Due to a flurry of Murphy, the Social Components of CRM
Part III had to be put on hold. Once things settled down, I didn’t feel like
writing — or tweeting, or much of anything except making things with code.
That’s right, at some point someone has to build these wonderful theories into
supporting technologies and that’s what I do quite often.
Fortunately, I’ve been inspired to write (at least my fingers are ready) and the
time compression on this topic has really surfaced for me as I look at what my
Social CRM friends have written in response to my somewhat naive questions – and
where the discussion is today. I think we have all solidified a bit, on one side
or the middle, since I began by asking this first question….
“It should and it must, if it will? Not sure for all of them. One thing is
changing for all of my Customers: their Customers are getting more and more
vocal, and more and more empowered by these Social Media tools.”
My response to Axel was simply if a company doesn’t get
(it) customer engagement at an intimate level, then what makes you think any of
these companies will become social? You can’t simply proclaim
it. There are far too many variables – internal politics and culture,
demographics, market, external politics, etc., etc. Will competitors recognize a
shift in their customer base and use it to their advantage? Absolutely; if it’s
But, not everyone is going to compete at this level which is the beautiful thing
about capitalism. The money flows to successful ideas and successful businesses.
The losers must adapt or fail. Whether a social business will win or
not remains to be seen. Is it possible that the social abusers will make it
taste so bad that even the social customers get turned off? I’m taking
bets everyone 🙂
The question of How
One of the things that bothers the hell out of me is all the proclamations from
evangelists and others about how the customer is changing, how business must
change, how social this and social that is going to change the world! Yet the
ones that talk most about how this will get
done are the ones that discuss this in cautious terms.
Mitch Lieberman is
one of those people who is thoughtful, which scares me. The thinkers tend to
come up with pretty bizarre ideas sometimes. But, Mitch is pragmatic and I see
myself nodding along as I read his thoughts…
“Absolutely – but the real question is how, and that is not too clear yet. I may
be picking on words – but “Do” business is a bit vague. My customers, who want
to thrive will engage customers and treat them special. They will be willing to
accept that each customer is unique and might not fit perfectly into a ‘mold’ of
what the perfect customer looks like. Finally, the impact may be felt not
because of these specific tools, which we use now, but the next version which
will let the masses participate more easily.”
His thinking continues to evolve as does everyone’s and I will have to pick up
on some of the Twitters, Blogs and Comments as I move through this investigation
of Social CRM. He’s very consistent in asking how this will
evolve or look. With some out their proclaiming change must come
it’s refreshing to see that not everyone marches like a mindless robot. Very
I may have put Prem
Kumar Aparanji off when I first appeared on the Twitter scene. Not sure, but
I think we are in alignment in a number of ways. While he believes that…
“Its just that the “social” technologies being used by the customer is forcing
the business to make this mind shift.”
I don’t tend to agree with it. Actually, none of the companies I work with are
evening talking about this which is what always leads me back to the question “which
companies will this affect?” But he finishes that thought with this:
“a shift / change from “selling” to the customers to “help with / influence
buying decisions” of the customers – this is very complex, and not limited to
“social” components alone, but getting “social” online should help significantly
more than offline alone.”
This I tend to agree with. Even a customer-centric company is going to attempt
to influence their customers’ buying decisions. Yet, the truly engaging
company will be doing so in the context of what they know their
customers need and want; not what they need to sell. The other part I agree with
is that not everything will be social. This is why I don’t buy the
whole social business line of thinking. That’s just too damn
touchy feely for me. I guess if I were running one of these businesses you’d
have a hell of a time convincing me to think of it as a social business. As with
CRM, there is no need to bolt social on the front of it.
Next thing you know we’ll have Social Integrated Systems Management — or Social
What will you face as you sell this concept?
I’ve worked with a lot of companies that if you walked in wearing a blue suit
from Brooks Brothers, even the executive team would be snickering at you. So,
know your customer Mr. Consultant, or you might get an answer like I did to my
question from Dick Lee:
“No, I don’t.”
See, Dick deals with making companies more competitive every day by
demonstrating to them how realigning process to a customer-based strategy will
effectively give them surgical reductions in cost while improving the customer
experience. That last part is where the loyalty comes from and also where a boat
load of the value is created. I think a few of the thinkers out there
could learn a bit about improving a business from a practitioner who makes it
happen every day.
So why doesn’t he feel social components of a CRM initiative will have impact?
Because he doesn’t need it to. Many middle market executives are going to
respond in a similar fashion no matter how much you need them to understand you.
What Have I Learned So Far?
First, I included too many great thinkers and practitioners! I never intended to
make the first question a 3 part series, so I will have to do some re-thinking
on the next one. But seriously, here are some things that stuck out for me:
As the pace of technology grows, so does
the ability of consumers to absorb it. Technology will continue to
evolve but that doesn’t mean that customer-centricity will grow with it. In
fact, we have a lot of evidence that new media and channels have been a
haven for unscrupulous behavior. I just urge everyone not to ignore that
eventuality and factor it into social acceptance metrics.
Consultants that have always dealt with
customer intimacy don’t see dramatic changes coming. Those who got
it, always got it and will always get it. The technology which
originates most of these dramatic proclamations will never make a business
more intimate with their customer unless the culture already existed. Then,
you could argue, that it’s certainly not revolutionary since it could only
marginally improve on what they’ve got.
There are a population of CRM and CEM
consultants out there that truly believe that companies will have
to embrace the social or fail. Are these really the practitioners I
mentioned above, or social media proponents looking for a new market to
control. The thing that makes me chuckle is that it’s usually a broad brush
proclamation and not targeted to any specific market segments. We aren’t the
Borg, we are not one. We will not be assimilated!
There are software vendors that have a
technology looking for a problem and the technology is being called
Social CRM, which is apparently a problem that is devastating the business
world. I’m waiting for someone to blame the recession on it.
Consultancies are gearing up social
practices surrounding CRM and they’re doing it to capture the
market early and hopefully dominate it. Actually, they
want it to be a market even though it does not fit the
definition of a market. Good luck in that. I’m sure there will be some
success, given the size of these outfits and the general nature of human
beings to believe everything they hear, if it’s repeated often enough.
I believe that some people desperately want
something, some sort of answer, to the embarrassing lack of progress in the CRM
(software) arena. This masks the reality that some companies have always known
how to engage customers and did it by any means necessary. Their customers
feel special and deliver value back through their loyalty. This doesn’t have
much to do with software, and it won’t require major social initiatives to
continue; at least not for everyone.
Social CRM seems like hive-think to me. Sound
familiar? It’s the way ants and bees live. Excellent customer experience can’t
be delivered by every company, but it’ll be easy to sell them that your
customer’s can solve problems for your customers and sell them some software!
You can’t put it into a formula or equation that can
be executed perfectly by everyone and abused by no one. It’s in our nature to
get the better of our competitors and that is never going to change
as hard as some people are trying to make it happen.
The question I asked wasn’t to put anyone on the
spot. It wasn’t to definitively end the discussion. It was really to force me to
think through this and listen to what others are saying, because that’s not
always in my nature 🙂 It will likely make me come up with better questions in
the future. I can’t say that my thinking has changed much, only that I’ve got
more to think about now.
If you feel the need to get your 2 cents in,
please do that here.