Conversation belongs to the customer

Our team will be attending the marketing event, TFM&A on the 28th and 29th February at Earls Court, London. Our blogger Jeff Richards will be presenting on Social CRM (Social Media Theatre, 29th Feb, 12.30-13.00). If you can’t make it along to his talk pop over to stand F24 and say hello to Jeff, Katie and the rest of our team.

A bit about me…..

In my day job I am responsible for providing technical education to members of the Sage CRM Community which includes the Developer Programme. Sage CRM is our CRM system for small and medium sized businesses, and if you haven’t come across our community before it’s an online resource for partners and customers wanting to ask questions or share expertise.  It includes blogs, forums and file galleries allowing our members to make sure they are up to date with the latest information and techniques for using, administering and customing Sage CRM.  The Developer Programme is a training and marketing service, with secure forums and blogs run principally for technical partners who create the addons and extensions that are available from the Sage CRM Marketplace.  I am not officially part the social media team but my role with the Community and Developer Programme involves me using social media, like blogs, forums and Twitter to share and educate our partners and customers. I do this because the Sage CRM development team in Dublin has placed the usage of social media and CRM at the heart of our approach to customer interaction.Sage CRM on Twitter

What is Social CRM?

This combination of Social Media and CRM is often referred to as Social CRM.  A definition has been provided by Paul Greenberg

“a philosophy & a business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules, workflow, processes & social characteristics, designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted & transparent business environment.”

My lightbulb moment

In June 2006 I wrote a paper entitled “Marketing Workflow” which discussed how full graphical control of processes could be added into Sage CRM.  This was the first Sage CRM online article I wrote and the same day someone added a comment to the bottom of the article.

Looking back to that time, the individual topic was not the important thing.  Instead it was the ability of a customer to directly comment against the article that I had published. This changed my way of seeing the world.

Previously I had only published static documents.  Since then everything that I have written can be commented on, contradicted or expanded.  All the documents I publish are living entities subject to debate where the readers have the chance to share their knowledge, experience and opinions.  I no longer have total ownership or control of my technical advice instead it is moderated by constant peer review.

Conversation belongs to the customer

I have come to understand that the rise of social media means that the conversation now belongs to the customer and it maybe open to 3rd parties including competitors.  I have got used to the fact that it is for the customer to decide where the conversations start, whether that is on Facebook or Twitter, and that I am only allowed to take part in those conversations with their permission. Participation and engagement for any contact with me as a representative of Sage in social media is entirely voluntary and it is a sobering thought that because of my actions Sage could be ‘unfollowed’ or ‘defriended’ in a blink.

In the Sage CRM development team we have a clear set of reasons for embracing social media and networks like Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin and during my TFM&A presentation I will look at what those goals might be for a company.  And they will differ between companies.  For some companies the main reason will be improving customer support, carrying out market research, or supporting a product launch, and brand reputation management is another consideration.

My activities are only a tiny part of Sage’s engagement with social media. Sage regards social media and social networking as not just the responsibility of communication specialists or a marketing team but as an activity open to all of its people.  I was very interested by some data that was shared with me by the Dublin marketing team; in just one day, on 8th February 2012, Sage Ireland staff were responsible for generating over 150 Sage related tweets which reached an audience of nearly thirty thousand followers.

Real conversations

Those Sage staffers who tweeted were engaged in real conversations with real contacts, and my presentation will look at how we can shape those conversations.  I intend to consider how we can use social media to steer customer action in the direction we want.  I want to try and answer the age old problem that if the conversation starts at the bar, then how do we get the contact onto the dance floor?  I know that much of my activity is aimed at guiding contacts towards the Sage CRM website or encouraging the conversations to take place within forums that our company hosts.   I will look at how we can measure whether or not we have been successful in shaping those conversations.

All the time I’ll be looking at the business benefit that accrues from engaging in social media and how in particular the Sage CRM team uses its own community site with its blogs and forums along with social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for customer engagement.  In particular I will explore how we integrate those with our CRM system.

Please do come along and join me.  If you have any questions and comments you want to share then please find me on Twitter @sagecrmsolution and if you are tweeting then do make sure to use the hashtags #sagecrm and #tfm2012.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Jeff Richards, Sage CRM Team