Customer relationship management (CRM) has always been a multichannel discipline. You should connect and bond with your customers through whatever mix of channels they use or prefer. That has traditionally meant that existing channels be supplemented and extended by whatever new technologies come along. Hence, any enterprise serious about multichannel CRM has begun to add social media to a strategy that includes point of sale (PoS), direct postal mail, agent-assisted telephony, interactive voice response, e-mail, portals, and text messaging—at the very least.
Social CRM is the newest craze in this arena. It refers generally to the convergence of social media with CRM. However, in the minds of some observers it seems to imply that social media will somehow become the most important CRM channel of all, marginalizing or obsoleting others. I take issue with that perspective, which threatens to turn social media, in all their billowing multiplicity, into a big new overstuffed silo in the CRM world.
I don’t deny that social-networking interfaces are all the rage in the CRM space. One obvious case in point is salesforce.com’s Chatter collaboration platform, which looks and feels so Facebook-y that, navigating through it, I half-expect my cousins to be posting new vacation pictures to the community.
Every year, I take 250 to 300 calls from Forrester clients. The vast majority of these calls are from executives embroiled in the process of trying to select the right CRM technology solution to support their business strategy. From these conversations, I have distilled a set of decision criteria to help you quickly cut through the CRM tech vendor underbrush.
Ability to meet your specific business requirements. You have to know what business outcomes you are trying to achieve, and define the business capabilities that you need to support, before you seriously consider investing in a CRM software solution. Although the core capabilities of leading CRM software vendors are quite similar, the companies I hear from still place a very high importance on the solution meeting the functional and technology criteria that are specific to their needs. Can the vendor meet your use-case requirements?
Ease of use for front-line workers. My clients expect CRM software to demonstrate the capability to make people more fruitful in their work, and this is predicated on how easy the solution is to use. Good usability encourages user adoption. Is the solution UI modern and adaptable to diverse role-based requirements?
Capability to provide advanced analytic abilities. My clients place a high value on CRM vendors' ability to provide analytic tools to better understand customer behavior and make insightful customer-facing decisions using the myriad customer data collected. Analytics are the key to unlocking the value in CRM applications. Does the vendor have powerful and easy-to-use business intelligence capabilities?