Social CRM is at the earliest stage of its development. The rapid evolution of social tools, particularly Internet based ones (and in the near future, mobile Internet based ones) is driving the co-evolution of their adoption by leading edge users. (Who would have thought that I would all but abandon one-way blogging at CustomerThink for the two-way conversation on Twitter?) But in another sense, Social CRM has been around as long as people have indulged in commerce. Relying on friends and family for the best advice is literally thousands of years old. In many local economies, it is part of the glue that holds traditional markets together.
As Social CRM increases in importance to business, people naturally start to ask who should ‘own’ it. The obvious answer is ‘the customer’, as almost by definition, they currently own Social CRM. But that isn’t good enough for the control freaks in management. So who should own Social CRM? Most of the organisations I look at don’t have any natural home for Social CRM. Why shoehorn it into a department that isn’t able to manage it properly? Rather than say, stuff it into Customer Service, it should be placed with those best able to use it, indeed, those who are probably already using it.
In a business new to social CRM, this may be a disparate social network of individuals doing their own thing across the business. A self-organising group with no formal authority, but a lot of social authority. In a slightly more advanced business it might be a cross-functional team formed specifically to look at Social CRM and containing many of the earlier social network. Further on it might be a formal Social CRM Coordinator given the role, responsibility and authority to promote Social CRM across the business. In some organisations, it might even be the Chief Customer Officer (although organisations have a few hoops to jump through before they get that far!).
Looking beyond these traditional organisational forms, there is a strong case for building hybrid organisations to enable Social CRM. These have a rigid organisational hierarchy at their core; necessary for efficient, effective operations. But they also have a looser organisational network at their interface with the market; necessary for engaging with ever-changing customers. And for literally bringing customers into the organisation. You won’t find many of these hybrid structures in traditional CRM departments. (Although I did build one for a different purpose at a UK credit card company over 10 years ago). But you will find them in companies like Innocentive, Adidas and P&G, who are actively engaging in open innovation with partners and particularly, in lead-user innovation with customers.
By successively passing the baton of responsibility to more formalised groups in this way, and eventually to hybrid organisations, business has a much better chance of developing the various capabilities required to measure, monitor and manage Social CRM for optimal co-creation with customers. Something that won’t happen if it is simply given to a wholly unprepared department like Customer Service. Or Marketing. Or Sales!
To put this in a nutshell, in proper organisation development, the form (of the organisation) follows the function (it has to carry out). Given a new function, look for the part of the organisational that has the closest fitting form. Just make sure it works closely with customers. Or better still, that it actually contains real live customers within it.
What do you think? Is Social CRM best part in Customer Service? Or are you taking a more rounded view?
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Innocentive, Innocentive, Where the World Innovates
Berger & Piller, Customers as Co-Designers
Graham Hill, How Customers Drive Innovation at P&G