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As an integral topic, I thought I’d reflect on day one of the SOCAP Spring Symposium in Atlanta.  The overriding theme from members and vendors alike is focused on the impact of social media on our customer service business.  Not surprising.  Much of the buzz is around the various technology platforms available to monitor, analyze and engage through social media channels.  Leading vendors such as Radian6 and Visible Technologies are showing their wares.  Jumping in head first, CRM vendors like Wilke-Thornton and Astute Solutions are also rolling out integrated modules in various flavors.

As I continue to spend a fair amount of my time evaluating this social media platform space, my recommendation is to look beyond features and functions of the software.  Because the landscape is changing so fast, vendors are going to come and go; either catch up to the leaders or disappear.  So, other criteria need to be weighing heavier in your analysis, such as market position, strategic alliances and, yes, how “social” is the company; how is the firm driving the social conversation.

But, even beyond those criteria, its not the tools or the tactics that will set your organization up for success here.  As social media is so in our faces as customer service pros now, it can be a bit overwhelming.  As such, many folks are focusing on tactics and technology.  While these are important, it’s my opinion that these decisions need to be addressed in the context of a higher level strategic framework.  Take comfort, however in the fact that, if this is where you’ve started, you’re not alone.  Most every organization I have spoken with over the past two years is reacting to the hype and uncertainty by trying to put tools and tactics in place as to not be left behind.

So, before looking at technology, your organization needs to develop a detailed strategy, starting with answering the question: “why do we need to be doing this?”.  “Are our customers even in the social space?”  Your customer service social strategy, which should be in lock step with your corporate strategy, needs to be followed by detailed business plans.

What is your social ecosystem?
What is your social architecture?
What architecture do you need to build?
What is your social CRM and data integration strategy and plan

Simple questions like “what is a contact” are not so simple any more when we start to talk about social contacts or passive contacts.

What will be your social KPIs?
How will you organize around social?
What is your social technographic profile among your customer service personnel

For more information on social technographic profile, refer to Forrester’s Groundswell.

Not to boil the ocean here.  But with scarce resources, answers to these questions will be the foundation of your success.

If your organization has these things nailed down, then good for you!  You are way ahead of the curve.  Because lets not forget.  While I believe social crm is here to stay, we’re still in our infancy.  If you think, however, that there still may be some gaps, and your organization is committed to weaving social crm into the operational and cultural fabric of your customer service business, taking a step back, or at least figuring these things out in parallel would be my recommendation.

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