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Social CRM: Outsmart the Competition with Proactive Response

My colleague Brendan Read recently published a Frost & Sullivan market insight on Social Customer Collaboration, and we are about to publish one on Social CRM. This first, available now on, discusses the value of creating sites to foster external and/or internal user communities that enable the resolution of customers' issues, from finding information to resolving problems, and help build customer loyalty.

Companies are also using social collaboration to interface directly with CRM systems, rather than using customer interaction management applications. For example, companies are opening Facebook and Twitter as support channels and then routing the messages received on them into their internal help-desk applications for collaboration, solution generation, and training. And they are starting to recognize the value of including social clout in an overall customer value score; indeed, the social channel has elevated in importance those customers who can influence others, and impact the decisions made by customers with a high "customer lifetime value" (CLV) score, even if the social customer's overall spend with the company is relatively low.

Companies have been using social media for years to promote brand awareness, unveil new products, and deliver special offers and services. But now, smart organizations are starting to use the sites to actually listen to their customers, and then act on the information they receive. Today, most of those engagements are reactive; a customer tweets about a bad experience, and the company responds to make it right (ideally; sometimes companies don't respond at all, or respond badly). The future holds the possibility of using big-data analytics to identify broader social trends, and use that information to influence strategic planning, product development, and customer interactions.

What companies are not doing enough of, however, is proactive social engagement. Recently, an angry British Airlines customer spent $1,000 to promote his tweets complaining that BA had lost his father's luggage and done nothing to rectify the situation. Somewhat amazingly, it took BA hours to notice and respond to Hasan Syed's feed (in case you're curious, his Twitter handle is @HVSVN) because they monitor Twitter only between 9am-5pm GMT.

But let's leave aside the issue of how British Airways handled this situation (poorly, it would seem). What struck me was the opportunity for another airline to jump in and save the day. JetBlue's senior VP of marketing noted that it appeared to be a "new trend," but he didn't act on the opportunity. One of Syed's followers suggested that Virgin Atlantic buy his dad a new suitcase. It doesn't appear they did, but what if they had?

This story went viral really fast, and Syed was interviewed on CNN and other news outlets. Imagine the goodwill if another airline had, say, given Syed's father a gift certificate to Marks & Spencer to replace his lost luggage? Or even a free flight home, since he now hates BA so much? The cost would have been less than the money Syed spent to get his message out--and it would have had a much, much bigger marketing value.

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