Natalie L. Petouhoff, Ph.D. By Dr. Natalie Petouhoff

If you follow me on Twitter (@drnatalie) you have seen the on going conversation around whether Social CRM and Customer Service actually exists or if it is a fantasy.

Paul Greenberg has put his final stake in the ground on defining what Social CRM means- You can read more on the post that drove a huge discussion.The debate centers around alot of things – whether CRM is a strategy, a process, a technology. At the end of the day, most agree that its an all inclusive way of building relationships with your customers. Bill Band, Vice President and Principle Analyst at Forrester, has written about Social CRM in his ever popular doc CRM 2.0: Fantasy or Reality? How Trail-Brazing Organizations Are Implementing Social Customer Strategies.

What This Means To You:

As social media has emerged on the scene, its made possible via Web 2.0 technology, to create deeper, more meaningful relationships with customers. Part of the chasm for customer service professionals has been that there are a lot of CRM/Customer Service vendors/applications and many Web 2.0 vendors/applications. There’s now an intersection of these two sweet spots, via announcements by companies like RightNow Technologies, to provide contact centers with more ease and efficiency around social media by being able to monitor and interact with customers in the “cloud” –and thus the gap is lessening.

When I do inquiries with clients, I find that they are grasping to understand what social media means to their business, how will they apply it to customer service, the contact center, to self-service and what’s the ROI. That’s in part why I calculated the ROI of customer service social media in this doc: The ROI Of Online Customer Service Communities.What’s interesting about the Lithium announcement is that they are a Web 2.0-type application that has figured out how to bridge some of the gap between traditional CRM/Customer Service vendors and Web 2.0.

What customer service professionals don’t need is another customer interaction channel. What they do need is a way to create WOW interactions with customers; to reach out to customers that are dissing them, to resolve issues and to re-establish bonds. Lithium’s strategy is to allows businesses to proactively build stronger, deeper customer relationships by integrating social customer conversations into existing CRM and customer service business processes and systems. Lithium provides a pre-integrated social media platform that works in conjunction with RightNow Technologies’s contact center/customer service platforms.

As the number of vendors in the CRM/Customer Service space continues to grow and shape shift, driven in part by the explosion of social media, I’ll try to keep you informed of the developments that affect you. Look for the Customer Service Best Practices doc coming out soon– that has a section on the range of social media technologies that can be applied to Customer Service– as well as other topics. For social media- technology is only one part of the success criteria.

How Can I Serve You Best– in The Wild, Wild West –of Customer Service Social Media?

What I don’t want is for you to “fall into the gap” and that’s easy to do. With 29 vendors just in the Customer Service Wave… there’s a lot to consider. Now add social media… the Thanksgiving plate feels overload and you could feel bloated. There are no stupid questions. Remember that. I just taught one of my clients how to use Twitter- how to set-up an account and begin using it for customer service. Its ok to ask me anything. If I don’t know, I’ll ping the other 17 analysts at Forrester who cover social media. We have your back covered.

Let me know what questions you have about customer service social media. What would you like to see in my research on this topic? What questions do you have that are keeping you late at nite? I’m writing as fast as I can. Your help in prioritizing the topics is much appreciated!

Thank you, @drnatalie

(To follow the discussions on you can use an application like download it and do a search on the hash tags #scrm or #socialmedia or #customerservice or #cctr or #drnatalie)

(Link to Lithium announcement)