Is Social CRM The Key To Innovation?


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We all want our businesses to grow and most of us can agree that growth comes through innovation. To innovate, a company must understand the needs of their customers. But research shows that very few companies have a methodology for accomplishing this, let alone having complete agreement on a what a customer need actually is.

As a CRM consultant who is interested in customer-centric business design, I see this as a fundamental piece of the CRM puzzle. From a strategic perspective because it creates value, and from a technical perspective because we have to design solutions that allow businesses to collect and analyze this information. This is the work that must be done before a company can design products and services (or communities) around customer segments. That means we’re getting outside-in before we get to Social CRM, right?

As I read about methodologies for understanding needs, two questions are whirling around in my head. First, does the concept of Social CRM, or even the tools of Social CRM, move the ball forward – or possibly replace the ball -  in understanding the jobs our customers are trying to do with our products? Are they trying to do things (and failing) that we hadn’t envisioned and/or are they trying to do jobs better? Looking for answers here requires us to understand the inputs we are looking for, suggesting some structure in the process. We can’t really rely on our customers to give us the ideas can we? The research I’ve read, and my experience, suggests not.

Second, as a CRM practitioner, does Social CRM offer any innovation (either strategically or as a toolset) to my business as a consultant? Is it opening up opportunities for me as a consultant to deliver value to my customer. And when I say value, I mean something that is understandable and measureable. That question is exactly why I’m think about this. Even if social only extends the existing capabilities, it will probably have value from my customers – and therefore me.

Social CRM: The Concept vs. The Toolset

While I’m still struggling with the understanding others have of Social CRM, I’m pretty clear on what it is to me. Essentially, it’s a conversation we’re having to address the fact that consumer habits, expectations and opportunities have been slowly changing with technical advancements in communication. And those changes are beginning to accelerate now that the technology is solid enough that ideas are able to multiply like rabbits. They’re not all good ideas, but they are planting the seed for major changes in the way we operate as both businesses and as consumers. There’s no doubt about that.

Outside of my personal thinking, other schools of thought are that it’s a comprehensive strategic replacement for CRM; implying that outside-in business design didn’t exist until online communities with built-in sentiment analysis existed. Others believe that SCRM is merely an extension of CRM, with a seemingly heavy bias on the technical side of things. And of course we have the Social Media people who are trying to take ownership of a market segment that they don’t traditionally occupy.

Whatever it is, it has to pass muster on the value-add side of things. And with success so often tied to growth, and growth being driven by innovation, the question that needs to be asked is how does Social CRM help us to identify customer needs? Can we just listen to the unstructured chatter of teenage girls (Oh, m’ God!) and suddenly understand the jobs being done with products we sell? Will we suddenly understand what people are trying to do with our products; especially where they may be struggling – so we can design solutions? How do you find this information when you haven’t defined the questions you are seeking answers to? And how can you guarantee they questions you need an answer to are being answered in a cloud of confusion?

There are those out there that I know truly believe that Social CRM – at least the way they perceive it – is the holy grail. Frankly, I’ve yet to read any research that demonstrates that social anything, generally unstructured in nature, can lead a company to have the understanding of it’s customers that it needs. At least no on its own.  Nor can it independently provide the information required to design products or services to support emerging job processes or needs, or fill some type of efficiency gap.

Just as with regular old CRM – which, by the way is not software – methodologies have been in place for years to design outside-in business process, understand customer behaviors and patterns or more importantly, understand the requirements of the jobs our customers do with our products. These have been around, and they’ve delivered value – and the value is measureable.

So I ask you, is Social CRM the key to innovation?

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. Social CRM is a way of menas and one of the ways to be “Open” in your innovation efforts, listen to the customer and create Value…


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