Social Media Is Changing CRM

Facebook, Twitter, and other social channels are changing the way companies interact with customers, says Alex Dayon, executive VP of customer relationship management at
Carr: How is dealing with customers through social media different?

Dayon: The first way is volume. It's a very different world from having a phone queue to manage. The second one is that it's public, which is very important. The major thing we hear from these companies is they feel the loss of control -- where now their customers can talk about them. In the past, we could put them on mute and talk about them. Now, they can talk to all their friends.

One company we work with that had a customer snafu -- I cannot mention the name -- but they had this incident that got people talking on Twitter. And within 7 hours, there were more than 20,000 people on that twitter feed.

Carr: I'm sorry, did you say 20,000? Was this a profile set up specifically to air a complaint?

Dayon: Well, people started to write in -- that's the viral effect of this social world -- and within 7 hours, this individual had 20,000 followers. That's the real challenge, the way things can snowball at a pace we've never seen in this social world.

That's why customer service organizations are under stress, first of all to connect to this world, and secondly to have realtime analytics.

We already have some companies managing customer interactions on Twitter, like BofA [Bank of America] and KLM, the Dutch airline.

The answers provided by the company aren't being entered into Twitter, they're coming from Salesforce. They're using an agent console the same way they would use the console to answer email. You use the same business processes and all the analytic processes and also can keep track of interactions. If you call someone later, they will know you had this problem on that social channel.

Carr: Isn't part of the theory also that if you respond well, you can turn your critics into your biggest fans?

Dayon: Usually, the story is more like Comcast, which is one of our customers, which started its social media strategy after someone published the YouTube video of the Comcast technician sleeping on the couch. Or the "United Breaks Guitars" video, where after this guy goes to customer service and gets no response, he comes up with this very funny song, and now he has 10 million followers.

Usually, how people start is they realize they've suffered huge damage to their brand. But very quickly, as you say, they start to look at the positive side. There's a kind of maturity path.

Social media strategy starts out reactive, because they realize they're losing control and they need to do something. Very quickly they realize service needs to be part of the mix because they need to take care of the unhappy guys.

Carr: What's the next step in how you will address this in your product line.

Dayon: Well, Dreamforce is where we usually announce new capabilities. But I can tell you a little about where I see this world evolving. I think over the next year we're going to see amazing business stories around the value of customer engagement through social media. The conversation is going to shift from "I need to do it because I've lost control of my brand," to "I need to do it because this makes sense for my business."

Going forward, social is going to be part of pretty much every product.