5 Lessons Social CRM can Learn from CRM


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I have been implementing CRM Solutions for a decade, having successfully managed many large CRM projects for Fortune 500 companies in the US with high level of client satisfaction. Yes, you read that right – CRM project client satisfaction is not an oxymoron (it can be done and we even won “Best Project” award to prove it, competing against hundreds of other projects – no small feat in a multi-billion dollar IT services company with projects in a diverse range of technology and where the competition to win this award is intense!)

Given this extensive hands-on experience as program and project manager implementing CRM solutions for some of the largest corporations in the world and having witnessed the CRM revolution from close quarters, right from its inception as eCRM, through growth and maturity phases and the rise of Social CRM now, what lessons can I think of that we learn to avoid some of the common pitfalls associated with CRM?

We can learn five important lessons before we start implementing Social CRM solutions:

Lesson 1: Social CRM is a Strategy

Social CRM is a business strategy, it is not technology, tools or platform. Social CRM can be defined as the business strategy of engaging customers through Social Media with goal of building trust and brand loyalty.

CRM too started out as a business strategy, but once software vendors came out with application to address CRM requirement and called it “CRM Application”, CRM became more of a tool than strategy. As a result, limitations and failures of tools became that of CRM – earning CRM its bad name.

So the first lesson is that Social CRM is a business strategy. Strategy is a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. Social CRM is a plan of action to build Trust and Loyalty. Calling Social CRM “technology”, “system” and “processes” is a misnomer. While executing Social CRM (strategy), technological tools will be used to achieve the goal – but tools are different from plan. It is very important to remember this distinction between Strategy (plan) and Tools (technology, systems). For more, see this and this.

It is important to have clearly defined and objective goals before selecting tools and technology. Not other way around, else limitation of tools will become limitation of your goals and strategy.

Lesson 2: Optimize Business Processes

Reason why many of the CRM implementations failed over the last decade is that the underlying CRM related business processes were not re-engineered or optimized for the CRM system.

As a result, CRM systems became more of a drag on the employees using it. And to force them to use it, many of the companies resorted to “carrot and stick” policy to force employees to enter information in the CRM system. Naturally, the word “CRM” quickly became unpopular. This could have been avoided had the underlying business processes been re-engineered or optimized before implementing CRM solution.

Lesson 3: Data Quality is Very, Very (and Very) Important

Any information system is only as good as data in it. We have all heard of the phrase “Garbage in, Garbage out” and this aptly describes why some of the CRM implementations failed. Not enough care was taken to ensure data quality.

Quality is critically important for both, transactional and non-transactional data. This is especially true for Social CRM as the volume of data emanating from Social Networks can be huge and as people use multiple accounts & profiles on Social Media channels. It is very important to have data governance framework and best practices in place before implementing a Social CRM solution.

Lesson 4: Leverage Analytics

Another key lesson we can learn is to leverage analytics. Thanks to their CRM systems, organizations were able to collect vast amount of data and have 360 degree view of their customers, but the same data could have been used much more effectively by applying Predictive Analytics.

Before implementing Social CRM solution, we should have a clear idea of how we are going to use the information collected and how we can apply advanced analytics not only to analyze the past, but also predict the future consumer behavior and fix problems before they become crisis.

Lesson 5: Project Ownership and Leadership

While discussing about project ownership and execution of CRM projects, I am reminded of this maxim: “a camel is a horse designed by committee”. In any large and complex project with multiple stake-holders, it is very important to have a clearly identified “owner” and an effective “leader” who will be responsible for the success of the project.

Absence of “clear” ownership and “effective” leadership is a recipe for disaster. This may sound common-sense, but you will be surprised to learn how many organizations attempt implementing CRM solution without first having in place a project owner and/or effective leader. This is all the more important for Social CRM as multiple stake-holders like Marketing, PR, IT, Legal are involved. It is very important to clearly highlight roles and responsibilities, procedure and protocols for each involved department/person before implementing a Social CRM solution.

What do you think? Would love to hear your views on common pitfalls associated with (Social) CRM implementation. I look forward to your comments:

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Harish Kotadia, Ph.D.
Dr. Harish Kotadia has more than twelve years' work experience as a hands-on CRM Program and Project Manager implementing CRM and Analytics solutions for Fortune 500 clients in the US. He also has about five years' work experience as a Research Executive in Marketing Research and Consulting industry working for leading MR organizations. Dr. Harish currently lives in Dallas, Texas, USA and works as a Practice Leader, Data Analytics and Big Data at a US based Global Consulting Company. Views and opinion expressed in this blog are his own.


  1. Good post. Although the focus today is on SocialCRM, these are some great points that companies and people need to think about before implementing any new system. Training also plays a tremendous role in user adoption and successful implementation. Anyone with a leadership role in a CRM project should be very familiar with this topic. A good whitepaper with additional training and user adoption tips can be read here – http://www.intelestream.net/en/whitepapers/crm-adoption.html

  2. Thanks Intelestream for your comment and insights:

    I couldn’t agree with you more that training plays important role. Tools are as good (or bad) as how they are used. So for new tool such as Social CRM system to be effective, training plays a key role.

    Thanks again for your comment, much appreciated!

    Harish Kotadia, Ph.D.

  3. Now this I can believe in! (Forget that guy in a towel….)

    Strategy, business processes, data quality, analytics to action, and leadership – exactly what made or broke CRM will make or break sCRM. Great points.

    I don’t need to tell you that behind your casual “could have been avoided had the underlying business processes been re-engineered or optimized” comment lies a generation of challenge and despair! This is really really hard and unaccomplished by many.

    I have commented elsewhere that I have found that my own loyalty and free-wallet-share has switched markedly over the past decade to “process leaders” – Amazon, Schwab, Costco, Safeway, FedEx/UPS etc. Their consistent delivery is what I seek – not just a “smile”.

  4. Thanks @LawrenceOfAvaya for your comment and kind words:

    I agree with you that behind “could have been avoided had the underlying business processes been re-engineered or optimized” comment lies a generation of challenge and despair!

    I guess even bigger challenge is to get it right with Social CRM – where customers are “empowered” and business has to adapt to how customers are using Social Media tools and technology, not the other way around, as was the case with CRM.

    I also agree with you that Process and Delivery are more important than just “smile” or empty promises. All I can say is that we are in for some very exciting times ahead when it comes to CRM and customer service.

    Thanks again for your comment,

    Harish Kotadia, Ph.D.


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