Monday, March 7, 2011

Use of Social CRM for Customer Service Will Grow Rapidly Over the Next Two Years

During the next two years, 30 percent of leading companies will extend the goals of their online community activities to the design of enhanced service processes, such as social CRM, according to Gartner, Inc. Social CRM for customer service has the potential to bring new and dynamic methods for improving customer service, and in doing so is creating opportunities for new and existing providers in the customer service and contact center infrastructure markets.

As awareness and use of social networks increases, customer service executives and planners are feeling increasing pressure from corporate executives to articulate a strategy for how this new communication channel will be harnessed so that they don't get left behind.

Most deployments of social CRM are taking place in corporate marketing departments as an exercise in brand management, such as maintaining a presence on Facebook or Twitter. However, savvy customers are learning that the employees that manage interactions across these channels can also provide customer service functions -- sometimes with much-faster responsiveness than that provided over formal contact center channels. As customer awareness and use of social CRM for marketing as a back door to customer service increases, Gartner believes it will rapidly progress from an exception-handling situation to a process that needs to be standardized to scale to broader use.

Despite these powerful drivers, social CRM for customer service also faces several significant adoption inhibitors. Although there is significant awareness and hype regarding social CRM for customer service among corporate and customer service executives, the lack of broad-scale adoption of the technology makes the business case more theoretical than proven. This has the effect of slowing adoption by mainstream and late adopters who traditionally look for proven technologies and shy away from those perceived as "bleeding edge."

In addition, social CRM for customer service is still in the early stages of adoption, and as a result the business processes and policies for handling these interactions are still being determined. Many contact centers in mainstream and late-adopter companies struggle for budget and focus their efforts on streamlining their present operations. Adding social CRM for customer service to their operations has the potential to add high-profile uncertainty, and many will hold off on bringing the new technology into their contact centers until optimized processes and policies have been vetted by earlier adopters. Instead, they will opt to allow their marketing departments -- which often have access to near-term budget for such investments -- to take the lead in handling all social CRM interactions in the interim.

A further barrier to success is the fact that social networks are a rapidly evolving technology space, making it difficult for social CRM solution developers and users to know where to place their bets in terms of creating systems and processes to support those networks. An example is Second Life, which only two years ago drove significant hype as a potential customer service and e-commerce venue, only to slip rapidly to obscurity for all but its most ardent participants. Many contact centers are not equipped or managed to support rapidly changing communication paradigms and are choosing to "wait until the dust settles" before choosing which social networks to support.

More information on Social CRM  can be found at

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