRM only gives you partial insight into your customers' tastes and preferences, your customer support team is only working with a fraction of the information it needs to deliver exceptional care. This also likely means that your team doesn't have a finger on the pulse of new customer trends or changing customer tastes either, which puts your business at a competitive disadvantage compared with market players that do have access to this real-time insight. In this case, you might also want to begin exploring how social CRM can help your business achieve its conversational commerce goals.

Next Steps in Using Social CRM

Customers want to have meaningful conversations with businesses, and they're frustrated when they encounter obstacles while attempting to get their questions answered or their problems resolved. They also don't understand why, when it's so easy to have exchanges with friends and family on social media channels, they can't engage with companies in the same way. Many regular CRM solutions were not designed with these modern interactions between businesses and customers in mind, but social client relationship management was expressly created to address this gap.

With social CRM, not only can businesses provide timely and personalized service on social channels, but they can also access deeper insights about what their customers really want and need — even as those preferences shift and change. With the enhanced contextual understanding they gain from social media conversations, companies can deliver consistently excellent care on every channel where customers spend their time.

Learn how Vonage's Social CRM can help you make the most of every customer interaction.

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