Applying The Five Stages Of Adoption Towards SCRM Projects


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In 1969, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced the “Five Stages of Grief” in her book, On Death and Dying. These five stages can be summed up as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. When applied to disruptive technology adoption by organizations, the “Five Stages” framework provides clear insight in anticipating how likely an organization is ready to embrace change. Recent conversations with line of business operations managers about Social CRM identify both lack of awareness and high levels of internal resistance towards adoption. In a recent phone and in-person survey of 31 front office operations owners (i.e. sales executives, support executives, and COO’s) about their attitudes on Social CRM, 67.7% (i.e. 21/31) expressed denial, 16.1% (i.e. 5/31) felt anger, and 9.6% (i.e. 3/31) experienced bargaining, 3.2% (i.e. 1/31) encountered depression, and 3.2% (i.e. 1/31) achieved acceptance (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Most Front Office Executives Live In Denial About SCRM

 The Bottom Line For Buyers (Users) – Use The Kübler-Ross Model Provides Techniques To Expedite The Internal Acceptance Of SCRM

The five stages of SCRM adoption describes each phase, discusses the typical reactions, and addresses how to move forward. Organizations can expect stakeholders to progress through the phases at their own pace. Expect organizations to fall between a 10 month to 21 month range. However, proponents can accelerate the process through both qualitative understanding and quantitative support. Here are the five stages:

  1. Stage 1: Denial (Average duration 3 to 6 months). Many executives will put up defenses and excuses when initially broached about the need for SCRM. They may have a point should no quantitative data exist or may feel as strongly as my fellow Enterprise Advocate, Dennis Howlett does about SCRM. Typical responses include,”Social CRM is just another XLA fad”; “None of our customers will ever use this stuff, just look at how much we invested in CRM”; “Is there really any return in these social things?”

    Proponents should share adoption trends based on SCRM Use Case #F1 – Social Customer Insights. If the analytical data provides the quantitative support on social media trends, then expect both a heightened awareness of the market realities and a rapid progression towards the second phase. In many consumer and classic B2C industries, the data will show that some significant population group is having a conversation in a social channel. The next set of questions to answer, “Can they be influenced and will they buy?” Now, if the data shows that customers, for example in classic B2B industries such as aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO), have barely adopted any social tools, then it will make sense to wait till social media adoption has hit a critical mass.

  2. Stage 2: Anger (Average duration 1 to 3 months). As data flows in about where customers are having conversations about an organization’s product, the individual recognizes that denial can not continue. “Outside” conversations happening without the supervision of the firm will most likely enrage the management team. Executives will often ask, “Can these customers really do this without us?”; “Why doesn’t our existing efforts have the same effect?”; “Do we have to deal with another channel?”; “How come we have to waste all this time on SCRM”; “Who’s fault is this?”

    At this point, stakeholders will express their rage at anyone and anything they can. Proponents should let the individuals vent their frustration. From there, help the stakeholders visualize a time table and project plan to support the SCRM project. Show them how to engage and influence the customer. Let them know they no longer control the conversation.

  3. Stage 3: Bargaining (Average duration 3 to 6 months). Despite all logical arguments, stakeholders will begin to rationalize the situation. Excuses to postpone taking action balance out the recognition of the urgency to adopt SCRM. Quotes from the survey include, “None of our competitors are doing this, why should we?” “If we can hold out for a few more years, we’ll be okay and the market will be stable”; “Can we just do one part and not the rest?”

    Begin the discussion on what impact could occur due to inaction. Highlight the elements of a successful approach and the dependencies. Layout the holistic point of view. Encourage outside advisors to provide an alternative but independent point of view.

  4. Stage 4: Depression (Average duration 2 to 3 months). Realization that a lack of financial and labor resources will hamper adoption, forces depression upon front office executives. Stakeholders express thoughts such as “We don’t have the funding, this will never go through”; “Social CRM is inevitable, but no one is trained on this stuff”; “By the time we put up the current version, the world will be two generations ahead”

    Walk through the timing of cost and benefits with an emphasis on ROI. Apply good project management discipline to identify resource requirements and milestones. Identify skill gaps among the team. Highlight the road map and project plan again and show where phases could be accelerated. Identify success factors from previous projects.

  5. Stage 5: Acceptance (Average duration 1 to 3 months). With the facts in hand, a plan in place, and change management in effect, stakeholders may have turned the corner. A realization that customers in social media channels are here to stay. This “social thing” is cultural not a fad. The tenor in hallway conversations shifts from stages 1 and 2 to “It’s going to be okay, we can make this work.”; “I can’t fight the social trend, we may as well prepare for it and win.”; “Let’s put some money behind this but continue to monitor and test”; “Get that team ready to go.”

    Don’t celebrate yet! Put the plan in place. Apply continuous monitoring and testing. Fail fast. Put those learnings back into the next iteration. Coordinate the ecosystem for success.

Your POV.

Having trouble convincing management its time for Social CRM? Did your last CRM project fail miserably? Are you in the market for social CRM solutions and have a question? You can post or send on to rwang0 at gmail dot com or r at softwaresinsider dot org and we’ll keep your anonymity or better yet, join the community! Please let us know if you need help with your Social CRM efforts.

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  1. There are some interesting points and useful tips here. Although associating the adoption of social CRM with death is somewhat excessive in my opinion!

    I think that businesses are becoming increasingly aware that social is here to stay. There is a lot of reluctance to accept sCRM and it may be a direct result from failed CRM implementations. Although the fundamentals are similar, the concept is altogether different.

    You may also want to consider that regardless of our desires as a thriving business, the social web will affect us. Today’s Customers are empowered to voice opinions and experiences via social media tools. In order to remain successful we need to embrace sCRM to engage with our clients and provide a satisfying customer service experience. The rewards in doing this will make all the difference for your business over the long haul.
    Intelestream Net


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