Simple strategies for Social CRM implementations


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Social CRM is an emergent strategy for businesses to accommodate their customers’ demands in this new age of social computing – a cusp of technology & sociology paradigms – that has enabled them to create & share content as well as connections at alarming speeds digitally across space & time.

The old school method for dealing with customers, derived from practices of mass production & mass broadcasting during the industrial age, is getting pushed to the back by the resurgent social mores of interactions between customers & businesses – both online and offline. A lifetime of understanding relationships with customers in terms of transactions has blinded us to the social world & made businesses unprepared to cope with the new social customer.

Unless “social” technologies by themselves are able to change the culture of the company to achieve shifts in how business is conducted, we need to drive the culture change by other means. The culture change might be to become a listening organization, customer centric organization, helping/influencing buying decisions rather than selling organization or co-creating end-to-end value rather than at point of sale.

The “social” components for CRM systems coming to the market in the recent months might not be able to affect the above kind of shifts by themselves. They can help in accelerating the change of culture in an organization, however merely implementing them will not change organization cultures automatically.

Though we might not be witnessing a “Kuhn”ian paradigm shift, we are in the cusp of two of the Sigmoid curves[1] as put forth by Charles Handy in his book “The empty raincoat” or as it is called in the US “The age of paradox[2].

Dave Snowded of Cognitive Edge explained[3] during his keynote at the recently concluded CII’s KM Summit in India that we are in a phase where we are changing our understanding of how things work/should be and are seeing a lot of new ideas taking shape & further changing the status quo. We are shifting from a systems design view to a social computing view. We are in between two of the S-curves as shown above[4].

In such a phase it is not possible to know what the future will hold. What he says has profound effect on our consulting practice’s approach. If we cannot know the future state, we cannot create a roadmap! However, Dave says that we can control the process by which the future will evolve. He suggests[5] using complex systems instead of chaos systems or organized systems approach.

If you come to consider it a moment it sounds true. Most of what we see today in social computing is not something we could have predicted. Wikipedia makes sense in hindsight, it was ridiculed when it began. Most of the current uses of social technologies we are seeing are exaptations, very different from what they were built for. Twitter & Facebook were not built for all the purposes we are using them for today. Social computing is about technology enabled networking of human beings and thus slightly unpredictable because of the human element.

A study on relationship between performance and the amount of structure in an organization[6] brought forth varied results, but the conclusion is that there is definite value in having a simple set of rules for strategy. Two of the findings are as given:

First, we confirm that an inverted U-shaped relationship exists between performance and the amount of structure. Yet, this relationship is unexpectedly asymmetric – i.e., it is better to err on the side of too much than too little structure. Second, we describe how market dynamism moderates the relationship between structure and performance. In particular, increasing unpredictability is associated with a less structured optimum.

But making things simple is actually very difficult. Its easy to write complex thought pieces as this, however very difficult to put them down in a simple manner such that common people can grasp the concepts.

Graham Hill (one of the CRM gurus & strategic thinkers from Europe) suggests a similar approach for the telecom industry and puts forth his customer lifecycle management in 100 days approach[7] which he describes as:

CLM (or CRM) in 100 days provides a way to break up larger programmes of work into manageable projects, to manage them aggressively to ensure they deliver on-time, in-full, to-budget, and to harvest tangible benefits from them as quickly as possible. And it works.

Hill’s CLM/CRM in 100 days is in turn part of his “Vision, Values, Venturing” approach that he suggests for Social CRM success[8]. Very similar to the agile practices in software development.

Is that what we need for Social CRM implementations? A simple strategy & short iterative cycles of implementations? How do we define & calculate ROI in such cases?

[1] OR

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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. :)


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