social CRM

Larry Caretsky is the president and CEO of Commence Corporation, a provider of customer relationship management software for small to mid-size enterprises.

To fully leverage the possibilities of social media, it’s not enough to simply have a social media presence: Effective social customer relationship management (social CRM) is a must in today’s competitive marketplace. Social media can either drive prospects to your store or send potential customers away, and the outcome depends on how you choose to engage social media users. If you’re helpful and engaging, you’ll make a good impression. If you’re dismissive or unresponsive, customers will take note.

Suppose you manage an online store and a customer contacts you about an item that you don’t sell. If you provide information on where she can find the item, she’s likely to provide positive feedback about your company on social media and come back to you when she needs something that you do sell.

On the other hand, if a customer has a disputed charge and is unable to reach your customer service team to resolve it, he may decide to take to Twitter to share that frustrating experience with all his friends. And that could cost you business in the future.

So how can you leverage social media to get new business and build a positive relationship with customers? Here are three tips to help you get started:

  1. Have a two-way conversation: Engaging in a dialogue is what social media is all about, so when a customer sends a social media message, respond. If someone compliments your company on Twitter, retweet the comment or thank them for a Facebook or blog mention. If your customer experienced a problem, let him or her know you’re prepared to make it right.
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  3. Be transparent: Some business owners respond to social media messages with a direct or private message, but that’s a missed opportunity. Even when responding to a complaint, if you provide an answer that others can see, you’re demonstrating that you care about your customers. Of course, it’s almost always a bad idea to engage someone who is being unreasonable. But if you’re making a good faith effort with a reasonable customer, those following the conversation will see that.
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  5. Do a periodic social media roundup: One great way to extend the social media conversation (and generate more publicity for your company) is to do a regular roundup of social media mentions. You can use an online newsletter or Facebook post for this purpose. It should include thanks to the customers who provided your business with compliments and also express gratitude to customers who complained – because they gave you an opportunity to improve.

The basics of customer service and relationship management haven’t changed: Customers still like to be engaged and to feel that they’ve been heard. They generally appreciate any help that you provide and resent being ignored. What has changed is the way customers and businesses communicate.

That’s why you should strongly consider incorporating social CRM principles into your marketing and customer relations strategy. These days, just maintaining a social media presence isn’t enough – it’s important to engage in the conversations that are happening all around you so you can fully leverage the opportunities. Social CRM can open up a whole new way to relate to your customers and prospects, positioning your business for greater success.