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Social CRM Rush Projected For Enterprises

Gartner study finds large businesses are accelerating use of social media for customer service and brand management with 30% planning to adopt it over the next 24 months.

Enterprises are embracing social customer relationship management (CRM) software, with four in 10 leading businesses expected to adopt this technology within five years as part of their ongoing efforts to improve customer service, according to Gartner.

Within the next 24 months, 30% of leading enterprises will incorporate social CRM, the research firm said in a report on Thursday.

"There is strong corporate awareness, including at corporate executive levels, of social networks and their potential impact on corporate brand management and customer service perception. We expect the high-profile nature of social networks and social CRM for customer service to rapidly advance adoption from early adopter to mainstream deployments, despite the volatile and rapid evolution of social networks in general," said Drew Kraus, research VP at Gartner, in a statement. "As awareness and use of social networks increases, customer service executives and planners are feeling increasing pressure from corporate executives to articulate a strategy for how this new communication channel will be harnessed so that they don't get left behind."

Although marketing departments initially began corporate deployments to oversee brand management via Twitter feeds and Facebook fan pages, more social media-aware businesses are recognizing that employees who interact with customers via these sites also can provide customer service functions, at times much faster than those working in traditional customer service capacities such as phone banks or email response centers, Gartner said.

Smaller companies also are adding social media into their marketing and customer support plans: A January report by SugarCRM found that 72% of the small and midsize businesses they surveyed planned to link data from social networks into their CRM software this year. However, only 26% had done so at the time of the study, the report found.

Users want -- and expect -- businesses to respond to their questions and complaints via social media, a May 2010 report by consulting firm Accenture said. The study of communications and high-tech vendors revealed that firms' efforts to improve their customer service failed to impress their business and residential customers about 60% of the time. But the study also discovered that 92% of business customers and 81% of consumers said they are more likely to continue doing business with vendors whose support they believe has improved.

"Companies are investing in customer service," said Joe Hughes, senior executive with Accenture's customer service and support business, told InformationWeek when the report was released, "but at the same time customer expectations are rising -- in many cases faster than the investments. Some of the investment has been to reduce costs, which favorably impacted the way clients perceive customer service, but the path to more profitable, longer lasting customer relationships centers on improving the customer experience."

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