As part of my work on the July issue of Insurance Networking News, I had the opportunity to talk with insurance executives and analysts about the viability of a new buzzword that has emerged across the business landscape: “Social CRM.”
Social customer relationship management (CRM), in essence, takes typical CRM – an internally generated and maintained collection of knowledge about customers and their interactions with a company – and digitizes information streaming in from the virtual communities that now are part of many customers' experiences. In other words, things such as Facebook data will now be integrated into the same system that looks at customer purchasing history.
Frankly, while the analysts are telling us Social CRM is a huge new force poised to sweep through enterprises of all stripes, it is still so new that it was difficult to identify insurance companies that had comprehensive programs that they were willing to talk about.
A carrier that is leading the way on this front is Farmers Insurance, which began its Social CRM effort in earnest last fall. Farmers' Social CRM effort, which involves the sharing of information, via Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn among its network of 15,000 agents, enables the company to better compete against direct-to-consumer insurers. And the effort is delivering along many fronts, according to Marc Zeitlin, vice president of eBusiness at Farmers Insurance. “We're driving growth and new business, as well as customer retention. We also gain product knowledge and service. We're able to determine whether there's a need in the market that we're not meeting.”
I had the opportunity to talk with Marc for the article, and he described how his company was emphasizing Social CRM to helping agents and affiliates, and this has become an important competitive tool, “Our strategy is to empower local agents with the same quality of technology and tools that the direct-to-consumer writers have,” he said. “Each agent has business in a local community within a physical network – taking folks to lunch, joining clubs, supporting high school sports, and supporting local charities. Social media is 'word-of-mouth on steroids.'”
Right now, the social platform of choice is Facebook, Marc points out. “Facebook just in general is a better word-of-mouth platform. It's just a lot more robust than anything else. But we also feed Twitter, and we have robust brand channel on YouTube. And LinkedIn is also tied into our technology, as agents can integrate with LinkedIn through the same platform.”
Ultimately, Social CRM will lose its cachet, simply becoming a part of normal CRM. But until then, the industry has just begun to explore the possibilities this new dimension of data provides.
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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