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The Complicated Problem of Social CRM

The Complicated Problem of Social CRM-2

The morning Twitter launched its IPO, I whipped out my iPhone to place a trade using the USAA app and to my dismay could not get it to work.

I’m not sure what happened, but I did what many customers on a mobile device do:  I tweeted @USAA for help.  And like many companies that freeze up with social media fear, or simply haven’t properly staffed social media, USAA responded some 12 hours later from a different Twitter handle: @USAA_help.

Fortunately, in the time in-between, I used the phone’s voice-activated service to call the brokerage and placed a trade.  Social media notwithstanding, USAA is typically known for great customer service, and the bank placed the trade at the online commission price of $8.95 where a phone trade typically comes with a higher commission. A short while later I was the proud owner of 10 shares in TWTR at the market price of $45.10.

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Good customer service is good marketing.

The Case for Social CRM

The business case for social CRM is compelling. For example, an eMarketer study finds that real-time help produced significant benefits to a company such as increased customer satisfaction (67%) and increased customer retention (60%).  Poor customer service costs U.S. businesses $41 billion a year, according to another study.

It’s the statistics like these that leads me to wonder why a bank like USAA, which has built a reputation on being an early technology adopter, including a social media presence, and previously employed reputable marketing thought leaders like Augie Ray of Forrester fame, hadn’t yet grasped the importance of social CRM.  To its credit, albeit a little late, the company is working on it.

Writing for the San Antonio News-Express, USAA’s hometown newspaper, reporter Sarah Tressler quotes Renee Horne, USAA’s assistant vice president of social business:

“Social (media) and the emerging series of other platforms are changing the ways businesses interact with members in our case, or customers in other companies. As our membership is evolving, their preferences have changed, and we have folks that are digital natives — they grew up in that type of environment and that is the type of interaction they expect from us.”

Complicated Problem of Social CRM

Social CRM is hard. It’s not merely being responsive, or creating the appearance of responding, but rather it is important to know who in fact is an existing customer.  Any brand looking at the Twitter followers or Facebook fans it has amassed is still faced with one complicated problem:  brands have no real idea who is, in fact, a customer.  While market moves like Oracle’s acquisition of Eloqua, hold promise, no CRM product that I’m aware of today has solved this problem.

Sure there are some workarounds, with for example with Facebook’s Custom Audience, but these are manual processes, absent from automation and designed for output only – not customer relationship building.  The challenges are obvious – privacy concerns both from the brand and customer perspective are top of mind.

Social networks would understandably be reluctant to permit brands to suck out such information in order to reconcile it in CRM – though I bet brands would pay a hefty price for such a luxury (and prove to be a valuable new revenue stream for social networks).  Add in the complexity of a financial services company, and perhaps regulatory hurdles, and we’ve got a classic business problem waiting to be solved.

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A New Year CRM resolution

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to get more serious about investing in stocks. I dabble with the stocks of social networks, mostly in an interest to track these companies and serve as a source of better knowledge.  More generally, my strategy is to invest affordable amounts of money every month in a range of companies that are undervalued, show long-term promise or (I think) are acquisition targets where a deal might prove a fair value for investors.

Yesterday, as I scheduled a trade for a small energy company, and afterwards was poking around my personal profile and noticed USAA has integrated OAuth for Facebook and Twitter; I opted in for the latter.  To my knowledge, USAA has not conducted a push notification to customers and I stumbled upon this by chance; yet it struck me as a pretty thoughtful way for businesses to get to know customers on social networks.

It’s doubtful in the short-term that OAuth will ever be used for secure log-in for the purposes of conducting transactions, but I suspect it gives USAA a clearer picture about who, on these networks, is a customer.  Perhaps just maybe such insight will enable the company to be more responsive on social networks if the company is reasonably certain those asking for help are also customers.

It’s a model any company with a log-in could easily follow and it solves one big social CRM problem.

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Photo credit:  Flickr, Mark Crossfield, Complaint Department (CC BY-SA 2.0) [edited for size]

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