New customer relations management (CRM) courses being developed at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, will weave social media input into CRM software applications.When Your Customers Vote, Does Your CRM Listen?Rotman has partnered with Microsoft Canada Inc. to develop these "social CRM" courses and tools. It's the focus of the Rotman Executive Program Centre for CRM Excellence. A three-day social CRM course is being put together at the Centre and will be offered in November.Bringing social media data into CRM tools will help business users better understand customer behaviour, says a Rotman executive.Lately, there's been an over-emphasis on the technical aspect of CRM to the exclusion of the social and human aspect, noted Dilip Soman, professor of marketing at Rotman, and the Centre's executive director.Such an approach is inadequate as it prevents CRM's full potential from being realized, said Soman, who holds the Corus Chair in Communications Strategy."People have different goals and motivations, and their thought processes are sometimes irrational. By listening in on conversations in the social media space, business can stay on top of the marketing game." CRM experts communityThe Centre will be much more than an educational venue, according to Frank Falcone, CRM Lead, Microsoft Canada, and the centre's Executive Program Director.It will also encourage the community of CRM and social media experts to collaboratively contribute knowledge and do research, he said."We can tap into these focus groups and their research to identify topics areas of interest to executives. This will help us develop course content." Ultimately the program will cover the mechanics, strategies and issues that need to be sorted out in the area of social CRM, said Falcone.Soman said CRM software is principally meant to automate the process of managing customer accounts.But its second goal is to access transactional and behavioural data. Unfortunately, he said, too many companies focus just on the automation aspect.When used without reference to a social context, CRM tools "ask customers incomplete questions and elicit incomplete answers."For instance he said, some tools ask customers whether they like a product or not and why -- and terminate the "conversation" at that point. But those customers' Twitter posts may reveal their "deeper feelings" that weren't addressed earlier."If we don't listen in on what's being tweeted or posted on Facebook about that product or company we'll never know that the customer is really irritated with a product and is now telling his friends and their friends about how it sucks," Soman noted.Echoing this view, Falcone said the days of simply providing better service are gone. "Today CRM is social -- driven by personal interactions and by customers who expect control over their engagement with companies." Not just a numbers gameWhile Web analytics has done a lot for marketing, many marketers don't have a clue about what numbers they should be focusing on, according to Avinash Kaushik, a Google analytics expert.He said marketers often present clients with numbers that have little value for their campaign."The main idea," he said, "should be to gather data that resonates with the person at the other end and encourages them to act in a desired manner." And to do that, Kaushik says, "listening in on the buzz in social channels" is crucial.For example, rather than obsess on how many page views a site has generated or how many followers he has on Twitter, the Google expert focuses on the type of engagement viewers have with his site or the number of retweets he gets.Nestor Arellano is a senior writer for ITBusiness.ca. Follow Nestor on Twitter, read his blogs on ITBusiness.caBlogs. Check out ITBusiness.ca's Facebook page.