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Is Social CRM a house of cards?

I am not simply going for shock value, I am asking a tough question where one of the possible answers is ‘yes’, and that scares me a bit. If we choose to ignore 20 years of knowledge, experience and best implementation practices, then we are setting ourselves to repeat the same mistakes that gave CRM a bad name. This pushes the answer towards ‘yes’, how can we push it towards ‘no’? Is this post an about face for me personally? No, I do not think so, call it a prequel – something I knew, felt and should have said a long time ago.

There are some great ideas, even some really awesome technology components that can make up the pieces of a solid Social CRM strategy. However, at the core, there needs to be a well architected, flexible CRM application that will serve as the foundation for the Social CRM strategy. There are certain things ‘the basic blocking and tackling’ if you will of CRM which cannot be ignored.

You cannot jump to Social CRM if you do not understand CRM

Without a proper foundation, adding more layers and more cards simply adds to the instability. Recent posts (and some not so recent) are well suited to help me describe my concerns. (They are listed at the bottom, to avoid hyperlink hypnosis). If we first look at Paul’s definition of CRM and then Social CRM it should be clear that Social CRM is an extension – by process, culture and/or technology– of CRM. The change was and is required due to the changing needs of the customer.

Since the customer changed, the companies also need to change. But, If you change the focus (who and how), it is very easy to forget the battle scars of CRM 1.0 implementations. As Esteban points out in his recent post, the ownership of the concepts of CRM have moved from one part of the organization to another. Because of this change, the institutional knowledge regarding what it means to build a holistic customer strategy may not be all there. Some is lost, or worse, some is being ignored.

Social CRM is not simply a set of CRM bolt-on modules

Getting past definitions and focusing on what it is, Michael Fauscette says it quite well: “CRM is a customer strategy and many companies have chosen to use SW [software] and technology as a part of that strategy. SCRM [Social CRM] just extends that customer strategy in a few ways.”

Again, I am not talking about definitions, I am talking about practice. Is technology a part of the extension? Yes, it probably is, but it will not work if you do not make people and process changes first (think attitude!). If you use technology as a part of your CRM strategy, then you will likely need technology to extend it to a Social CRM strategy. If you do not have a well organized technology strategy for CRM (meaning it is not simply email and spreadsheets) then adding new technology for Social CRM will NOT be effective.

The Process of Social CRM is dynamic

It is dynamic because where and how the conversations happen will change. Brian and others speak a bit about ‘changes in centricity’ – I am summarizing, but the sentiment should not be lost. Customer centric versus management centric; Conversation centric versus Process Centric – Centricity, Focus whatever the best name for it is, needs to evolve and meet your business need – what do your customers want. Regardless of what you call it, both sets of data are still important. Can anyone tell me that what I purchased, when I purchased it and my buying patterns have stopped being important? I know Brian was not going there, I am illustrating a point. Please read his post, it is important.

Jacob posted the Social CRM process, is it right I am not sure, actually it is probably wrong – hold on, I am not coming down on anyone! I applaud Jacob because anyone should be able to take his diagram and use it as a baseline model (not a best practice) and move the arrows, fill-in the boxes and make it work for your business. People, Process and all that… Jacob is spot on for highlighting process – look at what you have, and where ‘Social’ should fit into the company. Do not force Social in, just because it is cool.

Ok, maybe a little bit of shock value

If at least made you stop and think, I feel a bit better. I really like Social CRM. I enjoy thinking about, writing about, talking about and even well debating a bit. Here is my mea culpa, I have a CRM application, I use it everyday. To me, thinking of Social CRM as an evolutionary step, not revolutionary as assumed. My apologies. If this seems like a change of course, well the Blog does not have a title for a reason…

This list is not just a WordPress – blogs you might also like to read! These specific people, posts and comments on the posts influenced my own thoughts – what are yours?

Paul Greenberg’s – Traditional CRM v Social CRM: Is There a Difference
Esteban Kolsky’s – Why We Cannot Get CRM (and SCRM) Quite Right
Brian Vellmure’s – Traditional CRM vs Social CRM: Expanded
Michael Fauscette – What makes “CRM” Social
Bob Thompson – Can you do “Social CRM” w/out Social Media/Networks
Jacob Morgan – The Social CRM Process

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Mark Tamis April 7, 2010, 3:25 PM

    Hi Mitch,

    Interesting that you came to this point of view. I may be simplifying, but it seems like you are making it sound like it is all about processing the data. I think it is not only about what information flows you’re routing, but it is is about the customer experience you’re facilitating, for example by making it more frictionless or understanding what the customers and potential ones really want.

    Finally, maybe the real progress in the discussion would be to move away from process centric to plain old people-centric. People are the real enablers for making the difference in good customer experience, supported by the CRM technology and processes.

    Your thoughts?

    Cheers,
    Mark

  • Mitch Lieberman April 7, 2010, 3:48 PM

    Mark,

    I think it is about processing. Processing the right information at the right time, by the right people on the right channel. I am not going to stand on principle of what exactly it is called. My main point is that in order to scale engagement, you need to allow your best people to focus on the customer and customer experience. Let technology act as the routing engine, traffic cop or whatever you want to call it.

    I think we are saying very similar things. A fear is that as the social channels become more heavily used and popular bringing new employees into the mix will get harder and harder.

    Thanks for the thoughts!

    Mitch

    • Mark Tamis April 7, 2010, 4:06 PM

      Actually, I think bringing in new employees will become easier as the need to use the company’s human assets become more obvious. The question does reside in scaling and more specifically in identifying more people within the organisation with the right skillset to provide the customer experience that is sought. Here Enterprise 2.0 pronciples can play an important role. And if you really want to scale, you’d ideally be looking to your customer base as your advocates and troubleshooters. In this case your processes would be aimed at providing these ‘superusers’ with access to the necessary resources to help them help their peers.

      • Mitch Lieberman April 8, 2010, 10:06 AM

        I agree with your thoughts – There is a human element, many (you included) have talked about it – It is crucial. My main point is that to really empower people to focus on the customer, some automation (process and technology) is really good to have in place – lessons learned from CRM 1.0 days.

  • Wim Rampen April 7, 2010, 4:07 PM

    Hi Mitch,

    You open an interesting discussion, for sure..

    I’m hesitating to agree with you when it comes to your statement: “However, at the core, there needs to be a well architected, flexible CRM application that will serve as the foundation for the Social CRM strategy”

    For sake of the argument let’s assume there is such a thing as a well architected, flexible CRM application (there are probably.. just don’t want to get into that argument here..)

    Yet, even if there is, is it a – sine qua non – for Social CRM to be successful?

    I’m just not sure because of some caveat I have at this moment..

    First: CRM implementations are not designed to capture Customer feedback and turn them into actionable insights.. a core element of Social CRM, and something that can be done well without a CRM system supporting it.. imho

    Secondly: CRM implementations are not designed to understand Customers’ relationships, but just transactions and interactions from the Customer with the Company, hardly ever in context of the Customers’ Experience.. and most certainly not on interactions, engagement and influence in Social Networks..

    And, if a CRM system is a – sine qua non – does that not make it more important than the philosophy aspect of it? Are they of the same importance?

    I’m inclined to think that people / processes / philosophy are more important than a CRM system, how flexible et all..

    Maybe it is time to design new processes and new CRM-systems, from the outside in, from the Customer and her community point of view, not from the Company’s point of view.. Maybe a company is better off without legacy CRM systems (even if they are flexible) and go back to the designing table(t?;) to really be able to capture the value there is in Social CRM..

    If Social CRM were just about integrating new channels in current approaches, you maybe right.. If it’s more, like I know you think too, I’m not so sure.. yet I cannot put my finger on it (yet)..

    Might take a while before I do.. Look forward to the discussion in the meantime..

    Thx for making me think :)

    Wim

  • Mitch Lieberman April 8, 2010, 7:17 AM

    Wim,

    Thanks for the thoughts. I do not disagree with your high level thoughts, and I do not think we are too far apart, possibly different approaches.

    The bits and bytes of most CRM applications (the technology side) are very well suited to capture information in many forms and ‘do something’ with that information. The ‘something’ is usually a process (notification, escalation, record-keeping, etc.,…). I agree that the current CRM applications cannot take feedback and turn them into insights – advanced analysis (people and technology) are required for that part. Once the insights are deemed actionable, then the process to decide who needs to do what, when and where can certainly be handled by current CRM applications.

    As you state, in a perfect scenario, we might design, or redesign (I like the way you slipped Tablet in there, maybe I can say iPad and get more traffic) the application from the ground up. However, there is the core set of transactions, demographics, correspondence (traditional, not social) which still exist. My fear is that many newcomers to this space are ignoring what has been learned for basic CRM processes (I am not talking about Lithium, Radian6 type players here).

  • Kathy Herrmann April 8, 2010, 9:44 AM

    Hi Mitch,

    Interesting thoughts. I started to write a comment but this article and other recent discussions spurred bigger thoughts of my own. Now I’m planning a short white paper to capture these thoughts. Will keep you posted.