Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has always been an element of running a successful business, and it has always emphasized managing interactions with consumers based upon developing a deeper understanding of customers’ needs and desires. Social media is an important resource for gauging these needs and desires and communicating effectively with customers.

In the past, customer relationship management has been accomplished in a number of ways, including compiling relevant data about customers from a variety of sources, including the customer’s history with the company, interactions with customers via telephone, email, and through the company’s website, etc. Several advances in technology and shifts in communication patterns in recent years have highlighted the importance of other methods of customer communication, however—specifically the incredible ways in which digital, social media, and mobile technologies have evolved. Social media’s importance in CRM is increasing and will continue to do so; as a result, it is equally important that companies avail themselves of CRM applications which are well-integrated with social media.

Not all CRM solutions are created equally—and in some cases, while two solutions may be well-loved by their users, they do not offer the same features and functions. What may be right for one organization isn’t suitable for another; what may leave one company scrabbling for better social CRM may be the ideal solution for another. Because of this, it’s very important for organizations to choose the right CRM solution (or combination of solutions) for their needs. Here are a few of the aspects that should be considered when shopping for a social CRM business product:

Social Media Tool Integration

Of course, one of the primary purposes of a socially-oriented CRM is to streamline social media interactions with customers in a way that complements the company’s overall CRM strategy. That can’t be effectively accomplished if the software or application in question is not integrated with the social media tools preferred by the company, or if the integration itself is incomplete or does not meet the company’s needs. Different organizations and different customer demographics often require not only the use of differing social media platforms, but different features and functions, and different methods of recording and tracking interactions.

Prior to choosing a CRM solution, companies should be prepared with research indicating which social media platforms they require integration with, and what that integration should entail.

Mobile Integration

Gone are the days when mobile applications associated with CRM and other business solutions were strictly pale, pared-down, shadows of their desktop counterparts, plagued by limited functionality or buggy interfaces. It’s become expected for employees to be able to access the software and other solutions they need on the go, not only so that they are able to fulfill work tasks in a greater variety of environments, but also to facilitate improved work/life balance, boost morale, and provide employees with highly valued flexibility.

When researching a solution, investigate what mobile application options are provided, and the specific features and functionalities offered by the apps. It’s important to know whether or not the product’s mobile offerings are in line with what your particular team needs to be able to accomplish when working remotely.

Platform and User Interface

Automation, user interface, and the way in which a product is delivered—whether it is a local install, SaaS (Software as a Service), etc.—can all play a role in determining whether or not the product is compatible with the way in which your team does business. When possible, it’s a good idea to get a sample version of the product so that it can be tested by multiple employees to determine whether or not its features and interface meet their needs in an operational environment. This is also advantageous when planning for change, as it can give team leaders a better idea of the amount and types of training that will be required before the new CRM solution goes live.

Researching and Comparing CRM Tools

While a great deal can be learned by visiting the individual websites of CRM solution providers, it can also be extremely helpful to use unbiased, third-party resources that are geared toward comparing the characteristics and features of different products. Compare Business Products provides a free Social CRM Solutions Comparison Guide that provides in-depth information about more than 35 of the most popular social CRM vendors and products.

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