Gone are the days when participating in social media meant creating a Facebook page and Twitter account for your company. Today, leading companies in all industries are taking a more proactive approach to social media, bringing technology into the mix to gauge customer sentiment, monitor feedback across the Internet regarding their brand, provide customized offers based on social activity, and ultimately increase loyalty and sales.
This trend is called Social CRM, whereby companies merge traditional customer relationship management strategies and databases with social media-based activity. For hotel and restaurant operators, where positive customer relationships are intimately tied to overall success, Social CRM offers a significant opportunity to build greater loyalty.
Drilling for data
In December of last year, Noodles & Co. (www.noodles.com), a Broomfield, Colorado-based restaurant operator with more than 250 locations, started using Radian6 (www.radian6.com), a social customer relationship management tool from Salesforce.com. The marketing and communications department uses it to uncover a variety of data, including the impact of its overall social media program, and what is being said about the brand on the Web.
“We look at customer sentiment and what our reputation is online,” says Mandy Melby, communications manager at Noodles and Co., explaining Radian6 pulls data from all over the Internet, including Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and a number of blogs. “We also view our rate of change to make sure we are always improving and gaining market share in the online space, as well as how we are performing against our competitors.”
While there are a variety of smaller vendors offering social CRM systems, many of the larger brands offer these tools as part of an overall CRM system, such as Salesforce.com and Microsoft (www.microsoft.com), as well as Libra OnDemand (www.libraondemand.com), a vendor dedicated specifically to the hospitality market. Libra’s social CRM software pulls from LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Klout and Youtube, and is used by clients such as SBE Entertainment (www.sbe.com), who owns both hotels and restaurants in the Los Angeles area.
By choosing a vendor-based software, many of which are Web- and cloud-based, companies can rely on them to build and expand the product rather than relying on in-house staff, says Jacob Morgan, principal of Chess Media Group (www.chessmediagroup.com) based in San Francisco and a social business advisor.
“We are seeing business professionals and IT professionals working together more, and this is one example,” says Morgan. “Social CRM goes way beyond marketing as well. Customer service and sales can use the tools, too.”
It was in support of the sales team that The Jupiter Hotel (www.jupiterhotel.com), a boutique location based in Portland, Ore. began using BatchBlue’s Batchbook (www.batchblue.com) program, a cloud-based CRM system for small businesses that includes a social media tool. It also integrates with MailChimp (www.mailchimp.com), the company’s e-marketing provider, as well as Gmail.
“We wanted it to support sales in managing the information of not just customers staying at the hotel, but those booking events as well,” notes Shannon Pratuch, director of PR and marketing for the hotel. “When you create a contact, it will search across all the social media sites for that person’s profiles and automatically create a feed within the profile so we can see the updates and know what that person is saying and doing.”
The hotel can run trend reports, sales conversion rates, demographics and more based on the data pulled into Batchbook, and pays a monthly fee dependent on the number of users, notes Pratuch, who started looking for a social CRM two years ago.
This type of technology has only been available for the past five years or so, says Morgan, explaining companies are now putting the customer at the center of how the organization does business. “The amount of information you can get from individual customers is absolutely phenomenal,” he says.
With data from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs and basic Google searches, companies can learn where customers exist online, what they like, what they don’t like and what they talk about. “Also, you can get it without having to hire an expensive research firm to get the information for you,” Morgan notes.
Using Radian6, Noodle & Co. is able to track historical data from when they first started using the program, and can drill down deep into individual customers. “The program aggregates information on who is talking about us, and what they said,” Melby explains. “It is important to us that we respond to every post, and it’s about being proactive. If a blogger talks about us, we want to make an introduction.”
Customers With Klout
One of the most unique measurements a company can obtain through social CRM is how much influence individual customers have over other people, also known as a Klout score (www.klout.com). The score is issued by a San Francisco-based startup company of the same name, which purports to measure how influential users are across social networks. How big is their reach or audience? How much do they influence their followers? Knowing this can make a big difference when trying to drive sales — or deal with negative feedback.
“There are several hotels in Vegas that view a person’s Klout score when they check in, and if you have a high score, they will give you an upgrade,” says Morgan. “Klout is a platform that measures a person’s social currency or influence on the Web.”
At Noodles & Co., they were able to see a comment made about their company from Adrian Peterson, NFL running back for the Minnesota Vikings. “His Klout score is high so it was fun to interact with him online,” notes Melby. Also, if a restaurant blogger has a high Klout score in their community, the company will reach out to them and see if they can work together.
“If we find folks who are especially influential and can engage them in conversation, then we can start word of mouth. These marketing tactics can be sales drivers,” Melby says. “We do the same in markets where fans are not as active in order to increase brand presence.” The program provides her staff with a “heat map” to show how the the company is playing out from a regional perspective.
It’s hard to measure all the social media tools a company is utilizing without a platform to help aggregate the content and assign a value to each interaction, and this is what social CRM provides.
“It creates a cohesive dashboard, and there is absolutely a return on investment,” says Melby. “We look at it all the time. We have two screens in our office and one is constantly open to Radian6. We look at it every quarter hour at least and pull reports on a monthly basis.”
While many companies assume their social media efforts are having a certain effect, these tools offer a way to measure and quantify it. “Social media has been really influential and really critical,” she notes. “This is a nice way to get a perceived ROI on the time you put into it and create a strong engagement tool for your guest.”