Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Social Media and CRM

I am pretty late to the blogosphere about the differences between social media and CRM. But in customer meetings I see this kind of confusion all the time. So here goes. Oh, and since I mainly work in the travel industry, my examples come from there.

So first what are the goals of CRM? Knowing the customer. Being able to have enough insight into the customer to persuade the customer to buy more, become more intimate - generally increase their direct value. Maybe to right wrongs - by providing compensation if bad things happen. So CRM tends to foster a set of 1:1 exchanges. Necessary but not sufficient.

In contrast social media is about somehow leveraging an network of relationships. It's one stage on from CRM (or maybe many stages beyond CRM!). So if I have a bad experience on an airline, I need the airline to do what t needs to do for compensation. But the social aspect doesn't stop there. I am heavily armed with well connected devices, a network of acquaintances and friends and time - especially on the flight. So in some ways the Social Network space is a competition between the airline provider, and the customer. Rach trying to get "the story" out to their social network orbits. The magic happens when the stories coincide - when the CRM aspect of looking after me is also told by the airline and by me. The double dip of great publicity.

But when things go badly for a customer (e.g. my luggage misconnected) then the bad story needs to be acknowledged. Through the social channels - posting on the passenger's FB wall for example, and some compensation placed at the same time. Otherwise the annoyed passenger with lots of time will send out a stream of invective to any/all who may listen.

So when thinking about Social Media realize:
  • It's a conversation
  • It's about the whole orbit
  • Don't forget to do CRM blocking and tackling

Microphone ready events

I was working with some customers this week, and the topic of "how do you generate events?" comes up. Not how as in the dirty mechanics, but how when something is done manually today, getting that systematized. So, please bear with me on the following example.

Most airlines board their passengers in some kinds of groups. So, announcements are made to get the people in the correct groups to board. A common way to do this is for the gate agent to announce that "Group n" is to board now. Perhaps it would be cool to page all the people in the appropriate group and have them rock up to board. Sounds like fun (and remember folks this is just an illustration). So if you were delivering messages to the smartphone or whever, you would simly send the message. Easy in an event based system?

Not so fast. Current systems probably don't recognize a legitimate event for this. It is procedure and policy (+ experience, queue monotoring, temperature on the jet bridge, screaming children,....) that actually triggers announcement - the what I call the "Microphone event". So how would we systematize that?

Change the gate agent system to do this - and think about the complexity involved, and the myriad of other delivered messages?
Automate the system to do something really clever, like start the boarding process clock at t-30 minutes, monitor the number of boarding pases lifted/scanned (as a proxy for queue depth), and when that number approximates the number of people in the group, then release the next group....
Other thoughts?

This brings up the point, that where we have humans sensing and responding to situations, they will raise events and deliver them through a variety of ways. Sometimes shouting throughh the mic is best of all. But if it does become desirable to do these kinds of things automatically, then use what the people do as cues for the kinds of events that the system needs to generate, sense and respond.