In recent months, I have been talking about the pluses and minuses of social CRM (see here, here and here for a refresher), a practice that 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 virtual communities.
While carriers are still just starting to understand the ways in which social CRM can boost their efforts to reach and engage with current and potential policyholders, there may soon be an explosion of solutions from which to choose.
Forrester's Zach Hofer-Shall, for one, says many vendors are now actively either entering the social CRM solutions space, and existing vendors are being bought up by the larger IT companies.
“Salesforce.com and Oracle know that we've entered the age of the customer, in which companies must obsess over—and meet the dynamically changing needs of—their customers,” Hofer-Shall observes in a recent post. “In the age of the customer, successful businesses must be ready to connect with consumers in any channels they desire. Social is the hottest today, and any customer relationship-focused technology must meet those requirements.”
The analyst also observes that social CRM is not a slam-dunk that can be accomplished by mashing together CRM and social media tools. “Social customer relationship management is hard. It requires access to social data, technology to filter, process, and analyze content, and tools to manage and apply insights,” he cautions. “Although CRM companies had tools to help manage data, few were ready to capture, process or apply social media.”
Oracle and Salesforce's latest strings of acquisitions help put these pieces together. For example, Oracle just acquired Collective Intellect, which provides analytics and reporting to identify and optimize key social media performance indicators. In March, the software giant purchased Vitrue, which provides a social relationship management platform, and in February, Oracle scooped up Taleo, a social talent management provider.
Salesforce, for its part, just acquired Buddy Media, a platform that enables companies to build and maintain social relationships. This was on the heels of its acquisition of Stypi, a cloud-based editing tool for collaborative documents.
Social CRM may be a disjointed, haphazard set of tools and initiative at this time, but the solutions are beginning to come together to make it feasible on an enterprise scale.
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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