Social CRM – a dead end?


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I just read a few articles about sCRM. One was a post on a blog where the blog doesn’t allow comments (very social). The other was talking about Ajax enabled technology that revolutionizes CRM (OMG) and yet another one described the advantage of getting Twitter streams and Facebook wall entrances all feed into the CRM system for better customer information (yes more data). Another system suggest that it takes everything a sales person ever needs so they never have to leave their CRM system (wow – how about leaving the company to actually deal with the customer?). The worst are the ones who still promote the “low touch sales model”. Automation is still the big word. Didn’t we automate already to death so that the customer doesn’t want to speak with us any longer?

NOW – CRM was always a hard nut to crack. Mostly beloved by executives to get data and hated by sales people who (in my personal opinion rightfully) prefer to deal with customers not with data administration and data analysis. I joined – really just for the fun of it – three sCRM and related presentations and was shocked what a sales or marketing person would have to do to “leverage” all the wonderful options of triggers, automated nurture programs, forecast granularity adjustments and a gazillion other options. Social CRM now feeds even more data to an already overwhelmed sales person. There is no word about the actual customer relationship – zero – nada – nothing. Is that how we bring the economy back?

A friend of my (a sales person): “Axel, that is today’s reality. We are customer data admins, not customer relationship managers. We manage the theoretic aspects of the relationship but I am about 10-20% of my business hours with a customer – at best.” What do you do all day long? “I try to reach customers based on a suggestion list, call and call and typically leave 10 voice mails – I know nobody will listen to, in many cases don’t even get to voice mail and one or two people I may be able to talk directly. If I’m on the road I prepare my trip, travel optimization, planning, arranging meetings which is a just an enormous task in itself and so forth. Weekly forecast review, weekly planning for the review meeting, again data into and out of the CRM system – the whole nine yard.” OK and 1 out of 8 hours a day with customers? – “As you can see now – AT BEST. Other activities are reviewing the lead process, the nurturing process, we have very sophisticated processes and it takes a lot to actually go through them every day”.

Bolting an “S” onto the CRM seem to make it harder not better. Of course in the days of Social Media companies need to do something. But sCRM seems to be the opposite direction. sCRM seems to be accelerating the disaster we have on the sales side. Not only because if the incremental information flow but also because of the farther automation instead of the social engagement. Living in a CRM system – that’s what CRM vendors like to see. But don’t you want to see the sales person be with the customer and spend only a fraction of the time with ANY system?

I love Brian Solis statement: “Take the C out of the sCRM”. As our networks grow exponentially, we also may need a good tool, but we need a tool that helps us with the actual relationship – not with the data we aggregate.

Social Relationship Management as it is is currently defined may be a solution to the problem as it focuses on the relationship – not at the data.


Republished with author's permission from original post.

Axel Schultze
CEO of Society3. Our S3 Buzz technology is empowering business teams to create buzz campaigns and increase mentions and reach. S3 Buzz provides specific solutions for event buzz, products and brand buzz, partner buzz and talent acquisition buzz campaigns. We helped creating campaigns with up to 100 Million in reach. Silicon Valley entrepreneur, published author, frequent speaker, and winner of the 2008 SF Entrepreneur award. Former CEO of BlueRoads, Infinigate, Computer2000.


  1. Hi Axel,

    Thought provoking and great article because the situation you describe is very realistic.

    BUT, imho, this cannot be blamed on SCRM. It is the command & control beast that created what you describe up here.

    Anything you state above is happening today in lots of companies that do not have a CRM or Social CRM strategy (or tactics & systems even) in place. Yes it happens in companies with a CRM Strategy too, but that is not a cause and effect relationship.

    Social CRM is NOT a dead end. Command & Control is.

    Thx for sharing.

    Wim Rampen

    If you would like to understand Social CRM and the latest thoughts on it a little better I can recommend following these great people (and read their blogs too!)

    Paul Greenberg: @Pgreenbe
    Esteban Kolsky: @Ekolsky
    Brent Leary: @BrentLeary
    Mitch Lieberman: @Mjayliebs
    Mark Tamis: @MarkTamis
    Brian Vellmure: @CRMStrategies
    Prem Kumar: @Prem_K

    and many more at the #scrm tag on twitter..

    Oh, and maybe me too @wimrampen 😉

  2. Axel,

    Two areas where even the biggest SCRM advocates are not 100% in agreement on, are the following:

    1 Starting a Social CRM initiative at the Sales part of CRM is harder, especially if people do not fully understand CRM (SFA does not equal CRM)
    2 A bolt on strategy is not the correct approach – as that suggests it is all about technology. Social CRM is lots of things, first and foremost a strategy.

    With these two areas as your primary focal points to make a determination, I suppose you might have a point. Unfortunately, you are leaving out lots and lots of strong points associated with a proper strategy. CRM is Sales, Service, Marketing (and some add PR). Social is what customers are, and they really do not like being “managed” – Social adds an element of talking to them where they are, engaging, and learning.

    If the alignment on your car is really off, telling you to tune the engine and go faster does not make sense. By taking one example of, what sounds like, a broken sales organization you seem to be passing judgment, I am not sure why?

    I would encourage you to read some of posts written by the list suggested by Wim above, in addition to Wim.

    Mitch Lieberman

  3. @Wim, thanks for the feedback. You just gave me another example for sCRM. In your SRM (Social Relationship Management) System you would know that a) I follow you on Twitter already and b) I’m a founding member of Paul Greenberg’s CRM 2.0 wiki – now SCRM. As you can see on the Wiki I put up a long post about SRM.
    (sorry – just couldn’t resist – I know it’s not fair)
    But seriously, you are absolutely right when you say it’s not the system, but the command and control mentality. The big problem about sCRM is that exactly that mentality is now supported with sCRM vendors and the wonnabies. I bet that sCRM system vendors will build in all the control features to keep the “economic buyer” buy the system. Only time will tell that this was a major mistake = the end of sCRM.

    @Mitch – again I’m actually one of the authors of some of the posts. So I’m in agreement: If a company chooses to develop a cross functional strategy for a better customer experience, or a better service relationship or whatever in this vicinity then this company is developing (hopefully) a good business strategy. But to call that a CRM / sCRM strategy is kind of odd to me – maybe just words.
    Whether we like it or not, we will see sCRM vendors promote their products as sCRM in the same way like ERP companies promoted their solution as “so good that you don’t need another system” (CRM). After putting probably 100 Million $ into that battle they finally gave up for a simple reason: The sales department just didn’t want to deal with the accounting system.

    In a relationship focused world, a hyper connected business person will just not want to play with a behind the firewall tool – no matter what we call it.

    NOW – if we don’t have sCRM tools we won’t have an sCRM strategy. But if we have tools that satisfy the needs of the new, relationship driven manager, we will have a strategy circling around those tools. And that is already defined as social media. So a social media strategy is what a sCRM strategy has to go against with – and I just can’t see a winning for sCRM – at all.

    There are 5 Million businesses around the world tinkering around with a social media strategy. I think there is no need to tell them “forget social media strategy, what you really need is a Social CRM strategy”. Why all the hassle? Or is it to satisfy the CRM manager – who would anyway fight for his system like the mainframe guys fought for their systems? Or is it to keep the CRM implementation guys happy who just don’t even know what social media really is – other than having a LinkedIn profile up?

  4. Axel,

    I disagree with your analogy, metaphor, what ever you want to call it. Someone with a drill should not simply be looking to put holes in the wall. Tools, without a strategy, are just that, tools.

    Social Media is a set of tools and a platform, a location for the conversation to happen, a channel to engage – and no one is saying forget Social Media strategy – please show me who is saying that. Social Media strategy is a subset of a Marketing Strategy, which should all fall under the guise of a Business Strategy. I am going to borrow from Brian’s post:

    “The purpose of a business is to create and keep customers.” – Theodore Levitt

    When someone calls you on the phone and asks about the issue they called about last week, what system are you going to use? When the same person writes a blog about the issue, how are you going to know? When the salesperson goes to renew the contract for next year, and has no awareness about the Tweets, Blogs, emails, YouTube Video and Support Forum posts, they will be in trouble…

    There is a lot of information that is important, it is our job to put the Social CRM strategy right next to the Social Media Strategy and make sure they are in alignment.

    Mitch Lieberman

  5. It is painfully clear that Twitter nor any other Social Media platform has sound relationship management capabilities (yet), but tools and apps are improving.. (and I should have checked at least if you and I are connected 😉

    Seriously now.. I know you are a great advocate of Social Media and alike, and I know you are a thought leader on how the “shift” should be interpreted by companies or institutions. In general I agree with you on your thoughts..

    Here I seriously don’t, although I’m happy we agree on the control part..

    I do not see the world like you do.. Of course SCRM vendors (and wannabies) will build in control mechanisms if that is what their Customers are asking.. That’s common business sense. It is not the vendors your after, its the decision makers of company’s buying the systems your after.. Please don’t blame vendors from listening to their Customers. I think this is exactly what your Social Media strategy is advocating..

    With regard to your reply to Mitch: A social media strategy will never win from a social crm strategy. Not because of tools or anything tech-related, but because strategies focused on single channels or single platforms do not work. A marketing strategy is about multiple channels, platforms and relationships. For a sales-strategy the same goes, as does for a Customer interaction strategy, an innovation strategy and many other strategies..

    The point is: strategies are focused on the jobs one needs to do, not on technology, systems, platforms or even products and media!

    Social CRM is about building relationships and understanding Customer needs etc.. These are jobs a Company needs to do. Jobs that require a strategy, which’ execution may require tools/platforms or what have you.. A Social Media Strategy if it all matters, can therefor not exist..

  6. Disagree:
    “The purpose of a business is to create and keep customers.” – Theodore Levitt That was in 1962.
    “The purpose of a business is to solve current or future problems and satisfy needs a market has” Axel Schultze 2006
    (so much for arrogance) hahaha

    Social Media is not a subset of a marketing strategy nor it is a “channel” – while it is a collection of tools it is primarily a new state of mind, driven by a new society of sharing, collaborating and competing for a better world. Social media is a cross functional engagement starting on the service side for a better customer experience, going to the sales side for a more pleasant customer interaction model, going on to product marketing applying social media for a co-creation strategy, to logistics to leverage social media for better trend analysis and only the last step may be social media in the marketing department. This cross functional engagement is a BUSINESS STRATEGY leveraging social media as a core mechanism.

    It is all about getting a job done.

    The tools are just a function of the strategy. If the business strategy is set – a smart manager selects the tools needed to execute the strategy. If My strategy is to cut a branch of a tree, I don’t select a screw driver

    sCRM or Social CRM is mostly understood as the next generation CRM system (software / machine / thing). It is presented by Oracle, SAP and as their answer for the upcoming trouble with CRM. Now the rest of the CRM guild is jumping on the band wagon because the “S” makes it sexy. Only a few consultants may use the term as a strategy description and/or strategy category – but the market at large will use sCRM as a synonym for “sCRM software”. And like with all other things where the strategy is built around a product, the product will dominate it and in this case it is a loosing proposition – because the currently announced and introduced sCRM systems are doomed to fail; behind the firewall of a closed not very social business environment, that will not be accepted or respected by the customer community.

    If it is about a term, maybe SRM (Social Relationship Management) is a good solution and already advocated by the social web:

    SRM LinkedIn Group:

  7. Axel,

    You are right, this may go on for a while. But, it seems that first suggesting that CRM vendors are pushing Social CRM as “their answer for the upcoming trouble with CRM”. And then suggesting SRM is a little self serving, no? Are companies not allowed to evolve their solutions?

    “Nov 16 we will introduce and demo the first social relationship manager a new product solution bridging the chasm between internally administrated CRM / PRM / ERP type applications and the externally facing social engagement platforms.”

    Full disclosure, I work for SugarCRM and we have not yet announced any Social CRM products (not saying we never will, just pointing to the current state). We are aligning ourselves with lots of great companies to offer solutions – requested by our clients – that help solve the challenge of helping the social customers.

    You might want to help also to alter the definition of Social Media on Wikipedia – as it is not quite aligned with your thoughts. I also have a great deal of respect for Dr. Elaine Young – who had this to say, in response to a Twitter conversation

    One thing I was hoping you would address are the questions I asked in my earlier reply?

    Mitch Lieberman

  8. Ok,

    When I first read this entry I said I wanted to wait and think about it over the weekend before responding. After all, I think we are confusing things here.

    SRM and SCRM are not at odds, they are very different. And, they both interoperate beautifully if done properly and cannot live without each other.

    Axel, you know i am a fan of the XeeSM concept and model (it is one of the year-end roundup tools I am highlighting). I wish we had more people buy into it as a model for managing all your social relationships (i’d be happier to use it if more people i interface with were there – chicken-and-egg thing for me). But, that is where it ends – as a tool. It does a great job of helping sales people and other people involved in relationships with the customer manage their interactions and the relationships — but we cannot have 20 different XeeSM for each company dealing with a single customer. We need a system of record where to store and manage all the data about them. Further, we need to be able to use that data and apply all sort of infrastructure elements (security, integration, reporting, analytics) to it, and do something with the resulting insights and data. And, this is where CRM interoperates with SRM. One does the front-end dirty-work, the other does the back-end dirty work.

    I will agree with everyone in the world that Management has done a poor job of embracing CRM and I don’t think that SCRM, SRM, or any other tool or strategy will make it better. It is about what they need to see / do to justify their positions and their behaviors (data in certain forms), and it usually the results don’t agree with what the front-line people (sales or service people) need or use. As a result of the power that management has over the worker bees, they end up in actitivies as you describe – wasting their time doing stuff that does not help them.

    The solution is not to kill one or the other, but to make the tools work concurrently to make things better. Thus, the SRM toolkit will help the salesperson do their job better, and the integration with CRM will collect the data management needs, automatically much to Axel’s chagrin :), and create those reports.

    Everyone has the tools they need, the data they need, and the info they want to do their job and justify their existence and jobs.

    It is not about killing or dying toolsets or strategy versus tools, is about using what was created for what intended – nothing more, nothing less.

    Thanks for the venting platform… feel much better now 🙂

  9. Interesting discussion, but to me it adds up to this…

    CRM (and its kissing cousin SCRM) have become the backoffice of the frontoffice. The infrastructure things that companies need to manage their business and customer data.

    The new front office is social media, where tools like SRM actually work more like people do. Not like IT people designed things.

    I like Social CRM the concept (liked it better as CRM 2.0) but the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree. (Did I just say that? Yikes).

    For every SCRM-branded vendor like Lithium or Helpstream that brings a social/community approach to the market, there will be 10+ other SCRM vendors that see it as an extension of CRM-the-back-office.’s Chatter is the latest example.

    Is this bad? No, just not enough.

    We needed ERP, and still need CRM. SCRM gives CRM a nice mid-life kicker. Nothing wrong with that, the new tools are useful. But as I’ve said elsewhere, the term SCRM will have a short life, just like E-CRM. A nice bridge, not the destination.

    We need SRM as something really different. And it wouldn’t hurt to have a different name, because like it or not, thought leaders don’t decide what things mean any more. The market (and marketing) does.

    For those who say SCRM or CRM 2.0 should be about customer collaboration, I salute you. However, in my view SRM has a better chance of actually realizing that vision, for the new front office.

    Bob Thompson, CustomerThink Corp.
    Blog: Unconventional Wisdom

  10. Yes, the initial thinking was that SCRM is just a new feature of CRM, but when we looked deep inside we realized that we are talking about not just a new set of channels, but we are talking about some other fundamental changes to the core business processes that were dictated by the nature of these new channels. You can’t argue with this.

    The major transformation happened in the direction and flow of communications between company and its customers in all three areas: sales, marketing and service/support. If before we had one way outbound sales/marketing process [company->customer] and one directional multi-channel inbound – service/support [customer-> company], then now we have this new dimension : customer to customer that interferes with all the mentioned above business processes. This new communicational dimension dictates completely different behavior, different people and different tool, methods, processes.

    The impact and change is not evolutionary – its revolutionary!
    That’s why I support the motion of retaining the Social CRM terminology for a time being!

    Best regards,

  11. Bob,

    I like your reply, specifically that the term SCRM will “have a short life”. This was a recent topic of conversation, and I (with others, I believe) also reached the same conclusion. The key is that we need to allow systems to evolve, and part of that process is to pull people in from surrounding disciplines, this is the journey.

    We will know we are there, when we go back to calling it CRM.

    Mitch Lieberman

  12. Hi Axel, interesting indeed…

    Wehen I drill down to the essence of your post, you see Social CRM as just another overhead that will get in the way of a Sales Person in his job, namely going out, pitching the wares, and bringing home the bacon.

    I think you are especially referring to Sles in a B2B setting where you are looking to get face-to-face time with the lead to turn her into a prospect and then close the sale. You’re looking to build a Trust relationship with this person so as to be able to influence the sale to your advantage (to put it bluntly…).

    IMHO SCRM is about building such relationships. Going beyond the leads that pop up in your SFA (CRM…), not just cold-calling but rather understanding the context of your prospect (business environment, competition, issues that have surfaced to the outside) and identifying what you have to offer can bring value to their situation. This is where Social Media Monitoring and Analysis could come in.

    The next step would to get to identify and understand your point of contact, finding out who they are, where their interest lie, which sites they are active on (if any…), where they add their comments, if they’re into the same hobbies as you and so on. Engaging with them through these means to start building a foundation for a relationship. Once you have such a foundation, your first face-to-face will be much smoother and you increase your chances of gaining an ally in your quest to make the sale (or at least for mining the account to find the influencers and the decision-makers…).

    I’m sure I’m over-simplifying Sales (and there are probably cultural factors that come into play as well) or my idea of it is just plain wrong, but in my opinion Social CRM can be a great tool in the Account Executive’s panalopy for building Trust Relationships through deeper engagement.

    What do you think?

  13. @Tatyana, I think you nailed it when you say so eloquently:
    “This new communicational dimension dictates completely different behavior, different people and different tool, methods, processes.”
    But then I’m not quite sure why we need to retain the sCRM terminology.

    @Mitch, I fully support your position “We need to allow systems to evolve”. There are a million things to improve CRM. I’m not saying that CRM is bad – but making it something else – just because social is in – I think is a terrible mistake. Yet we will see SocialERP maybe Social Office… how about the Social Airplane…
    Let’s keep CRM what it is an important part of a companies software collection that includes office applications, ERP, CAD, CRM, PRM and many othe things. No need to bolt on an “S” to make it appear social – which it just not is – and why should it. It’s almost like the .com era. We had had to have MMy…something. The SAP board pushed the executi8ves to create MySAP. I think we can do better than that.

    @Bob you nailed it. “We needed ERP, and still need CRM”
    So in MHO why confuse people with an “S” just to jump on a hot market movement!

    @Esteban I love your “hmmmm”. You got me think as well. You said “SRM and SCRM are not at odds, they are very different.” Maybe it is worth exploring what one or the other is. I did my part of the SRM – at least in a very raw and rudimentary state. There is a rather clear view on CRM (maybe not quite but…) You inspired me to ask, hoping to get a very simple yes/no answer:
    1) Is sCRM just a new term for a better CRM system? (note SYSTEM)
    2) Is CRM entire different than sCRM (systematically and philosophically?
    3) Is sCRM the next generation CRM (System)?
    4) Is CRM more or loss a product category with adjacent strategies?
    5) Is sCRM just a starteg?

  14. Mark, I guess we are both on the same page. I wrote a post earlier about telesales versus social sales: What is social selling:

    And like you said how much more powerful is a sales call if I already know everything about my client. And this is regardless whether it is B2B or B2C.

    sCRM is still circling around the current sales processes – right?
    sCRM still assumes that the way we actually interact with our customers are at least very similar to how we did it in the past – right?
    sCRM is still – at the end – an inhouse application with what ever adjusted business processes – right?

  15. First, I am not sure why everyone keeps using a small ‘s’ seems silly to me. It is Social CRM.

    Social CRM includes all components of CRM (SFA is one part) Social CRM, and CRM are still about the customer – Not just sales, as matter of fact, as I said earlier, sales is very different from other components of CRM, it depends on whether it is B to B or B to C, industry, lots of variables – one size does not fit all.

    Social CRM does NOT assume that the way we interact is the same, as a matter of fact, it is very very different. We need to incorporate the customer into the conversation. This can happen in many new places, and does. No more command and control. The world has changed, evolved, CRM needs to evolve with it. It is very possible that supports Starts on other Social platforms (note, starts)

    Social CRM is a strategy first, to support people and processes. This strategy incorporates information from both within the Enterprise and outside of it – Twitter, Blogs, Linkedin, Forums, Communities, email, YouTube. It is much much more that just an in-house application.

    Mitch Lieberman

  16. Axel,Bob and others,

    Social CRM is a strategy and not about an in-house application at all. Personally I have been discussing on and writing about Social CRM without any reference to systems or applications, clouds or whatsoever.

    ( )

    As much as I’m sensitive for terminology as Social Relationship Management I prefer to maintain Social CRM, because I personally believe that we have way too little companies that truly focus on Customers and their needs. Taking the C out would be a step backward rather than forward to me.

    Here’s my take on what a Social CRM Strategy is all about:

    A Social CRM strategy is about understanding who the customer is through listening to, engaging with and collaboration between customers, employees and partners.

    A Social CRM strategy is aimed at developing innovations (improvements) and interactions in networks of relationships and communities, that support customers in doing the jobs they need to do.

    The means are a personalized design of the service experience that empowers Customers, employees and partners to influence how well they can meet their desired outcomes.

    Or in a tweetable format:

    Social CRM is about collaboration between Customers, Company & Partners aimed at supporting Customers in doing the jobs they need to do

  17. Wim, I love your definition — especially the short “tweetable” version.

    A couple of quibbles, though:

    1. If Social CRM is a strategy, then why do you have to say “Social CRM Strategy?”

    2. When you say a term SCRM means something (“is “) but others don’t agree, does the term really mean that?

    Why I quibble is based on my own experience and research on what CRM “is” (how experts define) and what people say it really means to them.

    I’ve said CRM is a customer-centric strategy for 10 years. I’ve said CRM is about collaboration with customers and stakeholders. I’ve said CRM is about building long-term loyal relationship that drive profitable growth.

    I’m not alone in this, of course. Major analyst firms (e.g. Gartner, Forrester) and most consultants said the same thing.

    But in the end, saying that CRM “is” a strategy didn’t make it a strategy. CRM is widely viewed as technology, so to avoid confusion we have to say “CRM strategy.” Or now, “Social CRM strategy.”

    Social Relationship Management (SRM) is likely to go the same route if tools proliferate and vendors jump on the bandwagon. SRM could become the social equivalent of SFA — a tool to buy but possibly missing the thinking on how to use the tool.

    I do respect what the SCRMers are trying to do, giving CRM one more chance to be a real strategy and not just a social extension of CRM-the-IT-solution. But I’m skeptical.

  18. Like Bob said CRM was a strategy to many but is understood as a product. SRM may or may not – that is actually up to all of us.
    In addition to Customers, Employees and Partners I’d like to add Vendors as a powerful source and resource as well as prospects (OK maybe prospects and customers are the same for that matter). And I’d like to add the influencer into the mix. The respected blogger, product experts everybody who is not necessarily a customer or a vendor. If we trust that 60-80% of purchase decisions are based on recommendations, then those people are more important than ever for a healthy ecosystem. But now we are (relative to the old world) at the borderline to marketing tools, marketing automation, campaign management…

    The only reason I’m advocating for SRM or call it SBS (Social business strategy) or XYZ is two fold:

    The difference between SRM and CRM is as big if not bigger than ERP and CRM.
    1) I think it is of great importance to give the customer that may apply the strategy a very clear indication that what we do is not a “new version” of CRM but a holistic approach for a business to create a better customer experience. Also coming back to Tatyans comment.
    2) CRM is understood as a sales only tool. Whether is is right or not, 95 out of 100 people who have heard the term will say so. Social Media is similarly misunderstood as a marketing only tool. SRM instead has just no “branding” yet. SRM done right is a holistic approach. It is not sales only, not marketing specific, not a product best suited fro product managers, or HR but for all of them.
    3) Why piggyback on an old, often misunderstood and rather defined term with something new if we want to introduce a long needed shift.

    Applications for SRM
    A) I have a hard time to convince a recruiter or HR manager to use this new Social CRM system to manage the social relationships to their candidates. Those people are hiring – not dealing with customers at that point.
    B) I have a hard time to convince a product manager to use a Social CRM system to manage the relationships to media, influencer, agencies, advocates, customers, partners, advisory board members wit a Social CRM system. (Customers are just a small part of the group)
    C) I have a hard time to convince a logistics manager to manage the vendor relationships, industry analysts, product test centers with a Social CRM system.
    D) I have a hard time to convince the marketing department to manage the business relationships to agencies, event managers, venues, industry analysts, influencers, investors, of course also customer with a Social CRM system.
    E) The only group who would be a natural would be sales – and even here I have a hard time to tell them, first forget everything you learned about CRM this is all different.

    Now looking into processes.
    OK this is a very difficult part to put it into a blog post or comment, but we all need to come to the realization that if the customer behavior has radically changed we need to change our sales processes, our customer engagement process and this reaches out to service and support processes, escalation processes. CRM or Social CRM for that matter still indicates we proactively sell, we have a sales process, we have a sales pipe… But if we accept that customers buy based on recommendations we have to weave an organization into the recommendation process. We need to build relationships to the “recommender” we need to be part of the information flow – quickly understand, adjust and respond. This fast responds to needs requires that our service and support organization is involved in that process as is the product team. New escalation processes will help to weave it to a homogeneous network of information that makes sense to all constituencies….

    I guess what we are discussing here is just the terminology – as we all are in violent agreement that we need to do better with our customer. But to soften it so far that it feels like – “it’s all cool, we just evolve a bit here and there and we can go back to normal” – would destroy a huge opportunity to make a real shift – the shift we all want to see to create yet another big step forward not just a gradual improvement.

    Pewhhh – long answer – sorry. But it’s a big deal and I love to explore this with you – learn and adjust where needed myself 😉

  19. You’re onto something, for sure 🙂

    Social CRM IMHO is about acknowledging that we cannot control the customers’ conversation about the company, and that we need to work on strategies on engaging with them to become part of that conversation on an equal footing.

    Sales has always take an inside-out approach. Again, to simplify, the role of an Account Executive is has been to manage the client’s learning process about the company’s products or services. Key education points are positioned through Marketing, and transmitted through the relationship between the AE and the prospect. Each successive step such as Client Presentations, a Proofs of Concept, arranging visits with existing clients, laying out your value proposition and so forth are about transferring knowledge are about enabling the client to make an informed decision about whether what you offer gets their job done and will lead to their desired outcome.

    This all implies that the Account Executive is instrumental in managing the learning process of the prospect, in charge of ‘feeding’ the him with the right knowledge and insights at the time that he choses to do so within the framework of the Sales Process.

    However, what we are seeing nw is that the Account Executive has less and less control over the propsect’s learning process. Just as it has been the case for consumers that now look on multiple Social Media channels (customer communities, blogs, article, WOM, twitter, shop personnel etc.) to learn about the merits of a product they wish to acquire before going out and actually doing so, your B2B clients will increasingly look to the same tools to evaluate what the value proposition is of your company and, lo-and-behold, engage with other prospects to seek the knowledge they need!

    The challenge for an Account Executive will shift from the changing his role from being an Educator to a Connector, understanding what is going on in the ecosystem and feeding it with relevant knowledge at the right time. And the role will not only be about connecting to the prospects and customers and facilitating customer interaction, it will also be about connecting these customers to Marketing, R&D, and Partners, Suppliers.

    Sales can become the connection hub for ecosystem engagement and collaboration.

  20. Wow, I’m glad I only read part of this as my brain would certainly explode. So I’ll sum up what an experienced relationship marketer told me (actually, I’m expanding on it)….

    If a company wasn’t intimate with their customers in the first place, it doesn’t matter what you call it or what tools you make available. These companies will remain product or company centric. You can’t put technology in place and change a culture. It will simply be abused.

    So, I will continue to believe (unless convinced otherwise) that CRM with customer at the center is what it’s all about. “Social” implies relationship so SRM makes no sense to me at all. If we can all focus on getting non customer-focused companies (or leaders) to discover the value (to them) of delivering value to the customer (through a relationship model or process based on a customer view of things) we may finally see some raving reviews of CRM (not the software).

    SCRM is at it’s best an attempt to fix CRM and at it’s worst is another means for companies that don’t “get it” to abuse something.

    Mike Boysen
    Effective CRM

  21. I has never been, unless you have a “drug to push”.

    That is what we are getting to here, whether cocaine or crack is better. They are both basically the same as far as I am concerned. They do the same. OK, I will get off the drug thing because it is freaking me out (but that is the feeling for someone reading these comments; btw, i was prepared to do the whole comment on drugs, but i cannot bring myself to do it as I don’t know enough about them).

    Mike, you hit the nail in the head: these are tools to do a job. Each one will choose what works better, unscrupulous vendors, consultants or charlatans will try to convince you their solution is better than any other one. It is not true. In reality, none of the solution work better if you don’t have the right framework for them.

    The job to do is to be focused on the customer and find out what they want, create what they want, deliver what they want, and make sure you did ok. then start all over again. (please don’t start a debate on co-creation, i am not talking about better ways to do this either)

    If you are in Sales, then SRM may ring closer to home, then maybe not. I do fine with another CRM program for sales, it covers my needs. It just fits the way I work better. Someone may just look at it and tell them there are 3 million things that SRM or another CRM program can do better or faster or easier or more automatically. I am sure, but none of those are critical business functions I need to do, so this one is fine. Why would I switch? When a critical business function I perform needs to become better, or I need to support a function or channel my package will not, then I may look for something else, or I may just try to fix what I have somewhat.

    That is the way that 99% of organizations learned to work with CRM in the past 15-20 years and that is they way they will (more than likely) continue to work in the near future. SRM or SCRM won’t replace what they have, it may simply extend it and needs to integrate with what they have in house.

    So it is either an extension to current, or part of a technology refresh (usually in 5-7 year cycle). Those are your entry opportunities into an organization. And, in both cases, what is there is not going to be replaced by a “forklift” that will bring one entire solution out and drop in another one in perfectly. Integration and extensibility are the key elements.

    Now, if you want to talk about CRM and SRM and SCRM in terms of flexibility to adapt to an existing model and provide more functions, then this would be a good discussion. And I am certain there are key differences between the solutions.

    But to discuss who has a better definition? your definition is better for the small portion of the social business you are trying to run, and it works great for that — and maybe a couple of other areas you may not have thought about and your customers have and will tell you. That’s it. Never forget that we are talking about running a social business where the tools were hawking are nothing more than technology solutions to very specific, small portions of the processes.

    Talking about whose definition is better, or who can do something the other cannot do is the problem we are having today, where vendors trying to push their “drug” forget about the corporate customer all together.

    Besides, I only do one definition battle a year, and 2009 was done sometime ago. If the definition is so critical, then let’s talk next year. 🙂

  22. Esteban – thanks for your comment, I really appreciate you taking the time. However I have to say we are light years apart. I am advocating pretty much the OPPOSITE of what you try to do:

    1) “SRM or SCRM won’t replace what they have, it may simply extend it and needs to integrate with what they have in house.”
    We are trying to introduce a major change from the current customer engagement model. Unlike you, we DO NOT even want to “extend” anything someone has. We try to REPLACE it. Unlike you, we feel the “integration” in the existing data silos may be something people want because they wanted it since the last 75 years – but we think in a networked architecture democratizing large portion of the data – integration would be counterproductive to that engagement.

    2) “So it is either an extension to current, or part of a technology refresh” If that is the case – we only please the IT guys that may pay us to say so – but not the millions of users who just can’t find the value.

    3) “Talking about whose definition is better,…” I guess that is the ultimate difference. I’m not talking about a better definition – I’m talking about a departure from all the old rambling of customer centricity, listen and you are good, be intimate with your customer and you are OK no matter what solution you have. At the end this didn’t work for the last 20 years. And now by bolting an “S” to the CRM and do some “extensions” we magically making it work? – Come on – no f***ing way. Again you may please some IT people or vendors who pay you to say that and walk behind some aged CRMer to make it easy on them but you don’t make a difference.

    PLEASE – this is not personal, I very much respect all of you who go that path but I am just NOT with you.

    2010 – Social Relationship Management (Tweetable version)
    #SRM is a cross functional market engagement model for a positive customer experience by socializing with the market to make it happen.

    In other words:
    1) SRM is a strategic engagement that may require a substantial change in the corporate culture, the current processes and the motivation systems (bonus plans).
    2) The corresponding product is not an inhouse but shared application, where customers, prospects, partners… have all access to the system. However still some parts may allow respective privacy.
    3) SRM related processes fundamentally depart from the current sales processes, push marketing models or product feedback and support models.

    Do we try to boil the ocean? Not at all but just institute the changes required to create a business environment needed to not only survive but thrive and succeed.

    Maybe I don’t live long enough to see it happening but I will try very hard 😉

  23. Bob,

    I know we do not see things differently from a strategic perspective.. But what I am a little tired of is fighting with people that think (more or less) the same.. & want (more or less) the same.. over a 3 to 4 letter acronym..

    That’s also why Paul Greenberg has put his stake in the ground (july 6th this year, not that long ago).. not because terminology was perfect, but because it was not helping advancement..

    We should focus on everything that needs to be different or better, but acronyms, now…

    I’m actually more skeptical about companies being able to achieve these improvements necessary.. regardless of how we name it..

  24. Axel,

    Starting with your tweetable definition:

    “#SRM is a cross functional market engagement model for a positive customer experience by socializing with the market to make it happen.”

    Are you saying, that socializing something makes something happen? I read the definition you referenced , very carefully. A few points about your definition referenced:

    Your definition there is: “Social Relationship Management (SRM) – in a business context SRM, is the activity of building, maintaining, strengthening and broadening personal business relationships with relevant people.” A listed goal is customer experience, it sounds like an enhanced SFA tool, a customer with an issue does not want a relationship, they want their problem solved. Plus, the definition talks about networks, not markets per se.

    2 – While the Definition mentions customer experience, the objective does not –

    “The objective of a Social Relationship Manager tool is to help increase the number of social relationships while maintaining the quality of such a relationship. It is furthermore the objective to help reduce the mechanical work to actually get to a conversation like searching the people, grouping the contacts and so forth. At the same time a Social Relationship Manager needs to be versatile so it can be used in many business scenarios.”

    I fail to see how the customer benefits – The tool as described does sit behind the firewall – Unless I am misunderstanding this:

    “SRM system are supposed to support the different departments in their social engagement processes. As such, SRM needs to support product mangers in maintaining and strengthening connections to key customers, influencer in the market, business part, experts and other relevant parties during and after a product requirement definition phase, a product launch and a market expansion phase.”

    Your reference also makes the following statement:

    “SRM system are supposed to support the different departments in their social engagement processes.”

    Which sounds a whole lot like Paul G’s definition of Social CRM

    “CRM is a philosophy & a business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules, workflow, processes & social characteristics, designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted & transparent business environment. It’s the company’s response to the customer’s ownership of the conversation.”

    Or, the tweetable version – “The company’s response to the customer’s control of the conversation.”

    One final point, in the paragraph that is titled “Who may benefit from SRM?” The word customer does not show up? It is a 100% internally focused benefits listing.

    I do appreciate your point that this is not personal, I hope you do not take this response as personal. I do not disagree with the core principles of what SRM represents in the definition you referenced, helping people get beyond the Dunbar number and enhance relationships is of course valuable.

    Mitch Lieberman

  25. (giving titles to the comments is actually a bit annoying Bob… 😉

    I don’t mind long answers Axel.. Just like I said to Bob above: I do not expect us to differ a lot in opinion from the strategic perspective.. That’s also why I am happy that this is a comment not digging into acronyms, but into what you think should be done..

    I will not take that discussion further here.. Too much value (for all of us and the outside world) to get buried into 3 to 4 layered comments .. I will write a post with my view on your comment above..

    BTW I agree with lots, but the influencer part… (and vendors to me are partners..;-)

    There is no such thing as the influencer.. We all can recommend or influence opinions.. check this post:

    Thx for getting deeper into the discussion that really matters, because that’s how we make business better, not by discussion 3 to 4 letter acronyms..

  26. First and foremost – this is a great yet difficult discussion. Great because I guess it helps all of us review the many aspects of a change that lays in front of us. Difficult because we all have different levels of experience and different sources how our respective experience evolved. – Yet that is very helpful.

    @Wim – I agree the influencer may be not so important in the description. As I said – the SRM description needs a lot of work and I am hoping to get help – which it definitely needs. The wiki is the place to do that
    In my mind acronyms are only important to give a thing or behavior or situation a name – not more and not less. Happy to call it anything for the sake of the discussion – but Social CRM. I also don’t want to call a girl a female boy 😉

    @Mark – You bring in an essential detail: The customer Education Process. I subscribe to everything you said. Now let me take this a step further. If we acknowledge that change we may go back and redirect our “Reference Selling Model” in a way that the account manager or in a B2C business a community manger introduces customers and prospects with a simple “Hi and let me introduce” reducing a reference call from a 3 week preparation process to a single tweet. We will refine our sales process as a process we help customers to buy. We recognize that we no longer of the big influence through our sales engineers or product experts or even industry analysts, but our existing customers already ARE our strongest influencer. Again our old sales process evaporates. I have a whole session on the sales process change. And again the buying is only a fragment of the customer experience. Support & Services, product development are others and weigh even more in the experience a customer has.

    @Mitch – just to clarify: The description about SRM is very rudimentary and not in a final stage – let alone spelling and grammar 😉
    1) It is the counter to SFA because we don’t want to further “Automate” instead bring the human touch back. One aspect of the system is to support the individual social interaction – counter to automating it.
    2) It is NOT behind a firewall but an online system that lives from the ability of all constituencies to access the system.
    3) Yes, philosophically there is a lot of similarity with Paul’s CRM 2.0 thoughts and mine.
    4) The missing customer – good catch. Yes this needs to be in. I added it on the wiki but need to update the single page website.

    (my social map)

  27. Tatyana, Gents

    I have been a bit too busy flitting around Europe to have time to get involved in any arguments, opps, I mean discussions, about SocCRM. Axel tweeted me with a request to get involved. I will limit myself to the discussion.

    The discussion reminds me of the same one that accompanied the convergent evolution of technology-enabled marketing, sales and customer service, that eventually become CRM. As several people have remarked, CRM is still largely associated with technology. The infatuation with technology slavishly promoted by self-interested CRM analysts and consultants was in large part responsible for the widely regarded failure of CRM to deliver value. There is a clear and present danger that the same will happen to SocCRM too.

    SocCRM can be seen as an addition to traditional CRM. That would be a foolish mistake when it can be so much more at the same time. The purpose of writing the Manifesto for Social Business was to highlight some of the larger issues that are already driving changes in traditional business towards a more social business model: issues like understanding customers’ social jobs, delivering social value-in-use, developing mass-customised products, delivering them over multi-sided markets and so on.

    SocCRM should be seen as much more than just an addition to CRM. And it is certainly much much more than just added CRM technological functionality.

    It is time for social business.

    Graham Hill
    Customer-centric Innovator
    Follow me on Twitter

    Interested in Customer Driven Innovation? Join the Customer Driven Innovation groups on LinkedIn or Facebook to learn more.

  28. Hi Mike

    I think it did.

    Marketing became more efficient and effective such that the BTL upstart has to an extent taken over where ATL previously reigned supreme. Sales started to be based on robust quantifiable data rather than Moleskin books and Rolodexes. And customer service will never be the same again.

    Did CRM happen? Most certainly. Did it work? Surely, albeit not as often as we would have liked. Did it add value to consumers? Probably not much if any, unless you like receiving uninvited junk mails, being interrupted by dinner-time sales calls or waiting on the phone for a someone with an unintelligible foreign accent not to be able to answer your service questions.

    Can we do SocCRM better. As the ultimate salesman recently said, “Yes, we can”.

    Graham Hill
    Customer-centric Innovator
    Follow me on Twitter

    Interested in Customer Driven Innovation? Join the Customer Driven Innovation groups on LinkedIn or Facebook to learn more.

  29. Thanks for chiming in Graham. I guess now I understand some of Bob’s comments earlier much better.

    Yes, it is time for “Social Business” and a “Social Business strategy” – going away from tools and technology. I’d fully support the “Social Business Strategy” thinking. CRM has soooooo much baggage both technology wise and from a strategy point of view.

    So if people offer an SRM system or a SCRM system is one thing. But putting it to work (or even not at all) in a well defined Social Business Strategy is then completely independent – right?

  30. If CRM is software, then yes, it happened. The companies I’ve been involved with believe marketing is sending everyone the same postcard, or the same email, or everyone the same discount at the same time. To me, that means they don’t know their customers and they’ve simply become more efficient at an operational level.

    Mike Boysen
    Effective CRM

  31. Excellent points, Mike.

    Using a CRM tool doesn’t mean a company is customer-centric, or has good customer relationships. I’m sure most if not all of the bottom dwellers on the ACSI ratings are loaded up with tech.

    Likewise if a company isn’t “social” the tools won’t make them so. Although you must admit that social tools in the right hands can really help (e.g. Zappos! using Twitter).

    This is why I advocate separating the strategy part from the tech part. Customer-centric strategy, CRM strategy, or even social busines strategy make it clear that it’s a, well, strategy.

    When writing or speaking CRM, SCRM, SRM or any other tech industry acronym, you’re taking your chances as to whether what you mean (strategy) is actually what people perceive. And perception is reality, no?

    It’s time for the CRM/SCRM crowd to wake up and smell the coffee. You don’t control the “CRM” brand any more. Speak in terms the market understands, so that what you say is clearly understood.

    It’s for all these reasons that we changed the name of this site from to CustomerThink in 2007.

  32. MIke

    I guess that you have been working with the wrong companies!

    The companies I have been working with have achieved strong results from the intelligent application of CRM. For example, an automobile financial services company, where I was Head of CRM, achieved a repeatable response rate of 35% for carefully targeted customer marketing. This was achieved by understanding the jobs customers were trying to do, by organising the value delivery system to co-create more value with customers, and by letting customers ‘pull’ the value through the delivery system exactly when, where and how they wanted it. It was also achieved without using any CRM system at all, unless you consider MySQL, Excel and Acrobat to be CRM systems.

    We can do so much in the CRM arena by thinking about CRM basics and using only as much CRM technology as is necessary to drive value out. Think of it as ‘Lean CRM’. Try it. It works.

    Graham Hill
    Customer-centric Innovator
    Follow me on Twitter

    Interested in Customer Driven Innovation? Join the Customer Driven Innovation groups on LinkedIn or Facebook to learn more.

  33. Graham,

    I’ve been working with regular old companies that have bought into the CRM is software owned by the sales organization. What I’m saying is that there are a TON of companies like that out there, so to proclaim it’s time for social business is much too broad for me. Maybe it’s time for the companies who “get it” to go social, but….

    Are the companies you’ve seen great success with now seeing failure because they haven’t gone social? Or were they always social and now we’re just renaming things?

    I’d love to try lean crm. It would certainly work better than some of the contraptions I’ve been asked to build. And carefully targeted customer marketing is not something I’ve any of my clients do. As I’ve watched over time, the marketing modules never have anything more than test data that just gets older each time I visit. I’d love to work with a real relationship marketer some day.

    Of course, we’re not generally given specific measures for success, or at least they’re aren’t always tied into specific things we’re working on. Does your software have sales processes, yes. Does your software run on SQL server, yes. We’ve found our solution!!!!!

    Mike Boysen
    Effective CRM

  34. Hi Mike

    Of course my comment was somewhat tongue in cheek.

    As we all know, there are far too many companies out there who see CRM exactly as you have described it; a shiny piece of brand new technology. But as most people recognise – but apparently still not CRM analysts! – making CRM work requires a rich mixture of complementary capabilities that bring together the right combinations of processes, data, people, KPIs, work climate and of course, systems, that together allow the business to create value.

    Expanding this CRM capabilities view to understand how they deliver what customers need at critical touchpoints and how doing so drives cashflow, and on a larger scale, how the different touchpoints can be stitched together into a winning customer experience and how delivering the experience reliably over time creates a real brand, are the fundamentals of customer strategy.

    SocCRM is potentially a whole new ball game.

    Today, CRM is a one-way street with all the traffic going from companies to customers. Once there, customers are free to do with their products what they will and to say what they want about them to others. And what customers do and say to each other is far more influential than anything marketers have to say. All marketers are liars after all! And don’t customers know it. SocCRM on the other hand, should be all about building a two-way street to start engaging customers in innovation, marketing, sales and service. And over the entire lifecycle of the product too, not just the marketing, sales and service touchpoints.

    Companies won’t go bust if they don’t immediately implement SocCRM. No-one, I repeat, no-one knows how to do this efficiently and effectively yet anyway. Not CRM analysts (sic), not vendors, not even the illustrious Paul Greenberg! SocCRM is about gaining a strategic advantage through becoming more customer-centric, no matter how temporary the advantage. That’s why companies need to be experimenting with SocCRM today; so that they learn enough to avoid going bust tomorrow.

    That’s why this is the time for SocCRM and its larger, more powerful cousin, SocBiz.

    Maybe you are working with the wrong companies after all. (Smile).

    Graham Hill
    Customer-centric Innovator
    Follow me on Twitter

    Interested in Customer Driven Innovation? Join the Customer Driven Innovation groups on LinkedIn or Facebook to learn more.

  35. It’s just that I hear so many saying what “has to be” when it obviously doesn’t have to be. People are implementing CRM software with little thought other than the price. It’s a fact.

    You are lucky to be more involved in the up front process. I want to be more like you 🙂 However, turning this beast around in the world I’m in isn’t as easy as it sounds.

    Mike Boysen
    Effective CRM

  36. When I hear CRM, I think Siebel,, SugarCRM and others. I see my sales team using the system and I remember the discussions when we implemented it first.

    But if I listen carefully to what some of you say, that is not what I should think. What I should think is “Don’t mess with the tools – develop a strategy and then look for a corresponding tool”. While this is not new – it is new to me in the context of CRM or Social CRM for that matter.

    @Wim, @Mitch, @Esteban, @Mike
    My interpretation of what you are proposing (in a simplified way”:
    “Social CRM is not a product but a strategy. It is about building a better more social customer relationship management a company can implement as a processes, as response to the changes in the market.”.

    @Bob and @Graham
    You are saying (simplified): “Don’t mess with the old loaded and very controversially discussed topic and try to make it work, instead, think broader, think ‘Social Business’ and there may be many tools to execute such a strategy (CRM, Social Media, PRM, customer service tools…)”.

    This is at least what I understood.

    Common Ground
    We all mean almost the same thing: “Businesses have to make adjustments to the changing customer behavior and become more open, more social and revisit their sales processes and bring them in alignment with the current buying processes”.

    My personal takeaway:
    SocialCRM will become the most prominent term for the next generation CRM software, no matter how successful it is.
    SocialPRM will do the same for channel management software
    SocialERM may do that for the employee management part and
    SocialMRM for marketing management
    SRM has a change to become a super set of the above
    Social Business a generic term for making businesses more social, with probably the biggest field being sales and marketing and service, but also product management, logistics and other areas.

    I guess only time will tell what will become the most used term for building a more social business. And while this is only semantics – I feel it is of great importance because there are 500 Million business people who will associate their work and progress with a definition of what they engage with.

    After thinking through all this, I now vote for “Social Business” as the overarching, not tools related, term for building a more “social business”.

    Thanks everybody for this very interesting discussion.


  37. I’m trying to get my head around definitions for social media in general, since almost everything on this planet is “social” if you want to be literal about it…so if anyone can provide links with good definitions…

    The thing I’m focusing on re: social media in general and SCRM is the effects of the medium on communication effectiveness and quality of communication. It seems like many people aren’t recognizing the power of the medium to alter how people process information, both factual and emotional.

    I’m going to be dealing with this over the next months in a special section on the Communication Resource Center at but I’d really like to hear people’s comments.

    How is the future of SCRM going to be affected by the psychological and communicative differences between social media and other forms of human communication (ie. phone, in person, email)?

  38. I agree. You seem to be advocating a more integrated, less black-and-white approach to the discussion. sCRM or whatever we align around is more than one thing to people. Doubtful that all participants will see it only as a next-gen software product for CRM. Different constituencies are likely to use it differently, and the semantics are both important and irrelevant. For example, we might counsel a client on sCRM strategies, approaches, and tactics even if the company has no CRM systems.

  39. Tony – since you pick on the letters:
    How about that:
    The ‘S’ is an indicator where and how it’s happening.
    The ‘C’ is defining with whome it is happening
    The ‘R’ is telling us what is happening
    The ‘M’ is an indicator how it’s done

    The ‘S’ came in with social media and as social media not only provides us a wealth of new ways to interact, but is one of the reasons why customers changed, Social Media is a key component in the new game.

    The ‘C’ is a bit limiting because it looks like “Customers Only”. To build a good social business strategy we need more to think about than customers. But then one of the departments (Sales) is focusing on customers and SCRM is perceived to be a sales tool – so it is OK.

    The ‘R’ is the key. This is about the actual relationship how we interact and what we do to make it better. This is also the social part. It discusses attitude, methods, benefits…

    The ‘M’ Part is the tools part how we actually ‘M’anage our activities, keep it in line with both customer needs and business opportunities. That’s the tools or software part.



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