Paul Greenberg at CRMe09: It’s About The Social-Emotional Customer


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I attended the opening Keynote this morning with Paul Greenberg at CRM Evolution 2009. There were some very interesting things that Paul discussed that I want to share with you and elaborate on.

First the summary of what he covered.

Started by ensuring we all understood that the Social Revolution is not new (remember when yelp first emerged? early examples of customers becoming social), and that what we are dealing with is not a business revolution; it’s a societal revolution that business needs to adapt to. He described Social Customer as not something new and different, rather we are them.

This is a key message that he remarked time and again: knowing the Social Customer is all about knowing how we act and how we interact with organizations.

He proceeded to talk about what he calls Generation C (I love the concept) for “connected”. This generation is not about demographics, years of birth, or age ranges but is about becoming connected with organizations. People in Generation C are the 74% (Pew Internet) of US Adults that are connected to the Internet, and the more than 66% (Nielsen) that belong to Member Community sites. It is about the people who are vocal and are influencers by their active participation in the Social world.

These are the people that organizations must target to convert into advocates.

He spent some time talking about converting customers to advocates, and how to manage their influence and position within social networks to the advantage of the business. He said that organizations must make it a plan to convert bad experiences into customer advocates (great point), and talked about how the economic value of a customer should not be as significant to the organization as the Referral Value of the customer (another great concept).

He then switched from Social Customers to Emotional Customers. Talked about sentiments and emotions analysis and how it applies equally to communities and individuals, and to all conversations (over 70% of transactions for Generation Y – the digital citizens – still happen via phone or in person according to Forrester).

He concluded by saying that idea of going social is to create valuable insights from what we learn about customers at the social and emotional level and applying them to the business. The social and emotional label just denote new ways to do it. His parting words were that organizations need to create strategies on how to become social, not just do it.

My Impressions

Paul got all his messages across well and I agree with the concepts. I think it is a great way to remove the existing fear to tell the companies why Social matters (because we are all social), and how it is going to continue to become more important. I like the approach of saying that businesses did not change, what changed was society – it brings the problem to every company dealing with customers.

I admire that he aligned (finally) with my message that feedback management and insights is what drives the revolution for the companies (ok, he did not align – but I have to make myself feel better somehow — I have been saying that since 2005).

There are two things I would have emphasized more.

First, Paul rightly mentioned how each of us want to personalize the experiences, and expect the organization to deliver that. The solution is not to personalize on a one-by-one basis but rather to use segmentation wisely. And that segmentation should not be done on financial value, but rather on the concept of Referral Value. I would have spent more time talking about segmentation as critical to the success (which I think it is).

Second, I think that sentiment or emotional analysis is not quite ready for adoption, most of the times the error rate is higher than the accuracy it yields. I agree that sentiments and emotions are the next frontier, but emphasizing too much how businesses can understand them when the technology is not quite there will backfire when the expected results are not reached. Since the main source of nature is human nature, not technology, it may not be the best recommendation to make. I saw some interesting demos at SpeechTek showcasing this – but we are not that close yet. Think early days of NLP (Natural Language Process) for web self-service.

What do you think? Is sentiments analysis ready to take the mainstream? Is the social customer becoming the social-emotional customer?

How are organizations going to cope with this new customers?

Esteban Kolsky
ThinkJar, LLC
Esteban Kolsky is the founder of CRM intelligence & strategy where he works with vendors to create go-to market strategies for Customer Service and CRM and with end-users leveraging his results-driven, dynamic Customer Experience Management methodology to earn and retain loyal customers. Previously he was a well-known Gartner analyst and created a strategic consulting practice at eVergance.


  1. Hi Esteban: Great questions at the end of your blog. From my experience, most organizations do have a keen interest in learning the sentiments of their customers and prospects. The business challenge is more in understanding how emotions and rational decision making relate, and then having the will to act on what’s learned.

    From time immemorial, emotions and sentiments have influenced decisions. In B2B selling we often subvert this reality and emphasize “proving the business case,” or “showing the ROI.” We press forward with our “value propositions,” and get confounded when our prospects don’t make what we think are logical business decisions. If you’ve managed even a few B2B sales cycles, you know the truth in the saying “decisions are based on emotions and backed up with facts.”

    I don’t think the changes you describe relate to newly-emotional customers as much as the tools that customers and prospects now have at their disposal to collect and disseminate information. That process is constantly changing, and organizations must stay abreast of these changes to remain agile. Not doing so risks losing a major competitive resource.

    For a great book on this topic, please consider How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer. Using real world examples supported by compelling research, he debunks many legacy ideas about how we make choices. The book certainly changed my thinking.


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