Before we can talk about how can we exploit the power of Social CRM, we need to understand what Social CRM is; Paul Greenberg (@pgreenbe) defines it like this: "Social CRM is a philosophy and a business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules, workflow, processes and social characteristics, designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted and transparent business environment. It's the company's response to the customer's ownership of the conversation."
There are several important factors on the Mr. Greenberg's definition but for this article I will focus on two: the "technology platform" factor and the "business rules" factor.
Microsoft has made a big commitment to social networking with their acquisition of Yammer and the inclusion (and constant improvement) of features like Activity Feeds within Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Microsoft Dynamics CRM Activity Feeds provide real time notifications and quick sharing of information that the team cares about via quick and short updates.
The key word on the statement above is "information the team cares about" and here is where Activity Feeds shine in comparison to other more "legacy" solutions to provide data, like email alerts or reports.
The issue with email alerts or reports is that it is not an efficient way to digest information; let me give you an example: If you are a user of social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter, you are familiar with the concept of a personal "Wall" or "Feed" where you can "decide" what is important to check, read or "digest". You could have hundreds of friends in Facebook but only read a couple of updates or make comments in a couple of interesting pictures some of your friends posted recently. You have control over the amount of information you get and the way you look at it. Now imagine all the status updates, pictures, links and comments your Facebook friends post constantly being emailed to you instead of being posted into a wall. Imagine all the people you follow on twitter emailing you all those tweets and you having to "re-tweet" those emails to everyone you know. How effective would an email-only social networking be? How good would it be for you to digest all of that data?
This same issue happens with traditional methods used to feed updates to CRM users. After working on 100+ CRM deployments, one thing I hear often is the fact that these system generated emails and reports are completely ignored (I.E. Deleted, Marked as Read, Moved to a 'Junk' folder, etc.) by the majority of the regular CRM Users. Most of the people reading this article are members of one (or more) distribution list and don't really pay attention to the updates coming from it. This added to the fact that one email sent to many people on a distribution list consumes valuable database space on the organizations Mail Exchange server and adds administrative hassle (I.E. Administering the membership to all these lists).
The Microsoft Dynamics CRM Activity Feeds comes to the rescue to solve all these issues, this functionality enable a user to follow and listen in on important activities that take place around the people, accounts, contacts, leads, opportunities or anything else that they care about, so the "administrative overhead" now mostly fall on the user's judgment. The user can decide how much (or how little) information they want to receive by choosing to follow (or un-follow) a CRM record. These updates can be posted manually or can be system generated as well (I.E. When an Opportunity is Won, post an update on the customer's wall automatically so any user following the customer or the opportunity record see the update).
One scenario that I see often is that most users don't want to get updates on all records created or updated but only on some of them; for example, Sales Managers don't want to follow opportunities below a specific amount of Estimated Revenue and these managers don't want to connect to CRM often looking for these opportunities so they can follow them. The good news is that CRM can be configured to automatically follow records that match a given criteria via Workflows. I will describe this process in more detail on the 2013 winter edition of the CRMUG Magazine.
For those of you who don't even know if you have access to the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Activity Feeds, look at the top of the form of a CRM Record (I.E. Account or Contact) and see if you see a collapsed section named "Record Wall":
Here at Zero2Ten we heavily use the Activity Feeds functionality and an idea by David Kohar (@davidkohar), our Chief Customer Officer, changed the way I work to increase the visibility (and usability) of this functionality for all of the customers and projects I lead.
Along with the Business Rules and the process including Training all users the ins and outs of the Activity Feeds functionality and the configuration of "automatic follow" workflows for manager and other users as described above, I focus on making the "Record Wall" not only easily accessible to them, but beyond that, I make it the "center of attention", the "headquarters" for the record, I make the fields revolve around the Record Wall. All of this with a simple configuration to the way the Record Wall is available out of the box. I go from this:
As you can see, I have added the fields that identify this company or account record to the Record Wall tab within the form, when the users connect to CRM and open a company record, the record wall is the first section they see so right away they are up to speed with the most recent update regarding this company.
Since adopting this approach, I have seen the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Activity Feeds utilization increase tremendously and the users are happy to use the functionality as it provides value to them, it gives them the ability to make decisions when it comes to how much information they have to digest. With a simple change on how you surface this functionality to your users, you go from a legacy solution ignored by many to a new and exciting feature that makes getting up to speed in Microsoft Dynamics CRM more fun and effective.
For the Winter 2013 edition of the CRMUG Magazine, I will be discussing how to configure CRM to auto-follow records that meet certain criteria and how to use third party Social CRM adapters to increase your sales intelligence.
Increase your User Adoption by unleashing the power of social CRM within Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011!