Which Comes First?


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This isn’t some long, drawn out research-paper-posing-as-blog-post.  I was just thinking about this on the way to work….for the past 6 months.

Which comes first? Social CRM technology, strategy or business process?  I’m assuming some are going to read this and think it a stupid question at this point.  “STRATEGY! You need a scrm strategy!” I can hear many of you yelling at your screen….you know who you are.  (In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve argued the same thing)

Ok, so why?

What was the impetus for this whole social media thing in first place? Was it a business strategy?  A process map? Nope.  Discussion groups, forums, chat rooms; then Twitter, Facebook and on and on.  Technology, right?  If it weren’t for these social platforms, we wouldn’t be having academic conversations about business strategy or enterprise operating models, would we?

The second coolest word of advice David Alston gave at our panel discussion at the most recent SOCAP conference (this was the first) was to not over complicate this whole social crm thing.  To customer service people, the audience at this event, social media has been portrayed by many consultants and gurus (with a vested interest) as the three headed monster under the bed.  We’ve been talking to customers over the phone for how long?  Exactly!  So, what’s the difference?  Sure, social platforms are more public.  But, does the public nature of the channel automatically turn us into bumbling idiots that are going to trash our company’s brands in 140 characters?  Frank Eliason had a classic retort to an audience question about influencers and influencer analysis.  He said (paraphrasing) I’m in customer service.  I don’t care how influential they are.  I need to solve their problem.  Do you ask who your customer knows before you answer their question on the phone?

So grab some tools, throw them in the back of the pick up truck and get started down the road.  You’re customers are waiting.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Barry Dalton
Telerx Marketing
Consumed by the pursuit of delightful service. Into all things customer loyalty and technology. My current mission is developing new service channels and the vision of the contact center of the future.


  1. Barry, I’ve been thinking along similar lines.

    Social media and networking sites, and the Web 2.0 tools that followed, are new tools. Period.

    Nobody had a “strategy” for these tools. There were created, caught on and now everyone is trying to figure out how to use them in business.

    A classic case of disruptive technology. But the “strategy” that newly minted experts claim are mainly “how to use the new tools.”

    To me, this is not a business strategy. It’s an implementation strategy at best, a simple tactic to get something installed/used at worst. That’s ok, but no business leader would recognize using a new tool as a strategy.

    Instead of social media, social CRM, or Enterprise 2.0 “strategy,” people should be thinking about their marketing, customer service, sales or loyalty strategy — and how these new tools can help. These are operational strategies that would make sense to the heads of these functional areas.

    Or, at the top level of a business, social tools can help support the company’s strategies to be customer-centric, differentiate, compete on innovation, cost, etc. Again, SCRM is not a strategy, but may be able to support the companies real business strategy, which should be about how the business will achieve significant and sustainable business benefits.

    The short definition of SCRM, per Greenberg is “responding to the social customer.” OK, fine, nice memorable definition. And yes, social customers have more power. So what? “Responding” is not a strategy that you’d take into the board room.

    I too have argued in years past that CRM should be a business strategy to acquire and retain profitable customers. And that this strategy should be about both delivering value to customers and reaping the rewards in terms of profitable growth.

    And yet, based on several in-depth studies over the past 10 years, for the vast majority of companies CRM means implementing a tool. CRM is about managing customer information. And what do you need to do this? Tools, of course. And for the most part, Social CRM is being viewed the same way, as a solution, not a strategy can be implemented independently of the use of social media/networks.

    I’m all for strategy, but let’s not confuse a real business strategy with jumping on the latest buzzword bandwagon promoted by industry insiders that have something to sell. Social CRM is fundamentally a tool or solution, not a business strategy. Others may disagree, but based on recent interactions on the Social CRM group, I think the prevailing opinion now is that Social CRM = Social+CRM. Without the new social technology, Social CRM wouldn’t exist. Same evolution as CRM.

    Further reading:

    * Can you do “Social CRM” without Social Media/Networks? Or Without CRM systems?

    * Will the real Social CRM leader please stand up?

    * Social CRM: Strategy, Technology or Passing Fad?

  2. Barry,

    A fair post. But I think we all sometimes forget a few things (I have probably forgot them as much as anyone!!). Not saying you are, but more to Bob’s response. We are all constantly talking about strategy. What is a strategy? A strategy is something that you put together in support of goals and objectives. I would state simply that all three are discussed equally, at the same time, right after the company is clear on the goals and objectives regarding customer engagement, customer experience and customer data management. I might state that there are multiple strategies along side each other.

    Social CRM is a business strategy, as well as a technology strategy in response to something, to which your company needs an equal response (because the customers started using the tools first, this is new). A response to simple things such as where your customers hang-out, where they talk, what they say. As well as whether you, as a company are willing to engage on each and every channel. No one is suggesting that the strategy can be managed independently of tools and technology, they need to be top of mind, and active decisions made whether to use them or not to use them.

    I like talking about Social CRM, I study it, think about it as well. Bob, I do not understand your last thought. I disagree that there is actually a prevailing opinion. There are lots of opinions. and for the sake of discussion, what would you call the discussion of a strategy that is Social + CRM? It does not really matter what we call it, the conversation is not really going to be too different.

    It is possible that I forget to focus on the goals and objectives, I am working to change that, or at least keep my eye on it. Social CRM can scale up and down – meaning a mom and pop grocery store could gain value from the concepts, without a computer in the place.


    Mitch Lieberman
    CEO and Founder
    Comity Technology Advisors

  3. Bob, sorry for taking so long to jump on and see your comment. Here’s the extension of that thought that I think needs some exploration. SCRM strategy? How is it different than good ole’ CRM strategy?

    Isn’t the objective to create a customer centric business? So, when we try to now break it down to SCRM strategy (and I’ve examined a lot of diagrams where the only difference from similar diagrams of 15 years ago is the social web channels) aren’t we just rebranding the same objective? (albeit a very valid objective that I am 100% on board with)

  4. Hey Mitch – thanks for the comment (ditto on being late to respond) So, I’m going to assume we’re all in agreement here. “SCRM Strategy” is not a business strategy. I would lean more towards Bob’s definition. Its a technology implementations strategy and business process strategy: what to do with the tools, how to incorporate them into your business processes, even how to evolve your business processes. All important issues. But not corporate strategy.

    But, to me, the corporate strategic goal is to achieve “customer centricity in a manner that drives profitable revenue growth….”

    Paul G’s definition, I’m a big fan, is just that. Its not corporate strategy.

    thanks Gents.


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