15 Stories to Show the Value of Social CRM

Yeah, we are at it again. The never stopping, never solved, everyday hotter question of if and how social business (or social media, or social whatever you want) can bring measurable business value.

While many believe this is the case (see among the others $1B+ analysis from McKinsey or the 101 ROI examples from Peter Kim), as a matter of fact some are trying to prove it. Even if the following are not exactly examples of ROI but more leading indicators of the returns, the success stories Lithium put together are nonetheless telling. I won’t get into the details for each case, but I believe that grouping them in a few buckets could provide some insight on what the market has achieved until now.

Scaling customer service and customer loyalty 

Best Buy peer-to-peer support community includes customers, Blueshirts, Geek Squad Agents to generate value in call deflection and sales advocacy. If you need an answer you go to the community, pose the question, engage in conversations with other members, rate and approve solutions. Twitter, Facebook, videos and blogs have been added to provide more information and more channels where to interact. Social channels are integrated and handled by Best Buy community teams directly from the community. Answers seamlessly become part of the knowledge base. An idea management area has been added to the project. 95% of conversations are generated bottom-up by the users (and not by the company) with savings in the range of $5M and contacts with 600K customers each quarter. The full story can be read here.

Superfans can help quite a bit with building a bottom-up customer service, especially when mixed with company’s ambassadors. Take the HP example where ambassadors (100 of them) contributed 5% of the posts and 10% of the solutions while only 50 superfans provided 52% of the accepted solutions. Here no business results have been formally measured but the community serves 30M customers, 7 languages and 200 countries addressing 20% of the requests globally.

Superusers are key also for Movistar, where the community grand master has 5K posts with over 56.5K minutes spent online. In this case the value to the company has been calculated as a significant $5.75M / year in call deflection.

Autodesk scored even better integrating social support to CRM for case management / escalation and saving $6.8M after the first 12 months with 53% of its subscription customers solving their issues directly online with a 26% deflection rate.


  • AT&T got a 16% improvement in call deflection and solved 21K customer stories
  • Lenovo is helping its customers 24/7 thanks to 30 superfans that contributed 44% of the solutions and 1200 articles in the knowledge base
  • Tomtom capped support costs by handling 20K cases online in 1 month with $150K in savings
  • Linksys (Cisco) substituted its support community to its call center during during an earthquake. Now it has taken the place of email (discontinued!), serving 4M customers and deflecting 120K calls each month. Linksys is also seeing decreased support costs, better product insights and increased customer engagement

Social Support communities bring tangible value in many ways:

  • Reducing costs by deflecting calls through the community’s knowledge
  • Providing answers dramatically quicker (in minutes instead of hours as Giffgaff is doing)
  • Creating better solutions through superusers / advocates / SMEs
  • Nurturing stronger peer-to-peer interactions
  • Getting deeper customer insights through surveys and analytics to guide product and service improvements
  • Generating new business by committing to customer success

According to Forrester, by 2014, integrating communities into customer support will realize a benefit between 10% and 50% in cost reductions only. Not bad to me.

Increasing revenues and influencing decisions by leveraging passion

Can you increase revenues without increasing your marketing budget? Yes if you are able to provide answers that nobody else gives as Redfin is doing by letting customers talk to each other transparently in a otherwise totally opaque real estate market. Thanks to the community, customers can freely discuss market trends, real estate best practices, neighborhood guidance while the company was able to grow revenues by 40% while at the same time reducing marketing spending by 82%. By going open and listening to customer conversations, Redfin also increased its NPS by 5% and influenced 51% of its customers with 22% of the buyers posing questions inside the community.

Sephora with its BeautyTalk is another brilliant example of community where women come to talk about beauty and get expert advice. More than just chatting, the community boosts spending with members having a budget that is 2.5x that of the average customer. This number reaches 10x for superfans.

The same happened for TVG, an interactive horse racing network, where the community not only connects and empowers wagers but also stimulate them to bet. 64% of community users have wager accounts, they account for 20% of the total amount wagered, spend 36% more and show higher handle growth than non members.

FICO is yet another well-known story. The community solved a key issue with providing 850K customers rich individual support on their credit score but also on how to improve it, something the company is not allowed to talk about. An additional effect has been contributing to 39% of the myFico.com traffic, increasing members spend by 66% and driving 13% of sales.

Ideas, Ideas, Ideas to improve products and services

Even if not traditionally part of Social CRM, innovation is today a key area directly impacted by social media. Other than passively mining peer-to-peer support and customer insights, ideas and feedback can be proactively stimulated as the following examples portray. Given the long-term impact on the innovation process, a clear ROI is often hard to formulate but co-created ideas show a promising potential in terms of new tariffs, additional sales, improved customer experience.

90K Verizon‘s customers have been sharing opinions on products and services for the last 3 years but in 2010 the company looked for a more engaging collaboration by introducing an idea exchange platform aimed to identify product / service enhancements, to facilitate customer-driven suggestions, to reposition the brand around innovation. Consumer generated ideas have become part of the product management process and while business results are not been measured at the moment, customers seem to like co-created innovation by posting more than 1700 ideas with a growth of 107% in comments, 403% in votes, 555% in visitors. 31 ideas have been implemented and other 250 are in progress improving customer retention, early detecting potential issues and getting closer to the market.

With LabVIEW National Instruments bring engineers and scientists at the core of the product design. Among its results the reduction in customer complaints (suggestions are systematically collected in a single place) and the increase in NI productivity while prioritizing new features. The platform is very active (2400 ideas submitted, 9740 comments, 45400 unique visitors) and its outcomes are integrated with the R&D team through tens of features implemented every year in the new version of the product.

Very similarly At O2 the community helps steer the direction by crowdsourcing ideas. The ROI has been positive since month 3 with 900 submissions in 6 months.


These are only a few of the 1000+  examples of large companies embedding collaboration as a mean to not just to communicate with customers but especially to get them involved deep into business processes. In many cases monetary returns have been calculated. In others, the project is yet to be connected with measurable economic gains but nonetheless both the customer and the company are enjoying a better experience, a stronger connection, an increased productivity, ultimately recognizing more value from the mutual relationship.

What these stories prove is how Social CRM and Social Business are starting to affect the bottom line with some recurring patterns:

  • The company is sincerely interested in building value with the customer instead of the customer notwithstanding. Human beings are attracted by credibility, transparency, reciprocity and the freedom to exchange information with their peers and with the organization
  • Passion is the engine of the community both in B2B and B2C contexts. Companies and businesses are made of people often enjoying what they do everyday and looking for solutions to do it better.
  • Success requires careful planning, resources, commitment and patience. From an initial pilot, most of the protagonists of the stories have listened and learned. Case studies can go that far. Experimenting and iteratively improving is the only way for building your own solution for the specific needs of your customers
  • Social Business brings advantage in any industry, regulated or not. Whether you are in telecommunications, manufacturing, services, retail, consumer goods, finance and banking, real estate, there is some good example out there that you can take as an inspiration

Emanuele Quintarelli

Entrepreneur and Org Emergineer at Cocoon Projects | Associate Partner at Peoplerise | LSP and Holacracy Facilitator

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