This month our experts are focused on Social CRM. A good place to start reading if your not sure what the term even means is Social CRM: Revolutionary or Evolutionary?.

Once we have decided what Social CRM is, then we can decide if it has any potential impact on content management technologies, and content management professionals.

What is CRM?

Let's start with Customer Relationship Management itself. The strategies and technologies for managing your relationship with your customers and clients have been around for a while. The evolution of the book full of names and addresses, through the Rolodex and into the computing world has brought us major platforms from big software vendors, many of which now belong to Oracle (!) -- such as PeopleSoft and Siebel. There is cloud CRM in the shape of and open source in the form of SugarCRM.

The Link to Content Management

What do these systems have to do with content management technologies you ask ? My answer is that it depends on your business processes and how much of a holistic view you take of your customers and clients. Do they send you written communications (letters or paper forms) ? Do you scan them to keep electronic copies? If so we are suddenly into the world of content management, particularly document imaging and document management.

Social CRM and Content

So if this new wave of Social CRM is about online, collaborative, interactive conversations with your customers and clients, what kind of technologies might you be using? I suggest it depends on exactly what kind of user experience you have designed and how it fits with your overall CRM strategy. It also depends on whether you already have a CRM platform (on premises, in the cloud etc) but are also using various ‘web 2.0’ tools to interact with customers.

Do you have forums or a wiki on your website, where users can submit information and requests? Do you have simple online ‘tech support’ forms for them to fill in. Do your customer support or tech support staff blog? If so, do you allow comments on these blog postings? It’s all ‘content’, just like email or hand written letters sent by snail mail. 

Content Strategy as Part of Social CRM Strategy

Like any other content management context, you need to decide early on how you're going to manage the content generated by these systems. Do the various platforms you are going to use as part of your Social CRM strategy have the right facilities and features to manage this content, will you have to buy something new, or will you be able to integrate with existing content management solutions you already have deployed?

Will you need to design new metadata schemas to ‘tag’ user generated content? Will you need to put this content under retention policies for legal reasons? You may even need to negotiate meaningful Service Level Agreements with third parties (cloud based systems!).

The Evolution of Customer Communications

In the pre-‘social’ days I worked on a project to take the scans of customer submitted paper forms and letters out of a Siebel CRM system and pass them through into the EMC Documentum ECM system, because it had better facilities for records management, etc.

Now we have to start considering how to manage emails, blog comments, forum postings and wiki entries, not to mention audio files (“this call maybe recorded for ……..”) and maybe even video files. This is nothing new really, it is just the evolution of customer communications, and we may already have done integrations and learned useful lessons as internal processes have evolved in similar ways.

So yes, Social CRM will have an impact on content management, but we don’t really know the full extent yet. If you're leading the charge on this for your organisation please share your experiences via submitting a comment !

Additional articles on Social CRM include: