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Times are Changing… Your Employees are Now Your Best CRMs (in Social Media)

I love hearing how social media is changing the way businesses relate and interact with their customers. Personally, I remember a time, when I worked for an internet provider company, where I would cringe when people approached me with customer service issues. Friends and family would want to tell me their technical issues or complain about how slow the service was. My standard response became, “call customer service!”

However, social media has provided a completely new approach to customer service… where employees who are enthusiastic about their company’s products / solutions and also passionate about social media are being employed to not only be brand evangelists, but to provide expertise and advice on product information all the way through to the actual purchasing decision.

If you’ve been noticing the Best Buy commercials lately, you probably learned about their newly launched CRM model: Twelpforce, a Twitter service that enables Best Buy employees to talk with customers instead of to them. Best Buy, recognizing that their employees are their best resource, “opened its customer service Twitter feed, Twelpforce, to any of its hourly store employees and salaried corporate employees who want to join. Employees are free to engage customers with questions or even angry customers in their own voice and in any way they see fit. The rules? DON’T talk about private company or customer information; DO be friendly and helpful.

Using a Twitter tool called ConnectTweet, Best Buy aggregates tweets from many employees into a single feed, which is Twelpforce. Each employee tweets from his or her own Twitter account, and the comments get published to the main feed with a “via @(insert employee Twitter handle here)” following. The feed then turns into a collection of advice from various employees responding to @Twelpforce or #Twelpforce questions.

Since it started about a month ago, about 1,300 employees have become part of the Twelpforce (out of 150,000 employees companywide) with about 100 more employees joining each week, says John Bernier, who is Best Buy’s marketing manager and social media advocate. They’ve answered more than 3,500 questions—and have even induced a few sales. But Twelpforce is less about making sales and more about imparting knowledge and empowering employees to be part of the social media sphere.” (see Ragan’s article for much more detail.)

I often hear that it’s challenging to get executive support for incorporating social media into a business plan because there is no tangible ROI. I could start going through my thoughts on intangible ROI (and I’ve got plenty of them!) and how social media can be integrated into existing marketing efforts, but here’s an example of the success of Best Buy’s new Twelpforce:

Employee BBYFlowerMound convinced a man on Twitter that he should buy a Mac. The man walked into the Flower Mound, Tex., store, asked to speak to the employee, and bought a Mac on the spot.

A social media CRM model that provides tangible ROI… times are changing!

No more telling people to call “customer service”… I AM the customer service….now I’m off to see how many iPhone users I can convert to the Blackberry Storm….

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