Social networking to feature at heart of CRM strategies

28 Sep 2009

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Businesses will need to start integrating social networking services like Twitter and Facebook – not to mention the ones that have yet to even be born – into their sales and CRM strategies, Salesforce.com believes.

Two weeks ago, Salesforce.com unveiled a new paradigm – knowledge as a service – and revealed a new Service Cloud that allows businesses to use Twitter and Facebook as part of their sales channels.

Tim Barker, senior director of EMEA Product Marketing at Salesforce.com, explained to siliconrepublic.com that soon businesses will need to create formal strategies around ensuring that if a customer asks a question or has a problem and posts their view on a social networking site that these queries are dealt with.

“We live in a world where in a very short time a service like Facebook has amassed 300 million people as a community. This is where people will talk about products and services. Firms need to get it out of their heads that it’s not just about marketing to these people but responding to their questions and providing services.

“This is not just about Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, but any online channel where products and services are discussed.

“The blur between corporate and home life has become more pronounced. Consumer trends are beginning to end up as business tools.”

Barker cited businesses like Dell, Starbucks and Crocks, which have used social media to not only better serve customers but actually help them drive product development.

“Crocks use social media to test feedback on footwear products, Starbucks used the technology to amass over 15,000 ideas for coffee products and Dell uses Twitter to not only sell computers but has created its own IdeaStorm network to gather feedback and develop new products.

“Dell, Crocks and Starbucks appreciate the power of their brands and deployed a rigorous process that enables user feedback but allows them to make use of their community of customers to innovate and negotiate.”

Barker says the way Salesforce.com envisages social media going is that sites like Facebook and Twitter will join a growing number of channels that will sit in on CRM systems and queries and mentions can be routed around the team in the same way calls are today.

“You could have a service team that will have the CRM technology routinely search for references to their brand. Firms could be clever and have a standard library of 140 character responses to a set of problems.

“The fact is a good number of people have opted-in to a real-time environment. The challenge for businesses is they will have high expectations and will expect responses to questions or challenges,” Barker said.

By John Kennedy

Photo: Tim Barker, senior director of EMEA Product Marketing at Salesforce.com.

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com