Connecting Salesforce and Radian 6

10 05 2011

It’s been a month since I attended Cloudforce in Paris, followed bythe Radian6 User Conference in Boston – so I thought it would be about time to gather my ideas and impressions and ‘commit them to paper’, so to speak. Especially in the light of the acquisition of the latter by the former just before the events. Salesforce clients in particular will stand to gain through the connection of social customer insights to the Sales and Service Clouds, by identifying new opportunities to engage with customers and to explore the customer’s context in order to facilitate service interactions.

In Paris we were graced with the presence of Marc Benioff – a gifted and convincing public speaker who delivered a well-constructed presentation – let down only by his apparent need to jab his rivals. Marc took us through not only the rapid growth of Salesforce, but also through the entire evolution of business computing. The way it was presented that Cloud Computing is the next level up from mainframe, client/server, personal computing, and the internet. Although I would agree that Cloud Computing has disrupted the way we organize IT by turning it into a utility, changing it from a CapEx to an OpEx that potentially moves the deployment decision from the CIO to the Line of Business – I would challenge that the platform features by themselves correspond with the term ‘disruptive innovation’.

Let me elaborate on that. What we have seen is that the delivery mode may have changed, but what the user sees is still the same contact database and Sales funnel designed primarily to efficiently help management keep tabs on sales activity rather than make the Salesperson more effective. Although tools have been provided to customize the interface (or DIY it thru, there is little room for example to take into account approaches more aligned with customer buying cycles, such as the McKinsey Consumer Decision Journey. You may counter that argument by saying that the Sales Funnel is a method that has proven to be effective in the past – but then again, how would you know whether you’re not losing a lot of business opportunities because you interacted with the prospect at the wrong time? With the Sales funnel, these would fall by the wayside, with the tacit hope that your Marketing or Inside Sales team will pick them up again when they call back in 3-6 months without any nurturing…Furthermore, if all of your competitors are using the same approach, there is no competitive edge to be gained as this effectively levelling the playing field.

This is not something that is specific to Salesforce however: I’d say that CRM Vendors offer systems that in 95% of the cases all have the exact same features. And as such I believe this is where I think the Radian 6 acquisition makes the most sense, beyond just the social media engagement toolset.

It is not just the listening capabilities of the platform, but also the mindset of this dynamic company from New Brunswick (Canada) that can help bring about a new conciousness about other approaches to CRM systems that better cater to the expectations of the Social Customer . This is where the real disruptive innovation can be had in my opinion. As we come to better understand the relationship between customer activity (not only on social media, but also on other channels such as the phone with a CSR, at events, thru geolocation clustering – anywhere that we can get extra datapoints) and their buying and advocacy behaviour, we’ll need to the flexibility and agility to be able to adapt our systems. And Radian 6 is in a position to provide many more datapoints than Salesforce has ever had access to, so all is needed now is some Sensemaking. Easy peasy!

Oversimplification aside, one caveat that I’d like to highlight is that as were still very much in the early days of discovering how monitoring social media activity can improve business, and furthermore there is still very little awareness as to the capabilities of the various listening and monitoring platforms. Radian 6 does a very good job of scraping the various blogs, twitter streams and so on and putting this in reports, but it should not be forgotten that at best, you’ll get some trends that can be used to steer your messaging in quasi real time – or with a bit of luck discover some hitherto hidden needs. Salesforce on the other hand is about managing data about individual customers – which you can then group into segments with similar characteristics (demographics etc.) so as to optimize your marketing spend for example.

Just to make the distinction more clear, there is a gap between trending “customers” and getting specific social activity about an individual customer to get their context, kind of like the difference between having market intelligence versus having customer intelligence. Radian 6 has added features such as the Engagement Console which allows you to apply rules-based filters to extract events that require attention, as well as mechanisms to assign a reaction workflow to the Response Team, or create tickets in Salesforce’s Service Cloud (whether third-party CRM Systems will continue to be supported remains to be seen…).

An interesting development that was presented at the Radian 6 User Conference in this light is the Insights platform. Even before the announcement of the acquisition, they were working to become a pluggable platform, allowing you to add Best-of-Breed second-pass datacrunchers such as Clarabridge for Sentiment and Text Analysis, or Klout to measure influence and thus potential for Advocacy (or nuisance) in order to figure out some level of prioritization – even though I have my reservations about the validity of the algorithms used…

The Insights platform is where Radian 6 and Salesforce will come together – where the linking and analysis will take place to enrich customer profiles with insights derived from social media engagement as well as from other channels in order to better understand customer contexts and provide adequate responses in line with customer expectations.The missing piece of the puzzle (which I talked about in this presentation I gave at the Social CRM 2011 London event) is collaboration to actually optimize how how we organize in order to meet customer expectations and needs. Furthermore, Insights is an essential part of the package as pouring an unfiltered firehose of social media events into Chatter could inundate it with a lot of static, and lead to it becoming impossible to use effectively.

The question that remains for me is the pricing model. Radian 6 has announced it will continue to function as an independent company, but I am still in the dark as to whether clients will be obliged to go through for example to get access to the data – and thus need to pay access to the intermediate platform as well. If anybody can shed some light on this, please do so in the comments below!

Data-Driven Social CRM

15 04 2010

I have been reading some very interesting books about strategies around becoming a customer-driven organisation and also about the benefits of Customer Engagement Programs (more on that in later posts). In the discussion around Social CRM we agree that it is beneficial to business to engage the Social Customer, but what seems to be more difficult to articulate is the Business Value Proposition – why should a company invest in Customer Engagement Programs in conjunction with CRM? What value is in it for the company and what is in it for the customers? We also talk about the need to move from value-in-exchange thinking to value-in-use. What tangible benefits are there for companies to take a a customer Lifetime Value approach rather than concentrate on the sale? Or simply, how can Social CRM Strategies can provide a significant impact to the bottom line.   

This is where Jim Novo’s book “Drilling Down” got me thinking – hard (and kudo’s to fellow AC-er Mike Boysen for helping me shape my thoughts). Jim Novo’s premise is that the data you have in your systems about your customers will allow you to segment them based on their behaviour and not sociodemographic characteristics and concentrate your resources on those that will bring you the highest value. It sounds kind of like inside-out thinking, but believe me, it is quite the opposite. Rather than concentrating on attrition and win-back of all your customers(which is far more expensive than customer retention), the method he proposes also allows you to pick up on deviation from expected behaviour, use these as triggers and perform what I’d describe as “just-in-time” retention activities to keep the patronage of high-potential or high-value customers.   

 This excerpt is taken from the free chapters of Jim’s book (you can get them here by signing up for his newsletter):   

1. Past and Current customer behavior are the best predictors of Future customer behavior. 

You can predict future behavior based on an understanding of past behavior, and use this knowledge to improve marketing or service programs [based on] actual behavior, not implied behavior.

2. Customers want to win at the customer game. 

They like to feel they are in control and smart about choices they make, and they like to feel good about their behavior. Marketers and service providers take advantage of this attitude by offering programs and communications of various kinds to get customers to engage in a certain behavior and feel good about doing it.

3. Data-Driven programs are about allocating resources.
Data-Driven marketing and service programs are among the very few allowing you to accurately measure ROI. [It’s about] reallocating capital with low return to higher return projects or programs, generating higher profits in the process.  

4.Action – Reaction – Feedback – Repeat.

Data-Driven marketing and service programs are driven by creating continuous communications and interactions between the business and the customer, and analyzing these interactions for challenges or opportunities.

This is the example Jim uses to illustrate his propos: 

For example, a win-back program is triggered when the customer defects. Have you switched long distance or cellular providers lately? Did you get inundated with win-back calls begging you to reconsider? “Jim, we just wanted you to know we have lowered our rates.” Yeah, well, thanks for telling me after overcharging me for the past six months! But could they have known I was about to switch by looking at my behavior? 

Sure. If they had looked at the calling patterns of previously defected customers like me, they would have seen a common thread in the behavior.[…] The proper profit maximizing approach is to wait until I look like I’m going to defect, and then call me and offer a lower rate before I defect.

Too late. The customer no longer is one.  

The “Drilling Down” approach is aimed at constantly improving and optimising the value of both the company whilst ensuring a satisfactory customer experience.  

 What I like about Jim’s approach is that they provide a concrete Business Value Proposition for implementing a Customer Retention Strategy that optimises the allocation of the company’s resources by focusing on the most profitable segments – or in Finance speak: optimize the Return On Investment.   And as you probably know, the quickest way to a CFO’s heart is not though his stomach, but through the figures…The only issue is that it requires the company to move away from a quarterly quota model to a customer Lifetime value approach (see the book for more details on this last remark…)  

 Enter The Social Customer  

 In Jim’s example above he focuses on someone who leaves and moves on without looking back. What has now changed the game is that the Social Customer – through her interactions with her peers – can have an impact on the cost of new customer acquisition and as well as on retention, both in a positive and negative sense. No longer is the customer ‘an island’ because of ubiquitous opportunities for peer to peer conversation. These can influence customer behaviour patterns on a world-wide scale and thus adds a variable to the equation to the above that needs to be taken into consideration.  

In a Social CRM strategy, to address the Social Customer whilst at the same time optimising the company’s resource usage and profitability, key to me will be the ability to link the conversations of your customers to the segments you have identified of high/low potential/value. This means that rather than tracking all conversations everywhere and pumping these into your database, you should be focusing on your high potential/value customers Furthermore your understanding of the customers should be aimed at identifying behaviour patterns and triggers within the channels where your customers express themselves and that you can monitor.  The barrier to pick up the phone [or fill in whatever channel you like] can be high for some customers and this can deprive you of the trigger needed to track a deviation and react accordingly. The conversation the Social Customers are having through these public communication means may now provide you with this trigger that you would have missed out on before. And rather than allocate your resources to responding to every person that wants to rant, you can concentrate your efforts on those that you would like to retain (whilst remaining ‘polite’ with those that are not of direct interest of course).  

 Although I realize that this line of though does not address all the opportunities of Social CRM and Social Business Strategies, it is my first attempt at rationalising  and articulating the Business Value Proposition. With a broad stroke of the pen I have put other elements such as peer to peer support, ideation, customer experience programs, open innovation etc. under the header of Customer Retention Strategies, and I do apologize for this.  I will try to work out my ideas in further posts.  

 What do you think? How would you formulate the Business Value Proposition for Social CRM and Social Business.


Customer Contexts

3 12 2009


When reading through the tweets and the post on Social CRM I often get the feeling that we are focusing too much on the individual customer. We store personal and business informaion in our CRM system, we keep track of what they have bought as well as their history of interactions with Customer Service and Support (or at least we should be…). We try to analyse, extract leads and forecast whether they will be buying from us in the future  or inciting them to do so through push marketing (informing us that our little niece Suzy’s birthday in just under a week, so we should buy her a gift through our online store…).

I also hear more and more often that the major difficulty that we will be facing is the potential for data/information overload (‘drinking from a waterhose’) – even though Nenshad Bardoli argues that this will be dealt with eventually). The individual customers that we have in our systems suddenly are tweeting and bleating all over the internet, and curretn theory seems to say that we need to capture ALL of that so that we can then let lose the ever more sophisticated and more expensive Analytics Engines & Business Intelligence solutions on the data in order to extract ‘insights’ to guide our business and customer engagement with this individual.

Although it seems to make sense at first glance, is it not that we can’t see the forest because of the trees? Are we not focusing to much on the individual to miss out on the bigger trends? Customized service as opposed to being treated as cattle when contacting a call center is like Nirvana, but if we focalize to much on this as the main objective of Social CRM, do we not not risk getting too close when all the customer wants is to be ‘just friends’ (or said differently, ‘get out of my face!’)?

As an individual, it could be that I am not particularly looking for your company to engage with me. Engagement takes time – which is ultimately my rarest resource – so I want to optimize the time I need to spend with you (so that I can have more time on Farmville or socializing with my friends…about your brand for example ;). What I do want you to do is know enough about me, my situation, my preoccupations, my conversations with others, my likes and dislikes and so on…in brief, my context, so that you can get me to my desired outcome as efficiently as possible (and I may even volunteer some information about me to speed this up).

So it’s not about the tweets I twitter out and blogs I post, but rather about which conversations and exchanges I’m having and with whom, at what moment in time, what my current sentiment is and how it evolves, how my friends’ sentiment evolve, how the sentiment of people in my network evolves – or put simply the context in which I am evolving. Ideally, when I do need to exchange with you in any way, I want you to take all this into account and treat me as an individual. Moreover I want you to take into consideration that, whilst you are exchanging with me, I should be considered as a representative of my ‘tribe’, and if you do not treat me the way I feel I should be treated my tribe may sanction that behaviour.

So what am I trying to get at here? Basically, I’m trying to make the point that even though it may be technically feasible to store reams and reams of data about each customer in your CRM system (and your database vendor will love you for it), it would be more interesting to store information that provides you with the context in which the customer is evolving, metadata that will allow you same-time access to context facebook/linkedin/twitter or whatever other channel that is appropriate hobbies

On Social CRM Options

5 10 2009

The discussion around Social CRM is entering a phase whereby we are trying to move away from turning around in circles about semantics, towards a more practical and pragmatic approach that businesses can identify with so as to consider implementing it. I won’t deal with CRM Vendors here, as Social CRM can be seen as an extension to CRM. As a primer on SCRM I suggest you look at Bill Band’s article on Customer Think. The main idea that we all do agree upon is that we need to become customer-centric in order to respond to their changing needs and expectations, and this may have some major ramifications on the way we organise our businesses.

Wim Rampen recently did a must-read post on Real-Options for Social CRM, with great comments from the #scrm crew. If you’re like me, you have been looking around for what these options could be – sifting through all the information links provided through the accidental community on Twitter #scrm- so that you can start mapping your own options and seeing where they would fit in an approach that is apt for your business situation. Below I have tried to describe some of the the landmarks that you may encounter on your  journey. Please join in and tell me what I’ve missed!

1. Monitoring and Analysis

We have settled on the idea that we cannot manage what is being said about us (as long there is any Buzz we should be happy, right?). What we do need to do is understand what is being said and for which reasons. We also need to do some introspection and find out whether we are aligned with customer perceptions about our business, and this is where monitoring and analysis comes in.

– Social Media Monitoring
 Twitter, FB, Search Engine Result Analysis, crawling non-managed forums, or whatever this month’s Black is  (according to Altimeter you need at least 6 channels to be an Maven).

– Sentiment Analysis
Natural Language Processing in order to extract opinions – automation of Social Media Analysis

– Customer Surveys, Website-, Call Center-, Customer Support Feedback, Email Campaign Results
Feedback from other channels should not be neglected – Social CRM is not only about feedback obtained through Social Media channels. I suggest reading Aggregated Stats Are Key to Social Media ROI

The return of this could be used to shape your Marketing Strategy (Social Media and traditional) or for even for Lead Generation. Vendors in this area are Radian6, Scout Labs (see list), or for the budgetarily-challenged Open Source/Freemium

2. Social Media Marketing

I know I am over-simplifying, but sometimes I think SMM has sofar mostly been facilitating banner clickthroughs based on adwords and user browsing history and the likes to push trafic to brochure websites in the best case, and buckshot email spam in the worst. Consumers are however becoming more web-savvy and filter out these ads from the content they are interested in so this is becoming less effective.

Community and conversation is all – if the consumers trust the community, they will extend the trust to the brand (Brand and Marketing trends for 2010). People have spontaneously gathered for example on Facebook, now companies are trying to get in on the act by setting up their own Fan Pages (at their own risk and peril, I must add…). These communities offer the company the opportunity to engage in the conversation, but it still very much an unstructured, resource intensive approach. My take on SMM will be aimed at driving people towards and participate in Brand Communities (point 3) where monitoring what is happening and identifying causal relationships will be more manageable. See Junta42 42+ Social Media Marketing Tools.

3. Brand Communities

Providing a platform that can house a community around your Brand and attracts prospective customers would be the next step. The objective is not to gain control, but rather better monitor what is going on, find opportunities, work on your reputation by adding value rater than pushing a message, and react in a timely manner to any issues.

I would like to split this out into three separate areas (even though they could share the same platform provided by the same vendor)

– Social Support Communities
Peer-to-peer Support can be great means for finding out what customers have issues with concerning your offering, as well as deflect calls from your Customer Support, leaving them with more time the more difficult cases or just to go beyond the Call Handling Time and focus on the Customer Interaction (see Cicero). To me this type of community because sometimes its super-users can provide more value than has its merits for because ROI can be shown (see John Bauer’s comment on SCRM for SMBs, reduce by at least 10% your case load).

– Social Objects Communities
In an earlier post, I set out to give a name to another type of community that has as its purpose to provide a platform for people to socialize around “Social Objects”. Barnes & Noble Review would be a good example of this. It is said that participants have a higher average customer spend and higher customer lifetime spend on the B&N site (any hard datafacts, Lithium?). Furthermore upsell opportunities are placed into the community site to drive revenue.

– Ideation
Behind this is the objective to create communities where customers would put forward ideas for the company (crowdsourcing). Where they have failed is that the ideas not always were in line with the operational realities or objectives of the company, and are often left unanswered (leading to dissatisfaction). Graham Hill has written an interesting article on co-creation that has some insights on what could be a better approach to co-creation.

Players here are Lithium Technologies, Helpstream, Parature. Prem Kumar recently mentioned on John F. Moore’s blog that there are Open Source solutions out there, I think they do not (yet) have the monitoring & analysis capabilities that we’d be looking for here

4. Feedback Management

Our friend Esteban Kolsky is very keen on this one. The main idea behind this is that we take existing data available through the CRM system about our customers (not only profile information) and mix it so that get a full 360° view that includes history and information gathered from monitoring and analysis as well as information from 3rd parties. Just as there is a market now for Credit Score informatin, there may be a time when companies sell trend information to other companies as a by-product. Imagine if PayPal or eBay were to make historical purchase data available!

FM has the potential to analyse and determine a response and who should be dealing with formulating it (add a dash of Business Process Management?). The wikipedia link has a list of  vendors, no actor has a significant advantage as far as I know

5. Response Communities

In the way that Brand Communities can be used for customers to share and collaborate, the same platform could also be used to let cross-functional teams (and even cross-organisational if we also include partners and suppliers)  collaborate on the response to the events generated in EFM. Super-users could be identified and nurtured in the same way as in the Brand Communities.

Response Communities only really make sense once your company has learned how to collaborate internally – which takes us to Enterprise 2.0 (the collaboration kind, not the knowledge management one…). Internal networking will create the right mindset to then go out and collaborate with customers, for value co-creation. 

6. Insourcing

Insourcing is about allowing your employees to collaborate directly with your customers, such as your store personnel providing product informationor answer support questions through the likes of Twitter (see Best Buy’s Twelpforce). This can increase the breadth of your response by added more voices to the conversation than just your customer service and support reps, but increases the risks of potential blunders. Good, clear and precise policies can help to mitigate these risks.

I am aware that I have probably missed out on some elements (and have not developed each of the bullet-points sufficiently) but my objective here is to give a quick overview, a starting point. Please chime in and add your point of view!