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Social CRM is a Journey, not a Destination – Revisited

I wrote the following in September 2009 – 6 months ago.  But, I could have easily written it yesterday, and it would not be too different:

“There has been a tremendous amount great conversation during the past couple weeks, regarding Social CRM. What it is as well as what it is not. I am not sure we have reached any conclusions yet, but we have all become smarter for the insights of a great many individuals. Interestingly, I am usually a bit opinionated, but I sat on the sidelines, just observing – for the most part.

As my title suggests, I do believe that we are all (customers, businesses, implementers and vendors) on a journey.  As a group, we are working (struggling) to compartmentalize, as that seems to be human nature. We are treating the landscape as binary, you either have it, or you don’t.  You will get there, or you will not. The economy is evolving, business is evolving, customers’ needs are evolving. So as all the components go through this evolution, yet, we are suggesting this needs to be a revolution, why? Very few of us subscribe to waterfall development methodology, therefore, we should be able to iterate through this as well, no?

The difference, among my peers, who are having the conversation, do not seem to be as much about where we are going (ok, first chance for a comment), rather how we get there. We all want very similar things. As Graham reminded us all today, in quoting Peter Drucker on his post (which is a must read). The end game is already defined for us.”

I tend to get a little philosophical at times – why, I am not sure, but it happens quite often, I am afraid. Mostly, because my purpose in writing is to solidify my own thoughts. In my previous post, I went on to say:

“If Social CRM is the destination, then what is the vehicle to get us there? Is it strategy, or technology? Answer: It is both. It is the proper introduction and combination of technology, in support of the evolving processes, created by the empowered customer. Like the business trips we all take – trains, planes and automobiles – each client requires a slightly different itinerary. Exactly, each client requires a slightly different approach.”

I have a lot of great comments from the previous post, by some great folks who have pushed my thinking further than I could have ever hoped. To start, friend Mike Boysen made the following observation (Last September) “Why are there Social CRM software solutions on the market if we do not know what it is” That is a very important question to be answered, and I am not sure how much further along we are, frankly.

As many have noted, we run the risk of Social CRM being dominated by the vendors (full disclosure, I am one). We also run the risk of having the same failures we did with CRM, but I think the chances of that are smaller. Kathy Hermann pointed out (last September) “I don’t think we’ll ever reach a final SCRM destination nor should we expect to…because of the diversity of the social media field of opportunities.”  This is also an important point, by putting Social on the front of CRM, the static nature of reporting transactions has changed to understanding where customers are talking, what they are saying, and where they are saying it – this last one (where) is dynamic and will keep us all on our toes!

Through the journey (personal and professional), there have been a tremendous number of great posts, papers, and exploratory ideas. Without a doubt it is a journey, spattered with some self reflection as well.  So, with all the posts, conversations and thoughts, are we any closer to the destination? Or as Kathy points out above, do we need to worry about the destination at all, and we should be focused on helping customers get their jobs done?

I wrote in November, “Social Just is…” This was right after friend Graham Hill released his Manifesto for Social Business.  At the time, I was thinking along the lines of the Social Customer – I summarized with the following:

“The key message here is to be cautious, all too often the “gurus” and “experts” pretend to be King, as did the the one-eyed man in the land of the blind. Challenge the gurus with the Social Media strategies, not just to challenge, but to ask them how they did it. How many times have they done it, if they have done it. These experts need to have a solid grounding in Marketing, and Media (not necessarily ‘Social’) first.

The current hype cycle that is Social (Media and by extension Networking) is very much about creating that feeling of closeness (emotions) and changing behaviors, between your organization and your customers. Make no mistake, while there is some hype, there is a new bar, and expectations have been set and reset.“

My point in revisiting this is because there is a wave of Buzz surrounding Social CRM at the moment, and the journey has just become quite interesting.  The smart folks over at Altimeter  have just released  the 18 Social CRM Use Cases report, which is an important read. This is great work, but also keep in mind the other really great posts and ‘road maps’ if you will. For Example Esteban Kolsky’s SCRM roadmap post and Brian Vellmure’s 5 Stages of Customer Acquisition. These (among other works) are a tremendous value add to the thinking within the space. It is up to us to turn these ideas and concepts into customer focused actions.

But, it is important to remind everyone that the Customers jobs come first, and the focus needs to remain on the relationships with the Customer – as defined by the customer, not us. As Wim Rampen states in his great post from earlier this year:

“Because a Customer does not value a relationship with the company, but mostly values the outcome generated from the experience of using your product or service, it should not be difficult to understand that Customers value knowledge or information on how to improve that outcome, over relationships (with the company).”

I have said it quite often within my talks, blogs and participatory comments of all kinds – There is no one size fits all here.  I do not believe that there are best practices to carried from organization to another – except, keep you customer in mind in everything you do. There are best approaches, and ways to think, but social may just be the new differentiator – thus it is different from place to place. Not a differentiator in technology, but in your approach to your ecosystem.

Best of luck on your Journey, god speed!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • buchanla March 10, 2010, 2:28 PM

    Mitch – great post. I fully agree with your sentiment that thinking around Social CRM will continue to evolve. The healthy debate around the topic at the moment is fuelling this evolution.

    As you point out, your thoughts on the market could also be applied to organisations pioneering the deployment of Social CRM (strategies and technologies). At this stage in the market evolution (when SCRM is still a relatively new topic with relatively few enterprise-wide use-cases) organisations that succeed with SCRM will likely be the ones who test – iterate – and improve, accepting that they will make mistakes along the way, but firm in their vision. This agile approach seems to now be more common in the CRM market where success rates have risen steadily and certainly contrasts with first generation, monolithic, command and control CRM solutions which were often lacking a strong connection to customer-centric strategy.

    Also enjoyed the useful links in this post – thanks for sharing!

    Laurence