Making sense of numbers. Are we Social CRM ready?

Social CRM

Even after the lockdown, an increasingly digital future awaits. Are Indian brands & agencies ready to embrace Social CRM in all its glory? Experts take stock. 

Among the industries highly impacted by COVID-19 are also traditional CRM units – that would be your call centers, KPOs, BPOs, service centers, and more. With social distancing & a travel restriction in place, all kinds of servicing portals & helplines are faced with a massive functional impact. An ideal solution here would be Social CRM – but brands & customers alike struggle with this concept. 

While there are a few customers who are social media first in their grievance approach, for most consumers the option of Twitter arrives when they wish to blow a matter out of proportion, especially in case of no help from the brand in question. Same goes with brands, as many still view Social CRM as an accessory to the traditional unit.  

Like everything else under the sun, COVID-19 demands this norm be changed too. With call centers & other CRM units functioning at half their capacity (if at all) & consumers too getting more digital savvy in their nature – Social CRM has never been more important. 

Social CRM – Need of the Hour?

In an earlier conversation with Social Samosa, media veteran, Ashish Bhasin shared that Indian brands are yet to embrace Social CRM for its true capabilities. “The digital footprint each one of us leaves in our daily life – for that amount of data I don’t think we are analysing big data very well,” he said. 

Digital experiences are replacing in-person ones, as this becomes the new normal, the role played by social CRM gets even more dominant. 

Vishal Gaba

“Social CRM plays a critical role in this process as it helps a company track what its customers are saying about its business across the various social platforms. This is important to assess the conversations, derive insights and develop a plan of action for the right response,” explains Vishal Gaba, Head Digital, Genesis BCW. 

By implementing social CRM, an organization can focus on creating effective customer engagement and interaction.s. This is the time businesses need to be empathetic, and social CRM can help them identify and assess the needs of their customers thus going beyond selling and becoming a part of consumers’ routine during a time of crisis. 

“With reduced personnel across customer service teams, Social CRM allows us to gauge the significance of each interaction one is having with or about us, and accordingly prioritise those that require our immediate attention,” Ankit Banga, Head – Marketing & Communications, Indiabulls Housing Finance Limited, points out. 

Each customer query is of equal importance, however considering the current predicament the country is faced with, one has to choose the battles to fight first. “In most cases, this means addressing issues which have the largest impact on our customers,” Banga adds. 

Also Read: Expert View: The COVID-19 Impact on AdSpends

The Current State 

With consumers’ patience wearing thin every passing day, the frustration of calls being transferred, long hold time, and each CRM representative not having the consumers’ case history are some elements that Social CRM offers respite from. Despite the increasing need of Social CRM, the concept remains largely under a tarp, with a select brands acing the game.

“While most Indian brands are now on social media, not all are leveraging their Social CRM at an optimum level. Some brands have a strong strategy in place for social responses and crisis management, some are on the verge of transforming and some are thinking about it,” says Sachin Karweer, Business Head, HGS Interactive. 

Call centres depend on a large number of people, typically running out of a single location, with the necessary hardware and set-up, and this is not easy to replicate in a work-from-home scenario. Many businesses have thus conveyed a slower response to their customers. 

Sanjay Mehta

“At such times, a good social CRM set up as an alternative would be useful to brands,” shares Sanjay Mehta, Join CEO, Mirum India. “Several e-commerce and e-ticketing brands, or even some telcos and banks, seem to have gotten good in this space now.” 

Goibibo has been extremely responsive to consumer grievances across all social media platforms, irrespective of the nature of the post. The brand also creates posts calling out consumers to share all COVID-19 travel related questions. 

The only kind of car that you should use during this lockdown is car-dio!Get ready to upload #QuarantineWorkout…

Posted by Goibibo on Sunday, 3 May 2020

Gaba on the other hand shares that some brands, especially in the technology and lifestyle domains use social CRM well. 

“How well we are willing to understand consumer behavior, because that should drive our approach, not the other way around. My view is that the brands that Listen-Adapt-Empathize will be the ones that succeed,” Gaba adds. 

Telecom brands more often than not bear the brunt of irate customers. As the frustration doubles with a lockdown in place, Airtel India has been attempting to make customers feel valued. Their CRM team has been using terms such as ‘top priority’ and ‘as soon as possible’ et al. The brand team works on creating the personalized one on one interaction, a physical Airtel Gallery would offer, via Twitter & other social media. 

CRM Solutions 

From building an in-house team to onboarding an agency or signing up for a tool, a number of Social CRM solutions are being followed in the industry at the moment. 

For instance, at Indiabulls, the team has been using One Direct and BrandWatch for social listening and communication for two years now. 

Karweer on the other hand, shares that the agency has created multiple CRM units for brands across sectors. For an OTT app, the agency created a cost cutting omnichannel CRM approach as an option to a traditional call center model. Similarly, the agency integrated an automobile brand’s database into the Social CRM response management system to keep a track of previous queries and responses and deliver unparalleled social support. 

“As we work remotely, we ensure that our customer-facing teams have secured access to our CRM systems. Each employee is set up on a virtual private network (VPN) from his or her home,” Karweer adds. 

Swiggy, is yet another brand that has time & again displayed its grip over Social CRM. With key listening skills, the brand has picked up on consumer apprehensions around getting food delivered, the hygiene & physical state of the delivery vendor, et al. Basis these doubts, the brand has been consistently conveying hygiene measures taken by the delivery boys & restaurants, while sharing measures that consumers themselves can also take upon receiving a delivery.

Food Safety

Reputed bodies like the FSSAI and CDC say COVID-19 cannot be transmitted through food. But we're still not taking any chances when it comes to your safety. Here's a look at how Swiggy is working with top restaurants to keep your food safe.

Posted by Swiggy on Wednesday, 22 April 2020

In the current scenario, how and when brands promote themselves on social media needs to be re-looked. As a social CRM strategy manager, it’s crucial to start with the right tech platforms, right segmentation and the right profiling.

“Core CRM data can be obtained from loyalty programs ERP, and other third party apps and can be integrated into the CRM platforms,” explains Prakash Gurumoorthy, Partner & M.D, Asia Pacific & Japan, BORN Group. “While initially only name, age, gender, occupation and location were the raw data that could be obtained from a CRL tool, now with social CRM its easy to obtain more detail on customers, such as their social behaviour, social liking, marketplace preferences, etc which can be integrated with a CRM strategy to personalise the site and campaigns for each customer.”

Mehta shares that the agency has created a detailed playbook, crisis management guidelines, escalation matrix, and other similar protocols, to ensure a good customer experience. “We are also enhancing the response mechanism using AI chat bots, so that a large number of typical queries are  managed via the same, and only the very specific cases, involving transaction details, get put up to the agent, for management.” 

Chatbots on WhatsApp, Facebook, and other mediums have been of enormous help for brands across the spectrum. BFSI brands particularly were seen leveraging bots to keep up with the influx of queries with the financial year end nearing & the panic caused by the economic volatility due to the Pandemic.  

It should be noted that AI is a double edged sword & needs to be decoded and tested thoroughly before taking it Live. Google, “AI chatbot goof ups” and you can view examples of how AI picks up keywords and might miss out on the context.

Also Read: #SamosaTalks No one prepares for zero business: Experts discuss COVID-19 impact

Creating a COVID-19 Sensitive CRM Unit

A lot has been said & done about Social CRM, however as it becomes imperative, it is crucial to apply the concept for the COVID-19 sensitive needs. 

To give you a better picture, Banga shares on the opportunity front, there are plenty of conversations online that garner widespread interest. It might be extremely tempting for marketers to leverage these and reach out to potential customers. If you are not adding real value to the conversation however, it may be futile as a brand to waste efforts. 

“The key is to be contextually relevant through social listening & CRM, or be lost in a crowd where there is too much chatter. This holds true to a situation as large as the current one, or for any other,” Banga quips. 

Gaba shares that COVID-19 sensitive CRM unit depends on 3 factors: Outside-In’ Approach, Planned Spontaneity, and People & Community First

“Outside-in means listening to conversations about your organization, your competitors and your industry and then crafting a plan of action based on those insights,” Gaba explains. “For Planned Spontaneity, one needs to always be prepared to understand and be agile to devise content and formats that quickly brings your brand into relevant conversations. Lastly, all the processes you create need to lead to meaningful conversations and provide information that users are looking for, ultimately leading to the action you want the users to take.”

Sharing his perspective Gurumoorthy shares, “One of the biggest mistakes a business can make is sticking to these traditional paradigms rather than embracing the entirely new platforms and channels of communication that social media opens up. Cross analyse your business strategy with the various vertical paradigms that a social CRM opens up.”

Understanding your audience and the functionalities of the different tools that a social CRM allows you to integrate with can help you tap into a centralised source of data that your business hierarchy can use. Begin at level 1 and baseline your business to understand where you are and project where you want to be.

In all discussions COVID-19, the term ‘New Normal’ is thrown around fast & loose. While it is difficult to predict what that will be, the fact that the Before Coronavirus world shall cease to exist and this applies to Social CRM as well. Not only does Social CRM hold functional communication value, it is also the way forward in the exceedingly digital world. 


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