Since the release of Microsoft CRM 4, I've had a couple of requests from partners on how they can start to leverage the new platform in some of their new Web 2.0 projects.

Now I'm not 100% sure, mainly because the term Web 2.0 is one of the growing polysemes that litter the IT field, so working out how to Web 2.0'afy your next CRM solution is as much magic as science.

But to get the party started, I thought I would put together a very quick concept of how I think Web 2.0 and CRM could get mashed up for customers.

I'll start by choosing one element from the Web 2.0 space that I think would be exciting to CRM solutions, and that is the social element.

Next, let's take an example company and look at how they might successfully mashup Web 2.0 and CRM in their business.

For example, Dave's Health Insurance (my fictitious corporate juggernaut!) offers competitive health insurance packages to a range of customers. They offer singles packages, sporty types packages, couch potato packages, etc. The CIO wants to harness the power of the human network within their member base to:

  • Increase new customer subscriptions
  • Retain existing customers

If we approach this requirement from a CRM and Web 2.0 angle, we could consider the following questions:

  • How do we encourage and enable our existing customers to recruit new customers?
  • How do we reward our existing customers for recruiting new customers?
  • How do we connect our existing customers with each other to form contextually meaningful networks?

Now lets do some ideation, and come up with some concepts:

  • Firstly, increasing customers through existing customer referral is harder than it sounds. The potential new customer needs some way to share in the genuine positive experience of the existing member. It's got to be more than "Oh hey, come join my insurance provider, they rock!". So what we need first is to ensure our existing customer base is getting extraordinary value from being part of Dave's.
  • So how might we create value for our members over and above our services? Perhaps providing them with the ability to connect and share common experiences with each other within the context of insurance membership. Most members take out a policy based on a demographic such as singles, sporty types, etc. What if they could join a Facebook group managed by Dave's that provides activities for like minded members to participate in. Perhaps exclusive screenings of movies for couch potato members, or $5 sponsorship for every sporty type member who enters the Around the Bay in Day event. Taking an interest in your members lives in a respectful supportive way while helping them connect and network using their favorite social networking platforms is the way to go.
  • Next, setup a mechanism through which members can invite friends to join their social context network, so they can participate in the activities. The friends don't get the VIP level support your members get, but it enables them to involve their friends, and show them how much fun it is to belong to your organization as a customer.
  • Finally, the pyramid scheme ;) Well not really. But what would be ace is if Dave's could reward their members for brining new customers into the organization. For example, for every new member that signs on through an existing members Facebook page via a Dave's gadget, that member receives a $500 credit in their PayPal account.

The great thing about platforms like CRM 4 is that surfacing up the type of functionality required to implement the ideas above is very easy, and in terms of integrating CRM 4's web services into platforms like Facebook using tools like Visual Studio and .NET, it's not something that is going to require the development team at Dave's to have to create a whole bunch of code to handle standard bits like workflow, reporting and web services, cos' all that stuff already exists in CRM 4.

I'd love to hear from folks who are working on Web 2.0/CRM mashups, on what type of scenarios they are seeing, and how they are tackling them.

As they say, there are no stoopid ideas! :)