From the playground to social CRM: trends in CRM

As a child my world was small. If I needed someone I would walk to them, mostly on or around the schoolyard. The goal of the conversation, follow-up actions or required resources I remembered easily. All thanks to the then popular legacy database called ‘brains’.

The new playground

Currently it still seems that the world is small, despite the larger distances we overcome. The entire globe is within reach. The communication technology has come a long way, given that I can now have a large amount of communication resources available to me. It is a shame that there is a direct proportional relationship between each newly added communication resource and the amount of communication. My first communication resource, the doorbell, I still use as much as when I was a child. But I communicate much more through telephone, mobile phone, e-mail and text messages. Result: an overflowing inbox and a full voicemail. There was never this much information behind the front door whenever we got home from holidays, but nowadays it is quite normal.

For straightforward business communication between professionals, there are CRM solutions. There you can neatly process all incoming and outgoing communication flows with all professionals and even retrieve them. A welcome addition to the brain database. That it only concerns direct communication (1 on 1, 1 to many) did not matter back in the days.

But I do not always communicate directly, like most non-computer experts. If you used to indirectly let people notice at school that you were looking for a keeper or a worthy opponent there was always someone who knew someone who had a friend whose neighbor was very good at goalkeeping, or was the captain of the football team from another school. So with that question, you did not have to go from door to door. Even your own door with letterbox was not overloaded with people who wanted to ask you something with a small chance of meeting. But all relevant questions almost automatically arrived via your network. The thereby indirectly picked up information was in your database and often naturally surfaced when you needed it.

The human and social networks

Human beings have been communicating since they could talk using social networks. The last few years technique offers newer and more innovative opportunities to network with other people. The digital version of the playground of the past, where you can communicate to your heart’s content, share knowledge, get to know people and stay in touch: social media.

Unfortunately, the traditional CRM system can not process this way of communication on the ‘digital playground’ correctly. Because how do you, for example, filter actual interesting business information from calls that are about small talk to maintain a relationship? And do you even know the difference at the moment that you are communicating? Yet the soccer-call in the playground sometimes did provide a suggestion for a good movie. If you had archived that call and all the responses in the file ‘football team’ you would have missed the evening film. So where, and especially how do you store all that information so it can be to your advantage, but it does not bother you?

The modern CRM

A modern CRM system must be able to do more than just exchanging name and address data and messages from people and companies through social media like Twitter. A CRM can help you far better if it knows the whole network of all your employees and relationships. Because who knows if the guy from that unpleasant tendering process from years ago, now follows you on Twitter? And now he works for an interesting, but unfortunately for you an unfamiliar, supplier, whose LinkedIn tells you that the brother of your colleague is a product expert there. For someone who spends that much time on digital playgrounds, this information emerges as you go along. What could be better if the CRM system also helps you on that area so you do not endlessly need to hang around in the digital playground?

But what to do with the information that is not immediately relevant? Luckily we can rely on technique for that as well. For example, you can automatically request messages and status updates from various social media. And then match them in the CRM system with companies or individuals and vice versa. Then you can see in the CRM who has become interesting for your company. Unfortunately, not all social media offer this web service. It would be nice if the social media offer more extensive web services (APIs). Webservices to whom you can ask questions that are relevant to you. That go beyond the detection of people and organizations or the taking over of messages and status updates. The (web)services today are just intended to provide one medium to connect with a CRM system, whereby integration with other social media is not stimulated.

On the other hand, many CRM suppliers are not ready for a more extensive and automated link to the digital playground. If online data via an API is available, virtually any CRM system can import and process them. But for showing the practical useful information from the schoolyard, at the right time, most of the CRM systems are not suitable.

The CRM system from the future

In the future your CRM supplier will not only have to be able to build and implement a CRM system, but also understand how things work in your market. For example, with social media, web services, (business) intelligence, document processing, message identification, data management, flexible metadata, communication, platforms, systems integration and clear user interfaces. So that the CRM-system can also determine when social information is practically useful. The term ‘social CRM’ that many suppliers use for this does not meet these requirements in my eyes. The taking over of messages or contact information from social media in your CRM-system is only the beginning. Handy, but not essential. But if you spend enough time in the playground you will find out which CRM system is going to help your football team win.