Social CRM – Stop The Hype! – Get Ready


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I recently attended a panel at SAP annual conference SAPPHIRE NOW in Orlando where the subject of social media and Social CRM was discussed. The need to engage with customers through the new channels was iterated multiple times. It is about the communication with customers and listening to what they have to say, it was stated clearly. Recently I noticed the proliferation of new Social CRM stacks by several gurus and analysts. For those of you who are too much in the cloud to remember what a software stack is, it is basically a diagram that illustrates the relationships between different software tools. The new Social CRM stack described the relationships between tools designed to listen to customers, software designed to analyze and to decipher the voice of customer and reporting tools to deliver the message loud, clear and crisp to the executives who need to act on it. It was a beautiful depiction of how all the tools work together. But…

When taking an additional look at the stack I noticed something familiar. It was basically the same stack we used when describing CRM! All that changed was the new channels of listening to customers. And then I realized what is wrong with the picture. Executives and experiences.

In the old ages of pre social media (can you believe any human being was able to breath and live during those dark ages) companies listened to customers through old fashioned channels such as surveys, focus groups, customer service lines, faxes and letters. In fact some people estimated the market research market to reach close to $40 billion annually. Listening to customers was not the issue, it was about acting on it. Executives continued to ignore or pay little attention to customer voices while running their organizations business as usual. That executive’s denial of the customer voice is not going away just because we added an “S” in front of the three letter acronyms CRM. The core issue is do we have a listening organization! Yes. customers discovered new channels of communication but these channels did not create more attuned-to-customers executives. We need more listening, not more voices and that is the challenge to transform social media voices or any other voices into action.

The next challenge is customer experience. Engaging with customers through social media is critical. But in the absence of an appealing customer experience, no engagement will be useful. What need to come first is an appealing substance in the form or attractive customer experience and then greater engagement with customers through new channels. If one approach customer with inferior or poor experiences, he or she will only aggravate customers even more. When confronted with this question, some of the panelists tended to dismiss the issue as it will take care of itself. Well based on my experience, it will not. And we should not rush to embrace new technologies, when we lack to substance to initiate the customer engagement. A fan club on facebook or constant tweeting will not disguise inferior customer experiences. In fact it will only magnify the problem and distribute it to millions of potential new customers.

At the core of social CRM success must be not the tools but the organizational readiness to act. Both through executives’ readiness to listen and commitment to act combined with design and delivery of superior, differentiating experiences.

Gartner Group designed the famous hype cycle to illustrate the method in which we approach new technologies. At the core of their concept is the fact that companies tend to embrace new technologies too quickly based on exaggerated promises. Eventually, a sobering period sinks in and followed by a more realistic approach to embracing the new technologies.

After a while we need to learn our lesson. It is time to stop hyping and get ready. With any new technology, the lesson I learned was, it is never about the technology or the budget to acquire it. It is always about the organization’s readiness to act and maximize the proposed value. Or as one of my clients once told me “even a fool with a tool is still a fool”.

Social media channels are critical to success, but only in the context of the organization’s readiness to deploy them.
Follow me @LiorStrativity

Lior Arussy
One of the world’s authorities on customer experience, customer centricity, and transformation, Lior Arussy delivers results. His strategic framework converts organizations from product- to customer-centricity. It is drawn from his work with some of the world’s leading brands: Mercedes-Benz, Royal Caribbean, Delta Air Lines, MasterCard, Novo Nordisk, Walmart and more.Arussy is also the author of seven books, including Next Is Now (May 2018)


  1. Lior, I totally think you have hit the nail on the head here when it comes to this topic.

    Ultimately, Social Media, CRM etc all need to be considered as part of the wider GTM strategy an enterprise has.
    I always recommend that business start with a few very simple questions such as:

    Who are we?

    Are our offerings still relevant, if not why not?
    What channels are we using to GTM with and are they still relevant?

    Do we have an open dialogue with our customers and is there an enterprise feedback loop in place?

    Do we know who are our most valuable customers?

    Are we able to spot changes in purchasing behavior?

    Do our customer experience a consistent journey across our enterprise? i.e. From the TV ads your enterprise runs to the post sales service that is delivered

    It all well and good to set up a Social Media strategy, but it will not deliver any value unless it is intelligently integrated into your broader GTM strategy, which requires tackling these types of questions first.

    There is no silver bullet that can help transform an enterprise into a World Class customer centric business, it requires a clear vision and a lot of hard work.

  2. Hi Lior

    A very timely article. I couldn’t agree more with your suggestion that we are seeing the rapid expansion of a SocCRM ‘bubble’. The rather superficial ‘SocCRM stacks’ created by Esteban Kolsky, Filberto Selvas and others are just the latest signs of the bubble.

    It’s not that the SocCRM stacks are wrong per se, just that they a gross simplifications and they suggest that SocCRM technology is the solution to all out SocCRM needs. As we have found during the past 30 years of implementing step-changes in business thinking, such as TQM, ERP, BPM, CRM and CEM, success depends upon transforming the whole organisation to work in new ways. Whilst technology is a part of the transformation, it is generally only an enabler, not a driver. In fact academic studies of successful CRM projects showed that the degree of CRM technology implemented was not related to project success at all, once a minimum of enabling technology was in place. I expect the same to be the case in SocCRM.

    As Nicholas suggests, rather than focussing on the golden calf of technology, we would do better if we worked hard at investigating whether we have a robust SocCRM business model, whether we really understand the jobs customers are trying to do (where SocCRM could help), whether we have the right business capabilities to do this, who we need to partner with where we don’t and how we balance these things to co-create the optimum value for all concerned.

    As you point out, the trouble with all this hype & hyperbole is that we are in real danger of missing the customer wood for the SocCRM trees. It is time for a more balanced look at SocCRM.

    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.

  3. I’ve drawn a few stack diagrams myself over the years. They’re useful to help show how system components relate to each other conceptually.

    However, as Social CRM tech hype mounts the beauty of social media is getting lost: People connecting with people.

    And as Graham points out, once again fascination with tools will trump a real business strategy of engaging with those people in a way that delivers value to the customer/prospect, while also creating value for the business.

    Have we learned nothing from the history of CRM?

  4. Hi Bob

    Laughing Out Loud. I am tempted to recall the German ‘Idealist’ philosopher Hegel’s quote, “The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history”. I do hope not. But I am not holding my breath for any sudden insights. There is too much money to be made by repeating CEM, CRM, BPR, ERP and TQM’s previous mistakes.

    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.

  5. All, Thank you for taking the time to respond and comment.
    The rush to technology short cuts seem to be too tempting for many executives to pass. The rush only demonstrate the reluctance to face the real root cause questions of their business.

    In this specific “gold rush” to technolgy short cuts we are actually seeing new participants, we have not seen before. In addition to the traditional technology advocates, we have the PR / new media guys joining the blasting noise. The PR / new media guys placing pressure on their clients to experiment and expand their social media presence (and increase the PR / new media billing). These new participants incraese the noise level associated with this hype and more importantly the fear level. The fear level is waht i call the “if you will not join the social media revolution now, who knows what will happen to your business in 3 months” message.

    The message to time-straved executives should be short and simple. “Short cuts never work” or “Technology dooes not replace stratgey” These are message short enough to event fit a tweet!
    Lior Arussy

  6. Amen, Lior. It’s the curse of SOS (or Shiny Object Syndrome). That quote about a fool with a tool is spot-on. Far too often, we see businesses distract themselves and their customers by implementing new technology or a new process when, in the end, what needed to happen was a recommitment to instilling a customer experience structure and mindset throughout the organization.


  7. Not with the post, I absolutely agree – I have said as much recently on other posts. We need a balanced approach. I agree with the statement we like to share, that “New Tech + Old Org = Expense Old Org”. So, what am I disagreeing with?

    I am disagreeing with the simple fact that we need to start somewhere. It is possible the stack diagrams are simplistic, but from an academic perspective, smart people should be able to easily take them to next level. The audience for this is diverse, we need to guide and gain buy-in by the execs, as the article suggests, make a complex technology diagram and the C-Level go running.

    I do not see the diagrams as a bubble, they are explanations. So what if they look like CRM diagrams from yesteryear? Is it not ok, since many are suggesting that Social CRM is an extension of CRM. The huge array of possible channels, combined with the customer lead conversations on all these channels has made this different from CRM – yes, maybe a lot, maybe just a little. It is different in technology and culture – thus processes change too.

    We need a balanced approach, YES, but we also need to be able to dig into individual areas without fear of being chastised for trying to understand what we need to do. We need the executive buy-in to make sure that his/her teams maintain that balanced approach. In order to get there, some education may be required


    Mitch Lieberman
    CEO and Founder
    Comity Technology Advisors

  8. Excellent viewpoint for executives. So many CMO’s or CEO’s I speak to don’t even have the knowledge about how social media really works for the end user. This is issue #1!

    Panic over negative comments or disorganized branding should not be the tactic used to push a company into any social media strategy before they actually measure how much involvement they need.

    My only suggestion would be is to set a goal and then pin point a tool that will help manage the communications on that platform. Don’t jump into Twitter if you’re not willing to monitor it. Don’t create a Facebook profile when you need a Page! Don’t trust that your markeing group knows how to engage with relevant offers and discussions.

    What’s the reaction if you have a negative post or comment? Remove or delete it…I bet most CEO’s would say that first. Wrong!! Social media is about hearing and responding and then delivering better offers and content.

    Be cautious when demoing tools or software…many of the companies who are offering social media have no background in enterprise CRM needs. My team does…

  9. Although I work for a vendor of a listening and engagement platform for enterprises, I would never want our products to be used for organizations without context or strategy – that is the fastest recipe for failure. I called us a listening and engagement platform, because personally don’t like calling any one platform a SocialCRM solution, because there are as many SCRM strategies as there are businesses, and what one needs is not necessarily what another needs; also customers will never come to us asking for SCRM.

    As I said above, there are as many SCRM strategies and implementations as there are businesses. Therefore, anyone who knows what he / she is doing, would never take a stack diagram as-is (or at least I hope not!), but rather contextualize it for the organization. Like some of the other commenters, I do not believe that having many stack diagrams out there is necessarily a bad thing. But I think we all agree that without changing the culture first, no organization would succeed in the new age of social. You need to 1. make it easy to engage, 2. make social relevant and 3. demonstrate value (whether on own efforts, or competitors’ efforts).

    Social Media Director at Attensity. Connect with me on Twitter at @themaria or @attensity360

  10. Maria, I appreciate your comment. I spent over 10 years at technology companies and was exposed to the temptation to sell short cuts. No tehcnology tool should be sold outside of a stratgeic and operational context. But they often do. The CRM phenomena is one visible example.

    If yoour clients are not ready for it, why not assume the responsibility of edcuating them? This is the challnage I posed in my book Innovating IT (Wiley 2005) Its time that technology companies redefine their value proposition and be held accoutable the greater casue of outcome rather than installation.

    Lior Arussy

  11. Lior and all,

    I wholeheartedly agree with everyone’s assertions in the thread but want to caution the group. Sometimes, the desire to buy tech under the misnomer of a “solution” is often at least in part created by the vendors themselves who market themselves as such. Customers, often under educated about the best practices for true customer centricity are eager to jump to the latest whiz-bang gizmo claiming to help address the problem at least in part because of flashy demos and misrepresentative claims. They’re often made to believe vendor claims and marketing in the hope that if right could appear to short cut the problem and avoid the truly hard work of realigning the organization.

    Reality sets in soon after, however, creating significant strife and dissension between vendors and customers.

    The point I’m raising is that in my experience the fault about trying to substitute a tool for a truly appropriate organizational solution is neither the exclusive domain of the buyer or the seller, but often a shared culpability.


  12. Lior,

    Fantastic post. To steal James Carville’s famous line . . .It’s about the experience stupid.
    It all starts with the customer experience. It’s the only thing you truly have control over and it can be a difference maker. If you are not getting the experience right, you are destined to become a victim of social media, not a beneficiary.

    Too many companies think the ‘me’ in social media is about them. Sorry it ain’t. It’s always been about the customer. And they’re just not that into you (Brand X) and what you have to say.

    I think the burning question is “Can brands tap into the power of their best resource (current customers) and give them something to talk, tweet, blog and Facebook about?’. The answer is by exceeding expectations through customer experience.

    ‘The longest and hardest 9 inches in marketing . . . is the distance between the brain and the heart’


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