Pardon me for crying out loud, am not a Social CRM vendor.


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During my discussions around Social CRM in the past couple of years in the social media/networks and realspace too, I have had to face some prejudice from various people that was directed towards me as though I were a software vendor with the best interests of my products’ revenues in mind and not my customers.

Their prejudice is not without reason nor without basis. There has been a long history of vendors trying to skew the message & brainwash the market into believing that the software is the panacea to all their business ills.

Well, am no software vendor – I work for an organization that is into Consulting & Systems Integration (along with market research, BPO, etc. among other things).

As a policy we are vendor agnostic & have the best interests of our customers & their customers in our mind when we suggest any software over the other. A very substantial amount of our business is from existing customers. We have shown solidarity with our customers during the recession since we are their partners more than vendors. Our metrics are not so that the employees stand to gain by prolonging the projects, but rather our metrics and our culture insist us to be focused on Quality & deadlines. It all about the internal norms. The managers are provided incentives on their “Business Effectiveness Scores” which is focused on customer satisfaction, not milking the customers. Well, there are many more & not all are unique to my employer. You can find variations of these in the other big Indian IT offshorers too.

And to do justice to our customers, we do partner with software vendors to get trained on their products, build POCs/joint solutions, map our customers to bring the best of both worlds to our customer base, etc. But we do not accept any percentages or commissions for the software sale. This is to keep us straight and not have the wrong incentives in place.

And finally, w.r.t. Social CRM, it is all about the ‘social’ – the community. Community is people, not software. And that is the reason I actually am deep rooted into the online communities. I interact with the community with no other reason than to enrich myself & the community. And I cannot just leach, I have to contribute back too. So you find me blogging (allowing their syndication too) & tweeting (especially on the #scrm tag) and curating for the social CRM community.

I cannot just build my own personal brand and thus leverage it for business, I have to consider the growth of the community itself. Its about increase the size of the pie rather than garnering a bigger share of the pie. People consider me to be a connector in the communities and thus term me as influential. For me, its about increasing the size of the k shell of the people in the communities – meaning, that it is important to have others to be connected to more people too, not just myself.

a k-shell is simply a network pruned down to the nodes with more than k neighbours. Individuals in the highest k-shells are the most influential spreaders.
And finally, without getting involved in the community, how can I claim to understand it? And without ‘getting’ an online community, how can I ‘consult’ my customers about the best way to get involved with the communities? Mere integration of systems cannot do much. If CRM software installation projects failed it was because they were looked at as IT projects, not business projects enabled by IT/software. The same holds good for online communities, only more so.

Merely aggregating the research from others as well as the concepts and wrap it to prove it as their own will not take me far. It will bring me business and it will set me up for good, but not something that I can live with.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Prem Kumar Aparanji
SCRM Evangelist @ Cognizant. Additional knowledge in BPM, QA, Innovations, Solutions, Offshoring from previous roles as developer, tester, consultant, manager. Interested in FLOSS, Social Media, Social Networks & Rice Writing. Love SF&F books. Blessed with a loving wife & a curious kid. :)


  1. Prem, you’ve been incredibly generous in helping others learn about Social CRM in the full strategic sense of the term, as proposed by Paul Greenberg and others. No bias, no spin, just striving to learn and help others. That’s the spirit of a true community.

    The prejudice you mention is unfortunate and unfair to you personally. And it has two other disturbing implications.

    First, because the presumption is that a software vendor is automatically biased. Why is that?

    I’ve known many vendors, consultants, integrators and analysts in my 12 years in this industry. Not all vendors are biased and neither are all service providers objective. And yet the perception is that software vendors just want to sell something and are not customer-centric.

    Second, despite the fact that you’ve promoted a deeper understanding of “Social CRM,” merely using the term has positioned you as a “vendor” with some (certainly not with me). That speaks to the tech orientation of CRM that has existed for a long time, which is now penetrating into Social CRM.

    The problem is simply this: When consultants and vendors use the same term (Social CRM) to mean two different things (strategy vs. technology), technology will win out as the dominant meaning in the market.

    Why are we repeating the same mistakes of CRM?


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