customer relationship managementA new study from Business Insider, “A Focus on the Social Customer – How Companies Are Using Social Media to Become More Customer-Centric,” reveals that the majority of consumers now view social media as a service channel.

In fact, 88% of respondents to the Business Insider survey stated that they are influenced by reading online customer reviews on social media sites (including blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so on), and they are less likely to buy from companies that ignore customer complaints and questions on social media. Nearly one in five respondents believe that social media will become a major way for customers to communicate with companies in the near future.

Despite this shift in consumer behavior, companies are still putting more budget dollars and resources into traditional customer relationship management (CRM) tools, strategies, and tactics. Attensity, a social analytics company, is cited in the report as stating that the new wave of social customer relationship management (SCRM) relies on a strategy rooted in social listening, human-driven analysis, relating, and acting proactively. It’s a strategic process that touches all internal stakeholders, which means multiple departments should be involved in it.

Business Insider’s report identifies three key learnings from the research study:

  1. Traditional customer relationship management relies on a tool and the strategy is developed based on the capabilities and limitations of that tool. This “stand-alone piece of CRM software” is the core of customer management when the focus should be on the strategy to collect customer feedback from multiple sources (online, social media, and mobile) and share it across functions within the company.
  2. A social customer relationship management strategy drives a higher probability of sales (100% higher) than traditional outbound marketing and acts as a differentiator since most companies offer poor social customer service.
  3. Social customer relationship management focuses on the customer who is in control. The company listens to customers and uses their social conversations and content in its decision-making while boosting leads and customer lifetime value.

Considering that companies are tracking real customer acquisition results through social media despite less than perfect conversion tracking systems, shifting to a social customer relationship management strategy is getting a lot of deserved buzz lately. The Business Insider study found that 62% of companies had acquired a customer through LinkedIn and 57% had acquired a customer through a company blog. Another 52% had found a customer through Facebook, and 44% had acquired a customer through Twitter.

Realistically, a sales team can’t handle all of those social interactions—both sales and customer service interactions—so the scope of customer relationship management and the responsibility for it now falls to many departments within a company. And that leads to the debate undoubtedly happening in the offices of Corporate America today—which cost center does customer relationship management go in?

Image: Ilker