Social networking via business CRM

Social networking is a buzz word of today, it enables people of similar interests, friends and groups to stay in contact and share experiences and thoughts for all to see. Social networking simplifies communications and breaks down the barriers of staying connected. If you take social networking principles and apply them to business then similarities appear.

  • In business you want to enable collaborative communication between your employees, departments and customers.
  • In business you want to enable the flow of information in the simplest form.
  • In business you want to build a community of interest and a community of problem solving.

But in business the principles of social networking are not embraced, communications are mixed, information stored in silos, and openness is not always sought. The tools we use in business make it difficult to share information, CRM is generally only for the sales and marketing teams, ERP systems for the financial team, the intranet for newsletters and general business information which in most cases is overwhelming array of documentation that is hard to navigate.

So how can we make a business embrace business social networking? Well in most cases the tools are already being used but not for business use. Employees have already adopted MSN messenger or Skype or Facebook as common tools to use to communicate with friends. If businesses can adopt these tools and utilise them for business use then business social networking can start to develop.

Take for example MSN Messenger, at the moment it provides the user with a lot of information about whether or not a person is connected, at lunch, away, available and so on, this type of information is absolutely crucial for businesses, it opens the door to enabling employees to better address issues to get problems resolved quicker. So if you take Microsoft CRM for example that is integrated seamlessly into Microsoft Outlook then you are half way there. MSN messenger integrates to Outlook and Microsoft CRM with no effort from IT, if a user is using MSN and there outlook contacts email addresses match those of a MSN contact then from within Outlook the presence is displayed. This logic is furthermore taken into Microsoft CRM, if you have users of CRM who are contacts in MSN or Customers who are contacts in MSN then there presence is displayed against the record in CRM. This may seem irrelevant, but take the example where you have received a complaint or enquiry from a Customer and you now want to take immediate action, with MSN integration you can quickly identify who is available in your business and you can either assign the work to that person or open up a line of communication via MSN to that person to action the request for information.  This in a normal business environment could have involved sending an email, making a phone call, reassigning the record to a generic queue or person in hope that it may be picked up or all of the above.

Taking the next step opening your business up to unified communication technologies provides again an integrated presence into Outlook and Microsoft CRM but provides greater levels of intelligence into the persons availability via all forms of communication, be that email, phone, mobile or chat.

If a business can embrace social networking then communities can be built across business boundaries, the tools the business use can be integrated into the network to simplify communication and information flow, processes can be improved to embrace the new methods of communications, complexity can be removed and employees can start to feel a part of the organisation and grow that organisation via the new forms of networks.

Business social network can extend the enterprise across employee and customer boundaries enabling simplified communication and awareness of availability.