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By Tim Buckley Owen


With so many communications channels available to customers now, companies are struggling with how to transfer customer insight across the whole enterprise.  Although they recognise the need to get to grips with social customer relationship management, the lack of proven technology makes many reluctant – a potentially big challenge for pioneer providers like Salesforce.

That’s a portmanteau finding based on three recent announcements: from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the technology analyst Gartner and  Taken separately, they’re all of interest; put together, they hint at big opportunities for information managers.

More than half of respondents to the EIU report – Redefining Customer Value: Corporate Strategies for the Social Web – recognise that customer insights need to be harnessed by more than just the marketing function.  But they still struggle with how to measure the actual value of that effort, or how to create processes that allow for the easy transfer of customer insight across the enterprise.

They need to share data more widely and analyse it more quickly EIU says, and the chief marketing officer needs to consider how to integrate multi-channel customer feedback – including via social networks, blogs and online communities – with conventional inputs.  What’s more, the CMO needs to be sharing information with the legal and risk departments more regularly – not just when managing a crisis.

Given these findings, it’s probably no wonder that there’s growing corporate awareness of social customer relationship management solutions.  But, as Gartner points out, there’s a vicious circle: because the technology hasn’t been widely adopted yet the business case is more theoretical than proven – so mainstream and late adopters are reluctant to take the plunge – so the case remains theoretical.

You can hardly blame them; no-one wants to place bad bets when they don’t really know what’s going to come out in front yet.  Gartner cites Second Life; hyped to the skies as a customer service and e-commerce venue just a couple of years ago, where is it now?  (Although Sheila Webber did put up a feisty case for its business use in a FUMSI article a couple of years back.)

Now Salesforce is no Second Life; it’s a hard-nosed, strategic, business-focused outfit.  But, given all this uncertainty about who to shop with, how it is going to get on with its newly unveiled Service Cloud 3, which will use the developing Radian6 application to integrate customer engagement via Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and video and photo sharing sites?

Service Cloud 3 is generally available now, Salesforce for Facebook should be up by fiscal year 2012, and Radian6 for Salesforce should start closed beta testing at the same time.  But whether the mainstream adopters will have made up their minds by then remains to be seen.


About this item:

Tim is an information skills trainer and writer on the information industry with over 40 years' experience in the profession. His career has encompassed information management, writing, editing, training, government policy advice and corporate media & marketing.

Besides writing for FreePint, Tim runs courses for training providers and private clients on enquiry handling, abstracting & summarising, information packaging & presentation and information management. The sixth edition of his classic handbook Successful Enquiry Answering Every Time is published by Facet Publishing. You can find details of Tim's training services at

Tim can also be reached at

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