We trust those sources most, who are like us.
“A company like me”, as Paul Greenberg dubbed it in an article for destinationCRM, is a vision that depicts a trustworthy, almost human, company; maybe this vision is not an achievable one, but it still is a very good one since easily related to and understood. It clearly shows the path to the ultimate goal of each company: To add value to customers by being trustworthy.
Adding value to customers increases their loyalty and having more loyal customers directly translates into an improved bottom line since loyal customers have a higher value than irregular customers. They spend more and more often. Loyal customers furthermore often act as ambassadors for “their” companies and brands thus providing a free-of-charge marketing- and sales force which results in a better top line.
As a matter of fact and as stated in several blogs before, people – customers – are more connected than ever. They get information they trust on products and services anytime and anywhere via their personal networks and can easily confirm or prove wrong all information that is pushed out by companies.
They achieve this via usage of services like Epinions, Tripadvisor, Facebook, Priceme, and so on. Customers use these sites from their home computers and via their smart phones, so that they even take ad-hoc decisions informed. As a result the push approach does not work anymore. Companies are no more in control of the information that is available about them and their brands.
Successful companies embrace this. As an example (and sorry to all the not mentioned ones, …) we find pages for different brands like Coca Cola, Miele, Nestle, Adidas, Nike or New Zealand’s Icebreaker on Facebook. Coca Cola also embarked on a marketing campaign “Expedition 206” in 2010 that fully embraces social media – and sparked quite some discussion about whether this is social CRM or only social marketing.
These companies, as well as other ones, have understood that they need to become part of their customers’ networks of trust and act accordingly. The first step towards achieving this is engaging and fostering a bi directional communication that involves customers into marketing-, sales- and service processes and ultimately also into product development processes, while following a clear brand message.
This engagement can start by targeted campaigns, loyalty activities or questionnaires, to give but some examples. Each customer participation, or non participation to that regard, in campaigns, loyalty programs, surveys, participation in forums, etc, is a valuable answer. Answers may be given in forms that are immediately ready for automated processing or in human readable format that needs further processing before it can be used by an automated system. Analysis of click streams gives hints on what gets customers’ attention and what not.
Successfully engaging customers into a longer dialogue creates transparency for customers. They know what a company stands for and where it heads to, in other words what they can expect.
The longer the dialogue lasts the higher are the chances of increasing a customer’s loyalty.
However: Action without measurement is nothing! It is important to collect, analyse, and use the data that is gathered in the course of this dialogue, to convert the data into information, to learn from this information, thereby turning it into actionable knowledge, and last but not least to properly apply the new knowledge.
By using this knowledge resulting from their dialogue with the customers and combining it with the transactional data that is readily available it is possible for companies to conduct a conversation with customers like they know them the way a friend (at least an acquaintance) is known.
This creates (the impression of) a personal connection although it is independent of any company employee.
By means of a CRM system that is able to integrate the social knowledge with the knowledge gained from customer transactions a company can ensure that the customer is addressed the right way, regardless of the channel. A company then may appear almost human.
By getting closer to this ideal of a humanised “company like me” a company gets deeper and deeper into their customers’ networks of trust. As a result the customers are not only providing more and more valuable information but are also increasingly advocating the company and/or its products or services. This way a mutual give and take and an eye-to-eye relationship evolve.
Companies that are able to get close to this vision will be able to solidify their market position since they have a loyal customer base and know that they are providing the right products and services to them.
This is a revised version of the article A way towards Nirvana – Embracing Social CRM is Key, posted ealier on ciber.com and has been republished with the permission of the author.