Social CRM: The Social Media Plugin To Make Businesses Customer-Centric

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“Sure, we’re customer-centric”, I hear you saying. “Now, this new social stuff…how can we use it to promote our products?”

One of the big dangers, each time a new term is introduced to the world, is the “latching on” that takes place. People and companies latched onto the term CRM and sucked it dry until it really had no meaning left – and it had been commoditized. The term SCRM is also in grave danger – already. While it has been clearly defined (and a stake put in the ground), social media gurus and consultancies are trying to lay claim to a concept that has little or no cross-over into their specific skills and experience. Sorry for being blunt, but it has to be said (repeatedly).

Whether you like the term Customer Relationship Management or not, the underlying concept is important to understand before you start running out the door waving your CRM or SCRM flag for the world to see. Nothing against software vendors (including social media solutions), but they do it. I get why they do. But when social media consultants do it, I have to draw a line. CRM is about changing business cultures to focus on customer needs and design experiences that add value and reduce friction. The process derived from these strategic changes is supported by both people and technology. Somehow, we allowed the term to be tightly associated with the technology.

I think we’re prepared to fight this battle on the SCRM front. The social extension to CRM is really a means to expand something customer-centric businesses already do – listen to their customers, understand their needs and adapt to fulfill them in a way that creates value. SCRM has more roots in technology, yes. But, it doesn’t change what we’re really talking about here. So, if we’ve already licked this software is the solution problem – after a decade of death spiral – what is the new danger we’re facing?

Enter the Social Media Consultant

Social media is media designed to be disseminated through social interaction, created using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. Social media uses Internet and web-based technologies to transform broadcast media monologues (one to many) into social media dialogues (many to many). ~Wikipedia

The next time a social media consultant tells you that you can’t run your business without social just keep in mind that the only tool in their arsenal is social media. You can’t just plug in a piece of technology and transform your business.  Read the definition above- written, no doubt, by a social media person.

At first glance, this appears to be a definition for a new SPAM channel. But then it moves on to many-to-many, so maybe that’s a little bit harsh.  I have this bad habit of assuming that certain types of people believe if you make something (like an email) look pretty enough, it’s effective – and not spam. Unfortunately, too many graphic designers have taken over marketing departments – it’s all about touchy feely with them. But do they really understand customer relationships?

Darren Roanoke: How can you be the Love Guru if you’ve never been in a relationship?
Guru Pitka: Well, there is someone I like. But until I learn to love myself, I can only go out with three girls named Ann.
Darren Roanoke: Three girls named Ann?
Guru Pitka: Yeah. Ann Visible, Ann Flatable, and Ann Job.

Let’s be frank, social media gurus are popping up all over the Internet and also in your local business clubs (maybe your board rooms) – trying to use the momentum of SCRM to jump start their consultancies. Maybe they actually believe this is a new market, and that this market will transform a business by simply adopting solutions in their arsenal. And let’s be honest, these solutions didn’t transform any businesses to customer-centric, or improve the customer experience, before the term SCRM, so why would we believe it to be the case now? Where’s the track record to back it up?

Don’t get me wrong, I would never pretend to be an expert in social media. If it becomes a component in a CRM strategy I’m working with, then I will bring an expert in soc med onto my project team. But, what I won’t do is come on board a project that started with a social solution and tries to work itself backwards to a comprehensive customer-centric business strategy. Or worse, it never even attempts to work backwards as it’s seen as the complete solution. In these cases, businesses will simply leverage the solution more and more until it’s simply abused. Gotta get results, right?

Sounds too much like the good old days of CRM failures. Leave CRM to the CRM people, even if there’s an “S” on the front. We’ve been there and done that.. Mariska Hargitay everybody!

15 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Mike,

    Could not agree more. I have a caveat though..

    Leaving Social CRM to the CRM people is not enough. We need fresh thinking and ideas to get the best out of social crm. Like you said it yourself. CRM fell into the technology trap and we run the same risk on Social CRM. Just take a look at the Altimeter 18 use cases for Social CRM. They are not bad cases, but it is mainly technology focused.

    I’m convinced that we need new methodologies, not technologies to answer to the social Customer. Traditional CRM specialists will not develop these new methodologies by themselves alone.

    Opening up to specialists, fresh thinking and methodologies from i.e. the service design / design thinking “school” might just give a Social CRM strategy the fresh inputs CRM needs to break the silo’s, both vertically and horizontally and to break the company centric relationship logic, which still is the bases of many CRM strategies and solutions.

    I would say: don’t leave CRM to the CRM people alone, if you want the S on the front. They have been there and done that. It is time to bring in fresh thinking.. (and bringing in a Social Media specialist is not enough..)

  2. Hi MIke

    I share your sentiments entirely.

    SocCRM is being taken over by the vendors, just as CRM was. Its all about marketing, sales and service, just like it was for CRM. Reinvented SocCRM Gurus are popping out of the woodwork right, left and centre, just like they did for CRM. And customers are getting left behind in the rush to implement the latest new fad. Just like they were by CRM.

    CRM was really about customers. But the CRM industry never stopped for long enough to recognise that obvious fact. SocCRM is even more about customers. But has the new SocCRM industry stopped to think about customers. And what they want? What they really want? Not a chance!.

    I have this awful feeling deep in the pit of my stomach that the problems that plagued CRM are just waiting to strike SocCRM down too.

    George Bernard Shaw said that, “The only thing we learn from history, is that we learn nothing from history”. This is as true for SocCRM as it was for CRM before it.

    Graham Hill
    Customer-centric Innovator
    Follow me on Twitter

    Interested in Customer Driven Innovation? Join the Customer Driven Innovation groups on LinkedIn or Facebook to learn more.

  3. Couldn’t agree more with your statement that: “CRM is about changing business cultures to focus on customer needs and design experiences that add value and reduce friction. The process derived from these strategic changes is supported by both people and technology. Somehow, we allowed the term to be tightly associated with the technology.” Focusing on the technology leads to failure. And SCRM runs the same risk.

    Customer-centricity, collaboration, true two-way conversations with customers and SCRM in the best sense of what it could be can’t happen if the organizational culture doesn’t shift to put customers (people) first and understand the socio-cultural context in which they live, work, and play.

    Bring in the ethnographers. The anthropologists. The designers. The storytellers. Apply design thinking both within the organization to design new ways of working and outside the organization to design new relationships with customers, partners, and suppliers.

  4. Mike,

    Important post, thanks for putting it up.

    @Graham, I wanted to share just a quick note here. While the vendors may in fact be a part of the problem, it is a position that may be enabled by many elements, some not really within our control. Yes, I am with a vendor (I know you knew that, others may not).

    If you look at the recent announcements, blogs, shared works, much of what analysts, consultants and others are using to define Social CRM is by traditional magic quadrants and use cases lead by what vendors can provide. Few of the analysts are asking customers, what their customers need.

    So, I respect and take very seriously the role of the vendor here – I think it is also about ‘follow the money’ to which the responsible parties list, is much greater. That said, it does not make the problem any better, nor solve it. Identification is a good first step though…

    I agree with Wim’s comments as well, we do need more thinkers and leaders outside of the echo chamber. Group think can and will cause as many problems as other issues identified.

    Mitch

    Mitch Lieberman
    http://twitter.com/mjayliebs

  5. Wim,

    There’s something that I feel I need to share with everyone. My definition of “CRM” consultant has changed dramatically over the past 5-6 years. When I use the term, it’s more about where I see myself (even though I’m still in the technology game). You’re right, we need more than software implementers.

    I’d like to see teams (or people) who have a broad set of perspectives. The point of my post was to challenge “social media” consultants who are branding themselves as Social CRM.

    Mike Boysen
    Effective CRM

  6. Mitch,

    I think most of us veterans are aware of mistakes made in the past and you can hear it in vendor messages. But, as Paul Greenberg points out in his latest edition, the day after they’ve acknowledge it’s about the customer, they have to sell their software.

    I think the burden is on the consultants to educate businesses better. Many of us have a history of leading with software features. That’s changing, maybe too slowly, but some of us are being very vocal about it in our channels. It’s good to know someone on the software side “gets it” as I personally know that you do.

    Mike Boysen
    Effective CRM

  7. Outstanding Customer Service is an evolutionary process that can take months or even years to develop. Improving customer satisfaction has to start with the culture from executive management down through the organization. It must be entrenched within the company so that every decision be focused on what the client needs, wants or demands.

    From the product line to the receptionist, your customer face should always carry a consistent message of service and quality. If these messages are not conveyed at every level of the organization, your customer will eventually find your competitor and go elsewhere.

    Here are 3 ideas to improve client satisfaction within your product or service business:

    1. Listen – A simple step toward satisfying your customer is to listen to their wants and needs. If you believe you know more about what the customer wants than they do, you will be out of business in no time.

    2. Be Sincere – When you begin listening to customers and focusing on their issues, there will be a time when you cannot perform to their expectations. In some cases, they are going to want something you cannot or will not be able to provide because it does not make business sense. Sincerity goes a long way in delivering the message they do not want to hear. If you the delivery is truly sincere and presented that way, the customer will not like it but will understand if the information is reasonable and the partnership is strong.

    3. Communication – It is common sense to have a fluid communication between partners and customers expect the same thing. Within every relationship, each partner has responsibility to tell the other if there is something wrong that could lead to a larger problem. Without a strong communication and feedback mechanism, you will assume your customer is doing ok, when in fact they are frustrated and ready to jump ship.

    Gravity Garden
    http://gravitygarden.com/build-customer-loyalty/improve-customer-satisfaction.html

  8. Hello, Mike. Very interesting post, thanks for putting it up. Found your blog while searching for definition of social media and its advantages in developing business marketing. While I couldn’t agree more with your point, I’d be nice to learn more suggestions in using SCMR from you. Mariska Hargitay!

  9. Mike, this article sums up everything I’ve been thinking and trying to say about sCRM, since it became a buzzword. The offline strategic development that the technology allows (and helps to scale) is what’s so exciting – not the technology in itself.

    The ‘social’ in Social CRM – or indeed social business – is not interchangeable with the social in ‘social web’. This, I believe, causes confusion. Meanwhile, the misunderstandings surrounding CRM in the past (as you pointed out, it’s a customer-centric strategy enabled by technology) may also be perpetuating those developing around sCRM. That’s why I – and clearly a number of your subscribers here – share your concerns.

    I also share your belief that those coming from CRM backgrounds need to take a lead here. It’s clear to me, then, that we all have a duty to better define sCRM and continue to encourage others to do so before the term is lost to misunderstanding forever.

    That said, while sCRM strategy is something that has clearly evolved from traditional CRM, the specific tactics for engaging with the social web and the way they impact upon technology is relatively new ground. For this reason, it’s an area where fresh minds and other approaches should be welcomed.

  10. Good article. Latching on to a term is what the market tends to do. Social tools in the enterprise (social networking, microblogging, social CRM) are still in their infancy and need to prove their benefits. However, from a market standpoint, using social media as a marketing channel does make a LOT of sense. A lot of conversations, attention garnering oppurtunities have moved to social communities like Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn. It is no coincidence that almost every company is trying to promote its social media channels.

  11. Great article. I am always amazed and amused when we introduce new business words that describe what we intend to achieve. The social networking is not new to marketing and or business, the approach, or the platform in which we engage has altered nothing more, nothing less. Once upon a time we employed the “spruker”, “the explorer”, the customer service rep and now we have the social media consultant. Great stuff!

  12. Now Social networking would have to be the success story of the internet age. The demand for applications to enable business to manage their CRM on line is now second to none.

  13. what I won't do is come on board a project that started with a social solution and tries to work itself backwards to a comprehensive customer-centric business strategy.

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