Social CRM: The Center of Your CRM Strategy – Or A Complete Strategy Itself?


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I just got done reading through Altimeter’s new paper entitled Social CRM: The New Rules of Relationship Management. While there is little to argue with regarding Altimeter’s report on the 18 use cases of Social CRM, there are some statements that I feel could have been worded differently – or simply left out. I also feel it could have buit a 5M chart that includes more traditional uses cases (even ones most business don’t do well), and how the two aspects of customer engagement relate to each other (traditional and social). The bottom line is…

Social CRM is not an all encompassing strategy

Sure, the Social Customer is different than customers of the past. A Social Business is one that recognizes this. However, Social CRM is a channel – another means of communication and engagement; regardless of the dimensionality of it. Do you really know your customer by monitoring social channels? If the answer is no (and it must be in my opinion), then the strategy must incorporate all listening and understanding methodologies and frameworks, including social, if you really want to avoid product design failures and/or business process friction.

Here are a few excerpts and some of my thoughts. Understand, we are all trying to move the ball forward. Differing opinions will, hopefully, keep the ball in the center of the playing field and not let it drift too far towards any sideline.

Social CRM is more that just another channel.  Properly practiced, Social CRM recognizes the depth of the relationship and understanding the current state – good, bad or ugly.

  • Yet, at the end of the CustomerThink post, Ray Wang lets you know they are ready to help you design a Social CRM strategy. What if the company doesn’t have a CRM strategy yet? Are we going to apply social tools to inside-out organizations and hope for the best?
  • This doesn’t analyze the relationship. It only analyzes the aggregate of sentiment (maybe some ideas) at a point in time (good, bad or ugly)
  • A relationship is still 1:1. If the ultimate goal of a customer-centric business is to understand customers needs (not project the needs on the customer), then social media will tell them little. Why? A vocal minority may not be statistically valid (not every customer is social) – nor will they represent real needs of the overall customer base. And, the company doesn’t really have the ability to use an open-ended, iterative interviewing process to uncover the true needs – things that they may not know individually, or even collectively in a social community.
  • Reading the social channels is like reading the wind. It reflects what’s happening right now, and right now and now and now and now. Can you really call something strategic when it’s going to be used to react right now?  Sure, you can say you’re making a strategic change…right up until NOW when the next set of sentiment comes in. Real relationships carry history and can also discuss the future. The strategy is the framework for reacting to information you glean from tactical pieces of the strategy.

Social CRM programs may start at the departmental level, but over time, must gain corporate buy in to transcend functional fiefdoms in sales, marketing service, etc.

  • SFA started at the departmental level and CRM took over, remaining at the departmental level – especially in middle market companies. Starting here makes little sense. Cultural change is required and it starts at the top. Always.
  • It’s easy to penetrate the department, which is what software vendors, resellers, consultants and evangelists have known for ages. This is the easy way out, and delivers the least value. A cultural change leveraged across an entire organization is what really delivers value to the customer, and to the shareholder. This should be emphasized, even though more companies will take the easy path – let’s not help them, though.
  • Why tell us “Get Value: Adopt the 18 Social CRM Use Cases?” I mean, if it typically starts at the departmental level, why then argue that all 18 need to be adopted? This sounds a lot like tools to support a corporate-wide customer centered strategy – without the customer-centered part, or with the other 90% of CRM.

Tech Maturity

If the underlying value driver for CRM (or business)  is customer-centricity, then shouldn’t cultural maturity on this point by tied to Market Demand? Whether we’re talking about Tech Maturity of a business, or Tech Maturity of a <ahem> Social CRM solution, why are we returning to technology as a driver when we’ve learned, clearly, the cultural evolution toward customer-centricity is a key piece of the puzzle – and that tech focus has often failed us (no offense vendors – us consultants are to blame too).

Tie back social world and channels to existing innovation, marketing, sales, support and service processes. Triage profiles to create prioritization frameworks.

  • A better way might be to not start at the tactical level and then fit it into a series of other tactical, silo’d processes and then call it a strategy. Maybe it was just the way I read this, but seems very backwards to me.

Organizational friction, customer experience and customer advocacy do not requireSocial” CRM. Sure, advocacy is easier in an online community, but #SCRM can’t lay claim as the only, or even the best, way of creating advocacy. Let’s face it, social solutions are unproven in many ways – time being one of them. But, advocates have been around, outside-in process consultants have been removing friction for a long time and companies have been designing great customer experiences – all without the social piece. The failure has been the tendency to rely on technology first and unfortunately, this is still fairly prevalent.

Complement existing CRM processes.

  • I just can’t get past the customer-centric strategy part, I guess. Shouldn’t this really be expanding, enhancing or evolving the CRM strategy with social engagement? Processes are support of strategies and technology is supportive of process. The process is not creating substantial customer value, it’s more operational in nature. The value has to be driven from a higher strategy- within which you will find social aspects.

In Closing

My common theme is customer-centricity and designing CRM strategies around this sort of cultural change. Core to this is defining a methodology for understanding customer needs. Certainly, companies that have well known brands should incorporate social tools to protect their brand as well as empower their customers (to some degree – after all, it’s still a business). But let’s face it, do lesser known brands really have enough chatter to worry? I don’t know the answer to that. My middle market customers have never really identified this as a problem, and isn’t this where most of the businesses are?

What I like about this paper is that it does a great job of taking what have been complex, theoretical concepts and putting them into a readable format. Each of us participating in this space are being social. There are conversations being attempted (and failing IMHO) on Twitter, there are social communities cropping up where many of us are able to write lengthier posts to move the topic forward, and there are also back channel group (and individual – NO!) conversations going on related to Social CRM. It’s time that we begin building public digests that people will actually read. Real people – not just us. This is a good step in that direction.

The next step, I feel, is for someone to simply describe a complete customer-centric culture which drives CRM strategy, process and technology – each level addressing the need for, and execution of strategy or tactics for embracing the social customer – if even required ;)

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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