Social CRM en Colombia: Delight and the Digital Experience Conundrum


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Last week I had the distinct pleasure of visiting Bogotá to keynote the 2nd international conference on Social Media and Social CRM. My sincere thanks to Diego Ramirez of Práctica and Rafael Rodríguez of Focused Management Colombia for inviting me to speak, and for conducting an outstanding conference.

What is Social CRM?

Liz Smith, VP of Sales for SugarCRM’s Latin America operations, spoke about the impact of social media and how it has shifted power to the people, in society and business. Positioning Social CRM as an extension to traditional CRM, she maintained that you still need traditional CRM to manage social conversations.

I personally agree with that, having said a long time ago that Social CRM = Social + CRM. But others take a much more expansive view. Gartner defines Social CRM as including social media monitoring and online communities, which currently generates the most of the revenue in the Social CRM space. No integration with CRM necessary.

Fortunately, there were no definition debates in Bogotá! But in conversations with speakers and delegates, it was clear that the mindset of CRM = system was well engrained despite proclamations that “CRM is a business strategy” from many over the years — including yours truly. On my first trip to Colombia in 2003, I presented at a series of one-day CRM seminars in Bogotá, Cali and Medellín. I defined CRM as a strategy then, but as I’ve noted elsewhere, the market hasn’t adopted that way of thinking.

Can digital experiences be delightful?

Digital is a huge trend in Colombia, just as in most of the rest of the world. Consumers are rapidly adopting the Internet, smartphones and social media, although usage is dependent on socioeconomic status and age. So businesses must devise strategies to engage with well-to-do consumers that use all the latest digital channels (including social media) along with those struggling to make ends meet.

In my presentation, I gave the audience a preview of the “five habits of customer-inspired business leaders” — the subject of my book to be published later this year. To kick things off, I conducted an exercise asking the 200 delegates to recall a recent “delightful” experience. With a show of hands, at least 80% involved interactions with people. The rest were with products or digital channels.

Here’s the conundrum: Will the shift to digital eliminate the opportunity to delight customers? On the one hand, we need to embrace digital channels because they are efficient and provide access that many consumers want. After I got used to ATMs and then online banking, I didn’t want to go back to older methods involving phone calls or trips to the local branch office. But using automated channels doesn’t make me loyal to my bank.

The way most companies approach digital channels is to just automate the transaction, with no personality whatsoever. If the automation works, you’re satisfied but hardly delighted. And if it doesn’t, you’re dissatisfied and prone to defection. The implication for business leaders is that they either need to a) find a way to make digital experiences more interesting and/or b) look for strategic opportunities to continue to provide the personal touch, especially for higher-value customers.

Delightful experiences in Colombia

Colombia is a beautiful country on the move. This time I spent some time seeing sights in Bogotá and the coastal city of Cartagena. If you get a chance to visit I highly recommend dinner at Andrés Carne de Res, an amazing restaurant just outside of Bogotá in Chia. Great food, yes. But the eclectic décor, entertainment and friendly staff combined to make it a truly unique experience.

Also be sure to take the funicular up to Monserrate to see the 17th Century Catholic church and breathtaking views at the top. And walk slowly, because at nearly 10,000 feet, you’ll need to!

In Cartagena, the historic walled city is a must-see, but be sure to wear comfortable shoes and put on your sunscreen! Lots of shops and sites to see, along with interesting restaurants to sample empanadas and other Colombian fare. For a 5-star dining experience, try the seafood at La Vitrola, you won’t be disappointed.


  1. What the CRM Community has learned from “Gurus” such Bob Thompson in the past 12 years cannot be measured. As Bob notes in his post, no matter how strong he and many of us have been preaching – evangelizing – since years ago, that CRM is a strategy, the market continues to equal CRM to systems. Companies DO understand the point, CxOs even agree with the principles, as much as they agree that customers are “the most important thing …”. But, very few actually walk the talk and IT continues to take precedence over strategy and great experiences, except in those companies led by “customer-inspired business leaders”. The five habits presented by Bob are quite straight forward. But aren´t most things in Customer Service straight forward?. Many Colombian companies face a complex challenge: catching up with basic CRM-CEM philosophy and at the same time adapt and respond to the social media trends. It all boils down to designing a Great Strategy to delight customers. Thanks Bob and all speakers for joining us in Bogota last week


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