FotolEdhar - Fotolia

Mobile, social CRM table stakes for customer engagement strategy

Mobile and social CRM have reshaped the customer experience, creating two-way conversations and multichannel endeavors.

Using CRM systems as part of a customer engagement strategy has become table stakes for companies to compete today. These technologies allow companies to communicate with, track, analyze and manage relationships with customers, prospects, and team members.

Indeed, Gartner predicts that the CRM market will undergo a 15% compound annual growth rate to reach $37 billion industry by 2017. But the industry is also morphing, modernizing and shifting.

Two key technology trends are shaping this disruption: mobile devices and social media. These trends are forcing CRM systems to adapt and become more sophisticated about managing relationships through these new channels of communication. Sometimes referred to as multichannel CRM, companies are still struggling to stay ahead of these changes and use these technologies to drive a positive customer experience.

But the ability to serve customers in mobile and social channels seamlessly is easier said than done. Not only is the data difficult to integrate into a unified, 360-degree customer view, but each communication channel also has its own mandate.

Mobile devices require stripped-down menus for sales reps and customers, and actions should take fewer clicks. For social and collaboration technologies, customers expect that comments they make on Twitter or Facebook will be integrated into their customer account record in a CRM system and be available to a customer service agent on the phone.

While some of these capabilities are coming into their own, mobile CRM and social CRM technologies remain in maturity phase. Further, mobile CRM and social CRM can't be tacked on to your customer engagement strategy -- they have to be woven into it.

Mobile CRM technology

Initially, mobile devices were viewed with circumspection because of data security concerns.

Initially, mobile devices were viewed with circumspection because of data security concerns and the complexity of mobile CRM apps -- they were often just bolt-ons to existing CRM systems rather than adaptations built from a mobile-first approach. The mobile-first approach assumes mobile entry for both employees and customers and has evolved to represent a customer channel and an essential enabler of customer experience.

Though mobile CRM has come a long way, it still has some growing up to do. A Google study indicates that 79% of consumers now use smartphones to help with shopping activities, and 82% of smartphone users rely on their mobile device to research products and compare prices in stores.

Similarly, mobile CRM has been revolutionary for salespeople. Nearly all salespeople use mobile CRM (82%) and say that accessing a CRM system on smartphones or tablets improves the quality of CRM data, according to data from Software Advice Inc., a Gartner company. Among sales reps using smartphones and tablets to access a CRM system, 50% were much more likely to realize specific benefits, such as improved efficiency and productivity. Mobile CRM capabilities allow sales reps to update client information directly after leaving a client meeting or to convert a prospect into a customer with minimal clicks. These kinds of mobile capabilities are essential for reps to maximize their time and efforts on the go -- without compromising the accuracy of the CRM data.

Mobile and social CRM represent opportunities to collect data that can guide marketing and sales efforts pointed at providing relevant information to customers as well as product development. They also represent opportunities to enhance your customer engagement strategy. RIS and Cognizant's 2015 Shopper Experience Study revealed that mobile shoppers post online reviews at a rate 46% higher than computer-based shoppers. That engagement can also yield actionable data that companies can use. The study also determined that mobile shoppers are 46% more likely to provide personal information to enjoy a more personalized shopping experience.

Consider mobile payments as well. Today, companies have begun to recognize that not only do mobile payments serve customers with efficiency and perks (loyalty programs, etc.), but mobile payment technology is the doorway to analytics about customers and prospects. Mobile payments and beacon technology enable companies to gather data about products customers have purchased and products they have browsed online or in stores. Similarly, social media monitoring tools have enabled companies to learn more about customer preferences by analyzing customer comments and posts on social forums. These new technologies offer opportunities not just to analyze customers' past behavior but to make predictions about their future preferences and market to them accordingly.

Further, mobile and social technologies can work together. As collaboration consultant Peter O'Kelly noted in a recent SearchContentManagement podcast, companies now recognize that they need to integrate social features -- such as Facebook like and Twitter share buttons -- for customer and audience engagement. Companies should build a customer engagement strategy around mobile and social capabilities that enhance one another.

Sephora, the beauty retail store, provides an example of mobile devices collecting customer data and personalizing an offer: With Sephora's mobile app, shoppers can check out with one tap when they save their shipping and billing information. The app also offers a "pocket contour" makeup tutorial that uses a person's photo and an augmented reality makeover to serve up personalized product recommendations based on their skin type and coloring.

The reality makeover is an example of how personalization can combine the principles of mobile -- reduced clicks, streamlined interface -- to add value and create personalized experiences for customers.

Companies can also enlist customer journey mapping to ensure they serve customers regardless of the channel they use. Often, customers start out in email or on a social platform, then switch channels. Customer journey mapping enables companies to predict and map these pathways and interact with them.

Social CRM and collaboration

Collaboration with customers on social media, in community forums and on other social platforms is essential to doing business today. It's also a continuous set of two-way interactions rather than its traditional role as a one-way interaction, initiated by the company, responded to by customers.

Collaboration technologies today are not only reshaping company operations in sales and marketing to provide immediate customer feedback but also feeding product development and marketing decisions. Social forums have become key sites for customer ideas about new products, feedback on existing product lines and more.

Starbucks used crowdsourcing to launch the consumer portal My Starbucks Idea, where customers share ways to improve the coffee company's customer experience strategy. The portal has expanded to become a major communication channel among customers and Starbucks employees for suggestions and new ideas.

In less than six months, more than 70,000 ideas were suggested and Starbucks has already implemented some of the best creative ideas. One such idea was the green splash sticks that are inserted into coffee lids to prevent spillage. Another was mobile payments, which have grown to more than 3 million in a week.

Make customer data work for you

Companies aren't pushing social and collaboration as far as they could. Some stop at giving a response to customer inquiry or comment, one case at a time. But there is a huge opportunity to go further by developing a discipline of gathering, analyzing, and formally pushing this data into the decision-making process, ultimately creating a distinctive customer experience within a customer engagement strategy.

Organizations should not consider social network and collaboration as a stand-alone activity.
Jitendra MaanTata Consultancy Services

With so much data available about your customer base coming at you so quickly, it demands a comprehensive approach to monetize the value of your customers' voice. According to 2014 research from KPMG, a global technology consulting firm, 80% of information available exists in text form and traditionally goes unused. Capturing, analyzing and exploiting this asset goes beyond a technology cure; it calls for company alignment on a business approach and objectives.

"Organizations should not consider social network and collaboration as a stand-alone activity," said Jitendra Maan of Tata Consultancy Services. Most companies with social media strategies have garnered maximum benefit by integrating social media with customer experience management and have developed the processes to access it on mobile devices. Mobile services and social collaboration applications provide rich, collaborative, social experiences to users and help foster collective intelligence -- the "wisdom of the crowds" -- an evolving the way to get insights, opinions, and perceptions and also open up conversation with communities.

Ikea's Twitter feed shares user-generated content that displays customers using Ikea products. User-generated content encourages engagement with far less effort than creating its own content, which is often seen as less "genuine" anyway. Your most passionate fans, or brand ambassadors, and customers get a chance to shine and it's your opportunity to give back and say thanks by featuring them.

The traditional approach to gathering customer reactions largely involved focus groups and surveys -- items that companies sent out and customers responded to. But with collaboration, the voice of the customer is two-way: companies solicit it but consumers also volunteer it on social forums, in live chat, and various other communications. Companies are able to use social monitoring tools to gather insight about customer comments on social platforms and derive insight about products, customer service and operations.

Customer collaboration now serves as an expected element in the design of products and service delivery, content creation, distribution and communication channel selection and interaction, payment methodologies, and so on.

An American Express Global Customer Service Barometer indicated that customers who contact companies via social media expect a response in less than an hour, while metrics indicate the average response time is nine hours. The flood of customer input can create a business version of not seeing the forest through the trees.

Bringing it all together

Input from customers' platforms of choice, data in abundance, data analysis that converts bits into personalized offerings via multiple channels -- a tall order and to accomplish it requires effective integration and a comprehensive customer engagement strategy and plan.

Bridging the gap between digital and physical commerce is one of the benefits of new mobile and social CRM technologies.

Nordstrom, for example, shows what is possible with deep integration but also what coordination is required. Staff at Nordstrom stores use customer input communicated on the Nordstrom Pinterest page to influence displays in store. Items that are popular on social media sites are featured more prominently on the sales floor.

Bridging the gap between digital and physical commerce is one of the benefits of new mobile and social CRM technologies. Consider that this kind of integration does not happen without a comprehensive customer experience strategy. Similarly, Sun Trust takes a comprehensive approach of not only including client collaboration but also internal organization-wide collaboration to define their customer experience strategy and fulfill on their customer-first positioning.

Creating a coordination plan sounds difficult. Some say the answer lies in technologies to collect and manage the data. But I recommend starting with an understanding of the customer journey and identifying touch points and moments of truth that matter most in ongoing relationships with customers and focusing investments appropriately. It's important to know what data matters and why so you can optimize the data you gather.

Using a customer journey map may reveal these moments of truth that present opportunities to fulfill customer expectations. What was the customer's experience? Did it meet his or her expectations? And how can the company get this information? Moments of truth reflect the delivery success and also create opportunities for customers to continue to converse with you. They also naturally create a set of metrics to measure success and progress.

Further, these customer interactions and documenting what it takes to provide them defines the direction setting and decision-making information to guide the organization. While each area has its role to play, alignment is the common thread.

Documentation, alignment and better process come from certain kinds of organizational attributes, or organizational culture. John Deere takes a holistic approach both cross-functionally and cross-divisionally to deliver or enable distinctive customer experiences. That means bringing departments together in terms of processes, communication, data and information sharing. Departments that are accustomed to operating in silos need to be encouraged to work together, consolidate information and standardize on processes.

New dimensions in CRM

Mobile CRM and social CRM aren't just generating more business for companies; they are changing companies' customer engagement strategies. It has long been recognized that in a social media and mobile world, good news travels fast and bad news even faster.

This input is not just an early warning signal. The intelligence extracted from social media and mobility evolves from a reaction to a methodology of rapid dialogue leading to rapid product development, marketing and channel execution. But as this discussion indicates, companies need to be ready for the changes that mobile CRM and social CRM bring. That means bracing for technology as well as process changes.

Further, making use of the information that can come from these new channels means thinking about your CRM strategy in a new way. As companies make the foray into mobile payments and social monitoring, they have an opportunity to use the data generated to learn more about their customers and prospects. But they have to be ready to incorporate the insights from that data as well.

In sum, customer input does not influence your customer engagement strategy; it is your strategy.

Next Steps

Multichannel strategy, mobile CRM resources

Mobile CRM software use cases

The importance of data quality to customer relationships

Dig Deeper on Customer relationship management (CRM)