Implementing Social CRM: 4 Questions to Answer Before Implementation

Written by Scott NesbittDecember 1, 2010

Implementing social CRM isn't only about installing and rolling out software. There are a number of  factors, both technical and organizational, that you need to consider.

Before implementing a social CRM system, you need to answer a number of questions. Questions that just might challenge a number of assumptions your organization has, and which might change the way you think about engaging with customers.

Here are four of the questions to ask before implementing a social CRM system.

Hosted or on your network?

More and more companies are moving critical operations – like ERP and support – to the cloud. Going that route with your social CRM system makes a lot of sense. You can theoretically lower your costs, give employees access to the system no matter where they are, and leave all of the maintenance and upgrades in the hands of a vendor. On the other hand, you're vulnerable to outages and your data is in the hands of a third party.

Keeping the system in your company's hands gives you more control, but it can also increase costs. You'll not only have to license your social CRM solution, but you'll need to pay for on-going maintenance. On top of that, you'll need to ensure you have the necessary infrastructure and can scale it when needed. You might also need at least one dedicated resource to administer the system.

Will it integrate with your current systems?

A social CRM system doesn't stand alone. To be effective, it needs to be able to exchange data with other systems in your enterprise or that your enterprise uses. Like what? Microsoft Outlook, Google AdWords, the APIs offered by social networking sites, and more. 

If the solution you're looking at doesn't offer direct integration, find out if there are plugins or connectors – software that sits between the systems to translate between them – available. If there are, make sure they meet your needs. If that software isn't available, but the social CRM system is a good fit, you might want to look into contracting a developer to build a plugin or connector for you. Doing that could increase your costs, but it could also make the social CRM system all that  more flexible and more useful to your firm.

Will you be using and monitoring analytics?

If you aren't thinking about that, you should be. Analytics can help you gain a deeper understanding of both your current customers and your prospects. A good analytics tool is a must.

The analytics tools out there range from free to expensive. You'll have to find the one that fits your budget and which will enable you to zoom in on the specific metrics that will give your firm a competitive advantage. But remember that just having the raw data isn't enough. It's vital that your analytics tool is able to clearly visualize that data to help you draw conclusions.

Speaking of raw data, you need tools to track customer sentiment and opinion, and pull it into your social CRM system for further analysis. Simply assigning someone to monitor Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook isn't enough. Investigate listening tools that can talk to your social CRM system. Better yet, find a social CRM system that integrates those kinds of tools.

What internal processes will have to change?

Implementing a social CRM system isn't going to magically change the way you interact with and engage customers. If your staff won't share critical data with colleagues or across departments, then all software in the world won't help you better deal with customers and prospects. Contrary to what some people in an organization believe, sharing information doesn't mean a loss of control.

Changing internal processes and attitudes can be a big factor in making a social CRM implementation a success. But those changes are what will take the most time. You need to shift employees away from siloed thinking and move everyone in the organization into a more collaborative mindset. And that shift in thinking and doing is the toughest part of implementing a social CRM system. It's the part that will take the most time, too.

Summing up

As you answer these questions, more will undoubtedly come to mind. But as you deal with those questions, you'll move closer to your goal of successfully implementing a social CRM system.

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