My Painful Journey from CRM to Social CRM


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I was dragged kicking and screaming into the Social CRM fray – so, I apologize for the crudeness of this post, but I just have to let it flow.

A number of years ago, I began a personal journey to discover where the real value of CRM was hiding. I was tired of installing software that my customers believed would rock their world – when it clearly didn’t (maybe a little :) ). I began my website, Effective CRM, as a place for me to begin writing about all of the things I was piecing together about how a business could get value out of their CRM initiative. While I was doing this, I heard about Twitter through a blog – and the title of it was something like “Twitter is the new CRM.”

This story may be important to those of you old time CRM’ers out there because I have succeeded in reaching my destination. It was a rocky road, but I’ll try to show you the way. Social CRM is not as scary as you may think. Don’t listen to the social media and PR people. They don’t understand CRM – they simply tag CRM onto the end of well known quantity, because CRM is a well established term and market. It’s going to be up to you to educate them, not the other way around, at least in terms of CRM. And I feel it’s important to educate them because they will ultimately be a big part of our team going forward. We will have to get a better understand of social media as well.

Migrating My Data From <insert your CRM platform here> To Twitter

I like to dive right in when I get a notion, and if Twitter was to be the new CRM, I was game to try it. First thing I noticed, there were no Contacts, there were only followers and followed by’s. There were no phone numbers. There were no email addresses. No addresses for that matter! But, BUT! There was a web address ;) .

OK, so the person that called Twitter the new CRM was clearly a bleeding edge social marketer that was trying to disrupt things with a silly statement. I took the bait – and I was angry. I was angry because my world was being invaded by the touchy feelies and the Kumbaya crowd. These anti-business anarchists would surely destroy everything that was ever holy in the CRM world if they got their little claws into it. It made me want to scream!  But, I’m feeling much better now… ;)

The Other Social Silos

I’ve checked out many and none of them are what I think of when you say CRM. In fact, these days I don’t even think of software when I think of CRM. These platforms can be interesting and serve specific purposes (social media monitoring, social support communities, various twitter client variations). But what they don’t do is put your complete relationship at the center of something bigger. They are each at the center of their own Universe. Sorry, but that makes the job I’ve gotta do harder, not easier.  Continually adding new jobs requires capital invested with a return. Otherwise, it’s not scalable or smart.

The one thing I haven’t done is used any of the big name social media monitoring tools. PeopleBrowsr and others have tried to put some basic analytics in their Twitter clients, but again, that’s just one silo. I think these tools can be interesting when reaching across multiple social media silos, but still, they don’t really tie back to the tools I’m already using – and I use CRM tools. Why on earth do they call themselves social CRM? It was boggling my mind. I was getting more confused and agitated each day.

The Accidental Community

Dazed and confused, I dove into Twitter with a vengeance about 18 months ago. I quickly zeroed in on the #scrm hashtag created by Brent Leary a few years back…and I began to engage. I was immediately put off. No threading. No context. Intentions were difficult to convey or extract from messages. I’m sure early on my now good friends, like Mitch Lieberman and Prem Kumar Aparanji thought I was a crazy man intent on disrupting their conversation on social CRM. In some ways I may have been, but I also began listening to them, and reacting on what I thought I heard. It turned out to be an interesting exercise. What I found was that we were all on the same journey, we just started from different places.

Some of us were convinced this was the Holy Grail, and then there was me, always challenging things. I’m not an academic, so I always had to remind people that we operated in the real world. Well, academics don’t, but I do. Most of these guys were too, but the academic discussions were definitely driving this. There are even a 2 or 3 theorattritions (a theoretician who’s thoughts drain everything of value from the discussion) out their that continually post their silly definition of Social CRM, over and over and over and over and over and over and over again! Argh! Dudes! I had to block you to preserve my sanity!

Over the course of a year, my new friends on Twitter came to realize I wasn’t such a bad guy (aw shucks, at least they say that to my face). I was on a journey, and it probably became clear that I was making progress. At some point, we began experimenting with platforms to have conversations in a better context and out of the limelight so we could focus on interacting together. We weren’t looking for privacy so much, but a better method of communicating. Twitter wasn’t getting the job done. I was eventually invited into a secret Skype community. The rat bastards had this back channel going for a month before bringing me in! But that’s OK, I was obviously going to be a disruptive force here and who wants someone that is constantly questioning things?

This is where I was finally able to challenge and respond in a way that made sense to me, and I began to move my thinking forward. Having the debate is how I am able to evolve. And I did evolve thanks to my new thought provoking friends in the Social CRM Accidental Community, most of whom I’ve since met face-to-face.

Paul Greenberg, Esteban Kolsky, Jesus Hoyas, Natalie Petouhoff, Jim Berkowitz, Kathy Herrmann, Laurance Buchanan, Mark Tamis, Michael Fauscette, Michael Krigsman, Mitch Lieberman, Paul Sweeney, Prem Kumar Aparanji, Sameer Patel, Scott Rogers, Wim Rampen, Mark Walton-Hayfield, Brent Leary, Brian Vellmure (who I have the great pleasure of working with, dude’s awesome!)

Even though we all view Social CRM through a slightly different prism, I have been affected by them all. You should should follow these people (i.e., rel=”dofollow” for you HTML’ers).  They are changing the world bit by bit. Everything they say sinks in whether I agree or not. It all gets used, nonetheless. I am a different person than I was 18 months ago. I have evolved my thinking on CRM, Customer Experience, Innovation, Customer Lifetime Value, Customer-Centricity and most importantly, I’ve finally begun to piece together what Social CRM really me.

Folding the Paper Together Like Michio Kaku

I don’t want you to struggle with the CRM versus Social CRM debate like I did. We don’t need to discuss the social customer or the social business with our customers (or ourselves). It is what it is and we all live with it every day. You’re a social customer. Get over it. Your behaviors are not the same as they were 20 years ago. You may write a blog, you may comment on blogs. You may participate in software vendor forums, or other retail product communities. You’ve probably put your profile on LinkedIn. And you very possibly have a Facebook account. More importantly, you probably make a lot of purchases online, and do independent research using Google or product review websites. Get over it you social animal! Actually, you’re still just a customer. You just behave differently because you are now empowered.

Now, what does all of this mean to you? Let’s take a step across the Universe from the CRM galaxy to the SCRM galaxy. Don’t worry, you won’t fall into a black hole. You’re going to dive into it!

The confusion, for me, has been threefold:

  1. Customer-Centricity – I’ve come to believe that CRM was really any attempt to provide a single, awesome, face to the customer. To do so required eliminating, or at least masking, functional business silos. Unfortunately, this rarely happens, and software has never made it happen. It’s something we need to work on as consultants. What disturbs me is when a social media guru suggests that using social tools will magically make a business outside-in or customer centric. This is clearly a dangerous parallel to the theory that CRM had built-in best practices that would make every company that used it a market dominator. Clearly, that’s impossible
  2. Throwing CRM out with the bathwater – Another problem I’ve had, and I’m sure some of you share, is that many of these so-called Social CRM solutions were merely pieces of CRM (maybe). Sales Force Automation is not CRM is it? So, how can a customer service community be Social CRM? And to further cloud the picture for us, Gartner has added in Social Media Monitoring tools, product review websites and various other incomplete pieces parts and called them all Social CRM. I don’t blame you for feeling like your world is being taken over. Clearly, these people do not get it.
  3. Academics – There are academics who want to go on all day all about the social customer this, or the social business that. Theories, definitions and complex charts and graphs built on subjective elements do more to confuse and anger a seasoned CRM consultant, than to educate them. I don’t know who these are geared to, but please, do not waste your time reading them. You’ll just go into denial. It’s really so much simpler than that.

The Jobs We Have, Haven’t Changed

We may have evolved as customers and businesses, buy we still have jobs to get done. And adding all of these new silos and functions to a small or medium-sized business could literally break the bank.  But the concepts here are important to businesses and worth pursuing in certain scenarios. So what is missing? Answer: they are not tied into the platforms we use today to do our jobs – namely, CRM platforms.

The one thing that is correct in CRM is the “R”. It’s about relationships. A history of phone calls and meetings is not a complete relationship. Think about it. Have you ever commented on a customers blog? Have they ever commented on your blog? Is that comment part of the history of your Contact record? If it’s not, you’re documentation is incomplete.

Do you and your customers engage in forums or communities – either in your control or somewhere else? Do you have a means of exploring those conversations within the context of that Contact in your CRM system? Or do you have to go looking for it (new job)?

The thing is, we all want to know more about our customers, and while there are more traditional means for digging deep into their jobs for innovation purposes, there are also shallower gems sitting out there in their social activity that you are missing – because it just takes too much time to go looking for it. If we could bring all of our direct relationship data, whatever the media, and also see customer centered conversation data (indirect conversations they have with others), all back into our current job platform, wouldn’t that make sense?

That is what Social CRM is. It’s not Twitter or Facebook. It’s your relationship and business management platform, built from the ground floor up, with the ability to present your customer relationship to you all in one place. And it also provides you the means of engaging from a single location while reaching out to the place your customer is conversing with you, or others.

Yes, it’s going to become even more comprehensive over time, and hopefully simpler for us to absorb. But this is a start for me and hopefully for you long time CRM’ers. And don’t worry, you’ll still get to play golf with your clients, if that’s part of your relationship.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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