Buyer's Guide: The companies using social networking in their CRM processes

Customer relationship management (CRM) aims to acquire a greater understanding of the customer and social networking sites can capture and track customer sentiment in real time. Here are five case studies of organisations using social networks for CRM.


At its most basic, customer engagement is about acquiring a greater understanding of the customer, with which to make more informed decisions. CRM activity captures much of this information. Online surveys help to understand what customers are thinking, while social networking sites have the potential to capture and track customer sentiment in real time.


British Airways Air Miles manager surveys customer satisfaction

Peter Lee is a research manager at The Mileage Company, which manages the Air Miles scheme for British Airways, overseeing the CRM programme. The company has switched from running bespoke surveys to using the Confirmit cloud service to run surveys to monitor customer satisfaction. Lee explains: "In the past we relied on bespoke individual surveys. But this was not the most cost-effective way so we partnered with Confirmit to run closed-loop customer feedback surveys."

The surveys help inform the business. "We are always looking for continuous development. We are investigating Facebook. We are looking at how we would use polls on Facebook - but before we do this we'll assess if it is right for the customer. We want to make sure we don't invade their own space."


Courier City Link uses CRM

Alex Mead, director of customer care at parcel courier company City Link, runs a multi-channel CRM system based on, which allows account customers to make contact via e-mail, phone, web chat or through a website app. "If a user has a question, we have created a help and support area in our website to track and trace and reschedule parcels."

"People who send parcels can use a browser-based application called MyCityLink, which shows updates on deliveries status, the GPS position of vans and tracks consignments. It even shows the front door of the house we tried to deliver to."

The key for Mead is to ensure the customer's experience is uniform, irrespective of the form of contact with City Link. So next year, the company plans to start using social networking sites. Social networks could be used to monitor negative feedback, to help the company resolve customer issues. Mead adds: "We want to pick up when a Facebook users complains that City Link has not delivered a parcel for someone's birthday."

At's conference in London in September, a survey of 150 CEOs conducted by Coleman-Parkes Research revealed 73% of CEOs says social networks were important to build brands. A further 68% says social networks were important to launch products and 61% saw social networks as a way to engage with customers.


Burberry launches fragrance with Facebook, and Twitter

CIOs can learn from some of the innovation that is taking place in the retail sector, to see how integrating CRM with social networking can be used to improve customer engagement.

For instance, in September fashion house Burberry launched a new fragrance, Burberry Body, which uses a custom Facebook app, to encourage the company's 7.7 million Facebook fans to order a sample. The company uses SAP for back office business processes, along with front-office systems powered by that provide the Chatter service (click here to see the video) and integrate with Twitter and Facebook using's Heroku development platform.

But social media is not just limited to retail. Belron, the parent company of Autoglass, has been experimenting with social media this year. Autoglass is using Radian6 to find out what people are saying about its brands on social networking sites such as Facebook.


Fashion retailer Aurora uses iPad to merge physical and online shopping stores

Fashion retailer Aurora - which owns Coast, Oasis, Warehouse and Karen Millen - is taking a novel approach to customer engagement.

Aurora is giving staff iPads to merge digital commerce and physical retailing and drive customer engagement.

Ish Patel, group strategic development director at Aurora Fashions, wants to use social media as a tool to engage customers and create loyalty. Patel asks: "How do you create an experience that people will want to tweet about?"

Aurora uses applications and Facebook accounts to engage with customers, but Patel says the focus for the company is bringing that experience into the store. This is where its use of the iPad fits.

The iPads enable store staff to access the business's websites anywhere in the store, check product availability across the UK and place online orders where the right stock is not immediately available. The iPad point-of-sale (PoS) app shortens queue times and makes the payment process mobile, simpler and more engaging, Aurora says.

Patel says: "We're very keen to keep the trial open. The traditional view is to lock things down in IT. Actually, until we start to engage, let's not lock things down."


The importance of locality

Aurora wants to manage customers locally. "We would love to know about our customers based on how much they share with us. This needs to be done at a local level. There are customers well known by the store team . Allowing store teams to communicate directly with these customers would really improve customer engagement."

It is already possible to pull up customer details at the point of sale. But, says Patel: "This is happening at the wrong end of the journey - it should happen when they come into the store." So there are benefits in having a handheld device like the iPad, which store staff can use for customer service.

Patel says: "Whilst the iPad can take transactions like a standard till, we believe that in-store, the experience with the customer should go further than taking the transaction. Usability of the iPad is in a league of its own. It could also be used for assisted selling, where we can look at ranges, and digital media anywhere in the store. Staff may offer style advice using additional information on the iPad."

For Patel, information kiosks in store are ugly: "Kiosks do not work in a fashion environment. Consumers and store staff probably already have a smartphone or tablet, a much more familiar environment than a kiosk. If store staff are comfortable using it, this adds to customer engagement." In other words, staff do not spend time figuring out order entry fields and can spend more time helping the customer.

He says the iPad allows people to do their research in-store with access to the information they would previously have found online at home.


Augmented reality and virtual tills

The iPad also offers an element of augmented reality to support customer engagement. "We have found in early trials that while customers can get all the advice they like, and see themselves in a mirror, using the device to show them a photo of themselves from the side or from behind is a great help."

Aurora hopes to create a complete customer journey, The store manager can use the iPad for assisted selling, while at busy times it can be used for resolving queues at the till. "Since it is portable, the iPad works in all areas of the shop, such as the fitting room. Once a customer has queued at the fitting room, why should they queue again at the cash desk?"


Organic growth without a manual

Aurora is trialling the iPad for six months. The project is a constant testing and learning exercise. In the first month a number of changes have already been made - such as how the device is held and how it is supported. "We hope that by the end of the trial we'll have a more refined experience," says Patel.

Traditionally technology is adopted with formal training. Patel says there is no training on the iPad. "Store teams have been able to take it on without training material and use it in ways we hadn't anticipated - such as using the camera and web experience."

There are apps that connect to the till and stock management, apps that connect to Aurora's website, plus Facetime and other Apple apps.

"It's like computer games - we are rethinking how we train and how we use technology. There is no big manual."


Gender Equality Project uses social media interface

The Switzerland-based Gender Equality Project is developing a social media-powered assessment methodology for measuring gender equality in the workplace.

Launched at the World Economic Forum in January 2011, the assessment methodology will serve as the basis for the first corporate global certification system and standard in gender equality. The Gender Equality Project says the methodology will help organisations measure, track and benchmark gender equality in terms of equal pay for equivalent work, recruitment and promotion, training and mentoring, flexible working and company culture.

Accenture and are helping the Gender Equality Project build a portal for the assessment, based on Ruby on Rails and using Heroku, the programming platform for interfacing with social media sites.

Nicole Schwab, co-founder, The Gender Equality Project, says: "The portal Accenture and are developing will be critical in helping to take our assessment methodology to the next level. We will be able to scale up rapidly, reach new members and enhance the relevance of our benchmarking, helping more multinational organizations close the gender equality gap."


Video: What is social CRM?

Read more on Business applications