Historically, organizations have been relying on techniques like customer surveys, focus group testing and first-hand testimonials to know who their customers are and what they think about the organization’s products or services. With the emergence of Social CRM, organizations today possess the know how to get ahead of their customers to find what they are thinking and turn that into improved products and services.
Today, Social CRM Applications are increasingly being used by organizations to attract customers to join communities online, encourage them to share product ideas and incorporate the best of these ideas into newer versions of products and services.
This process, called Social CRM-enabled product development has several advantages associated with it. Firstly, maintaining a Social CRM Application is cheaper compared to say, running a focus-group for a like-sized subset of customers. Secondly, the information obtained through Social CRM applications reflect “real-time” conditions in the marketplace more accurately compared to traditional methods. Finally, the company implementing Social CRM is sending a strong message to its customers that it cares about what its customers think.
Alas, like everything else in this world, Social CRM too has its own downsides.
For starters, a massive potential audience could create an unmanageable deluge of ideas and feedback. It could be a tedious task for companies to sort out signal from noise. Also, if the overall experience for a customer with the application isn’t a positive one, a negative brand experience will be created where there wouldn’t have been one, had the company stuck to traditional product development methods.
Nevertheless, Social CRM is simply too powerful a method to ignore any longer, and is poised to become an integral part of the product development lifecycle
My Starbucks Idea
One of the classic examples of using Social CRM for product development is “My Starbucks Idea” used by Starbucks, the world’s largest coffeehouse company.
The idea is simple: put the suggestion box online.
An online community of lakhs of customers share their product ideas with the company and with each other on the front end. The idea may be as trivial as the type of music played in the Starbucks outlet. A dedicated team of 40 Starbucks employees work on integrating these ideas with the product development process on the back-end.
The visitors to the site have the provision to vote and comment on suggestions given by other visitors. A combination of the most popular and most innovative ideas are picked by the dedicated team and presented to key decision makers within the company. It is a fact that many of the ideas suggested by the site visitors are actually implemented in certain Starbucks outlets.
Social CRM for product development at its best!
^This article was published in INCUBATOR, the annual entrepreneurship magazine of IIM Shillong. Link to the magazine: http://issuu.com/icube.iims/docs/incubator_-_issue_1_-_september__13