WHEN I TEACH classes on social CRM, one of the first things I tell attendees is that I like CRM because it's the only science of business that reflects an art of life. That art of life? Human interaction.
My first definition of CRM that gained stickiness in the industry goes back to these very pages in a column I wrote in 2003: "CRM is a philosophy and a business strategy, supported by a system and a technology designed to improve human interactions in a business environment."
In other words, what governs this science of business is how customers (aka human beings) in a particular role interrelate with businesses.
Customer-business interactions are complex for multiple reasons:
1. The expected value derived from those interactions by each party not only can vary widely but also clash at times.
2. The customer, because he is an individual and not an institution, wants his experience to be unique to him.
3. The business, because it is an institution and is dealing with all those unique personages, must figure out how to mollify customers without damaging institutional business imperatives.
4. To color the prior three with vivid paint, the customer is no longer a passive receptacle of messages. He is an active and demanding participant in how he wants to share a portion of his life with that business. In short, these are social customers.
Let's take a fresh look at what a social customer is. He is a human being who does things in an identifiably different way, one that will affect your business.
THE SOCIAL CUSTOMER
I know this is the equivalent of beating a dead (actually very much alive) horse, but let's do some more beating (no animals were harmed in the production of this sentence). As of 2011, the social customer is an established part of the business cloth. To clarify, a social customer meets the following description:
a. comfortable communicating on the social Web, both externally (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and internally (i.e., communities);
b. conversant with the tools for that communication and never afraid to use them to communicate for positive, neutral, or negative reasons;
c. focused on communicating with peers as a most trusted source, defined as "someone like them," not necessarily "someone they know";
d. knows that he can influence a company's brand by these conversations and that the business has no proactive say in his ability to do that (the business can react, however);
e. demands a deeper engagement with the companies he cares enough to engage with (Note this one, businesses: He cares enough about you to engage more deeply. That's an opportunity to embrace, not something to fear.);
f. demands a personalized experience with the company, based on individual, not demographic, preferences;
g. knows he has a willing audience to hear about his experiences with a company;
h. communicates through multiple channels, tethered or untethered; and
i. is considerably harder to please than customers have been in the past (for example, a recent article in 1to1 Media referenced a Yankee Group survey that found the customer satisfaction rates with customer service via social channels is 65 percent-almost 11 percent less than the overall customer satisfaction rate as determined by the American Customer Satisfaction Index).
This social customer isn't:
a. a majority of the world's customers;
b. a customer who has a deep commitment to lots of brands (his relationship with most brands is entirely utilitarian); and
c. inclined to complain about companies, but is more likely to complain to larger audiences, known or unknown, because he can. …