Expert Interview with Mark Tamis on Social CRM

Mark Tamis thumb

About Mark Tamis

Social CRM and Social Business Strategist at NET-7

Mark is an experienced consultant, manager and advisor on Social CRM, Enterprise 2.0, Social Business and Adaptive Case Management. He spent five years with BEA Systems and Oracle where he successfully created and managed a Professional Services Practice doing Enterprise 2.0 and Business Process Management. In just three quarters, he generated over 40% of total worldwide revenue for this service and built a team of 20 specialists to meet demand.

Looking for new challenges in the age of the Social Customer, he became an Associate at Net-7, a Paris-based IT Management Consultancy and recently became one of the first people in Europe to be certified in by Paul Greenberg's BPT Partners in 'Social CRM Strategies for Business'.

Mark's Social CRM Ideas blog is one of the top blogs on the subject and his articles have been published on, CustomerThink, Social Business One, and the Customer Collective.

SF: You've talked about how business has always been social – but also say we're going through a communications revolution. What has changed and what's stayed the same?

MT: I think what has changed is the way we can almost instantly find and connect with people who are like us, to share and exchange points of view about whatever interests us. Rather than be told by some company what we should think about the merits of their XYZ product, we now have the reach and the means to communicate with a virtually limitless number of people at costs that are approaching nearly nothing.

You've also said that Social CRM is much more than Social media + CRM. What do you mean?

Marketing especially seems to want to focus uniquely on Social Media as a means to communicate at potential customers, and thereby neglecting that a customer has a whole range of tools available to help them gather information and opinions and be influenced by his experience at each stage. He will effortlessly and comfortably hop from one channel to another, making it difficult to understand what his buyer journey actually looks like. There are many touch-points where companies can add value or otherwise facilitate – for example in-store, in the contact centre, at events, in Customer Support etc. – so not only through Social Media.

Your blog discusses how social CRM generates many new data points that we can use to motivate and pilot our organisations. What kind of data points?

These data-points I talk about could be for example about how customer service is perceived, whether there are issues with the product, competitive activity and other state-of-the-market indicators, but you could also think along the lines of gaining a better understanding of the context of the customer – what are their interests, how committed they are to your brand, whether their friends are also your customers, what type of assistance or information are they looking for and so forth and this can help you identify and shape the capabilities and value proposition that then determine your service offering.

With so many things competing for resources, how do you give a Social CRM program a sense of urgency within a growing business?

The data-points as described in the previous question provide a source of pressure from outside of the organization can serve as a wake-up call to management. Performance statistics such as Sales or First Call Resolution in customer service can be completed with real-time data on market context and customer intent, which in turn can then be used as a basis for better decision-making.

What is Adaptive Case Management and why should a CEO care about it?

Adaptive Case Management is about providing flexibility in obtaining desired outcomes by empowering knowledge workers to decide on the appropriate actions to carry out. ACM provides a flexible process framework to unite the right people with the right expertise and other resources such as enterprise systems at the right time, and ensures that key enterprise objectives such as traceability, visibility and accountability are met.

A CEO should care about this as it will give her organisation the ability to adapt the way it works according to changing market conditions without having to change its Business Processes which are often obsolete from the day they implemented.

How does Social CRM look from a customer service perspective?

From the customer service perspective, there will be less friction because the customer's context is better understood and can thus be taken into account during interactions. Issues can be anticipated and acted upon before they blow out of proportion (by picking up on "early warning signals"). Peer-to-peer support can provide often-times faster and as accurate service as in-house customer support, with the added benefit of reducing workload on contact centres or allowing a move towards higher added-value support. Just as a remark here, customers are currently still impressed to get any company response through public channels such as Twitter and Facebook, but as the novelty wears off, the company should do well to better understand the limitations of each channel and move to the most appropriate one as soon as possible, i.e. 140 characters on Twitter is too short to describe how to set up a digital television receiver.

And what about Social CRM in a sales context? How is a salesperson better equipped with Social CRM compared to traditional CRM?

In traditional B2B sales, the success of the salesperson depends on the relationship he manages to construct with the customer. Traditional CRM systems are often put in place by management to track what activities have taken place and to see where potential deals are within the sales cycle so that corrective measures can be taken when necessary – and as such these systems are more often than not seen to be a chore to salespeople rather than a useful tool. The Social CRM approach on the other hand aims to facilitate the role of the salesperson by making it easier to help him connect prospects with existing customers and internal expertise so as to reinforce his position as a Trusted Advisor. Another benefit is the ability to provide the salesperson with tools to mine their networks for connections to get new entry points into their assigned accounts and identify who competitors are connecting and talking to. An example of this is Iko Systems who does just that by mining LinkedIn, Xing, Facebook and Viadeo.

Can Social CRM lead to information overload – Will we be swamped by social information that overwhelms the real insight nuggets?

I do believe that there is a real risk – you have to realize that we're only at the beginning of a whole new way of how customers interact with each other and with companies and understanding when and how (and whether) to react will be the crux of the matter.

The example I like to use is the Prince William and Kate marriage – around the height of the ceremony there were over 4,000 tweets per second!

Even if your company would able to answer one in a thousand, you'd still have to deal with 345,600 per day! And even then, you'd have to figure out a way to decide which one of those titbits of information would be the proverbial needle in the haystack that can provide you with real insight.

Where does collaboration fit in with the overall Social CRM vision?

To me it is all about collaborating with, for and around the customer in order to best understand and meet current and future expectations. You cannot set expectations about your service offering when the whole organization doesn't come together to provide what is expected – and that could be because delays to resolve issues are too long or are dead-ended. This also includes working with other actors in your value chain, for example when you promise to deliver within 24 hours but your shipper consistently delivers after 7 days – do you blame the shipping company when the angry customer calls you after 3 days and leave it at that? There are many ways you could potentially react, but closer cooperation and coordination through collaboration is one of the most effective options.

How important are listening tools to Social CRM success?

Listening and monitoring tools provide a means to tap into a raw stream of feedback about what your customers think about your and your competitors' service offering, which will be rather more 'authentic' than when you conduct surveys or use focus groups. The issue is how you filter the data and turn it into actionable insights – currently we're doing tasks such as classifying what we find based on keywords or combinations for positive, negative or neutral sentiment, but I believe we'll need to build in feedback loops to get down to the nitty-gritty of it.

Where is Social CRM going?

Social CRM will be combined with Enterprise 2.0 in the Collaborative Enterprise that aims to strengthen the overall value proposition through collaboration between customers, the company, its partners, suppliers and channels. As such, social CRM as a philosophy and a business approach will be folded into the CRM discipline, but a more customer-focused one in this iteration.

Do you have any examples of smaller businesses having success with Social CRM?

The quintessential example is Giff Gaff, a UK MVNO that created and then worked with a community they formed with their customers to determine their go-to-market service offering, and which now provides peer-to-peer support with questions being answered within three minutes by community members. They have also provided peer-to-peer customer on-boarding incentives which has assured a fantastic growth rate.

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