Web 2.0: Your Company's Next CRM Secret Weapon

Updated: April 30, 2009

Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 (which involves moving Web 2.0 technologies into the enterprise) are the buzzwords of the day, but they encompass real technologies such as blogs, communities of interest, tagging and so forth. Businesses can use these tools to augment the information in their CRM, SFA (Sales Force Automation ) and customer-support systems.

Social computing under the umbrella of Web 2.0 is creating complimentary solutions to CRM technology, according to William Band, an analyst with Forrester Research Inc. Band believes that these technologies can help foster collaboration across the spectrum of relationships in ways that companies might not have considered before. "Web 2.0 as a set of underlying technologies allows for a number of things to happen more easily," Band said. He said that this collaboration involves three different dynamics among traditional relationships.

For starters, Band said, internal employees can collaborate with each other in more unstructured ways. "From a CRM point of view, [Web 2.0 technologies] allow people to organize and perhaps respond to selling customers, or to organize teams to sell to customers or share information to [better] serve customers," Band said. What's more, he said, these technologies let customers collaborate and talk to one another in new ways. At the same time, Web 2.0 tools allow companies and customers to share information in a more collaborative, less transactional way.

Traditionally, salespeople hold customer information close because their salaries are based on their ability to deliver sales, but Band believes that salespeople are natural collaborators and can use Web 2.0 tools to become more successful. "Salespeople, by the nature of their job, need to try to collaborate to find peers who can help them penetrate accounts or generate prospects and referrals," he said.

Band admits that these technologies are still new to sales and marketing and are in the process of being tested. However, he stated that companies are trying to put these tools in place to make the customer not just an asset of the salesperson but an asset of the company. If using Web 2.0 technologies can help supplement CRM technology and foster communication among customers, salespeople and the company at large, then these tools can be invaluable in building customer relationships — as well as esprit de corps within the organization. As Web 2.0 technologies make their way into the enterprise, companies will look for ways to leverage social networking to build sales and improve relationships, and that goes hand in hand with CRM and SFA solutions.

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