Why We Cannot Get CRM (and SCRM) Quite Right


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Before you look away, this is not about Social CRM definitions.

Paul Greenberg wrote a Focus brief earlier this week, comparing Social CRM and Traditional CRM.  I want to extend the thought a little bit with a post I have been writing for a couple of weeks now.  Paul’s post gave me the nudge I needed to release it before my thinking became too “outdated”.

CRM is defined, Social CRM is defined — and it keeps getting redefined each time somebody adopts it.  As it turns out each organization is different and CRM and Social CRM (even Social Business) don’t mean the same to everyone.  Want to know what SCRM or CRM is? No one but you can answer that question… but I digress.

A few weeks ago we had an editorial board discussion for TheSocialCustomer.com where we discussed how organizations can get SCRM projects approved, who “owns” them, who is running them and what content we need to  assist organizations in their efforts to become Social Businesses.  Part of the discussion was comparing CRM 1.0 (the original version, 1990-present) and Social CRM (the now version, aiming to focus on the Social Customer, 2007-present).

I kept reflecting on lessons learned the past 20 or so years doing CRM.  It occurred to me that “ownership” of CRM has almost never (with very, very, very few exceptions) been where it belongs: with the business as a whole, focused on the customer.  Instead, there has always been “someone” pushing for adoption based on their own agenda.  And this agenda is what changes the “flavor” of CRM that organizations end up adopting.

CRM 1.0 was a Sales-driven effort.  Sales Force Automation ruled while we worked in getting the other components (Marketing and Service) to work better.  The business support for CRM 1.0 came from Sales organizations and the intent of “managing” the relationships was to sell more.  Other departments and business functions leveraged what was being done (my first CRM implementation was a SFA application, and we “added” call center functions since they were included in the package).  Yes, we did Marketing — but to bring more people in.  Yes, we did Service and Support, but only to solve the problems that would allow us to sell more.  Same can be said for most other functions and deployment models we used back then — it was all about sales; it was a sales tool.

Then CRM 2.0 came along, organizations struggling to respond to the rise of the Social Customer.  Social CRM (called briefly CRM 2.0) emerged as the “company’s response to the customer contol of the conversation” (thanks Paul).  The question quickly came out, what is the purpose of Social CRM? It is to manage customers better? Is it to Sell more to them? To make them happier? To solve their problems? Unfortunately, the business did not understand sufficiently about what the Social Customer wanted or needed, so the rise of CRM 2.0 (sorry, Social CRM) was delegated to the people who are more used to dealing with customers while controlling the message: Marketing.

The Business cannot get behind Social CRM, Marketing and Communications control it as Sales did before for CRM.

If you look at how organizations are doing SCRM you will notice that Marketing, Branding, and Public Relations are the leaders in this movement.  This is why when we talk about it being a business strategy it rings hollow – only marketers are listening, while others are trying to see how they can leverage Marketing’s budget and power.

Why does this matter?  Because it means that CRM is continuing to evolve.  There will be much debate on what Social CRM is, how it works, what it does, and related questions.  There will be claims to own it, and define it, and to make it be something that it is and then something that is not.  We went through this before, and we will go through it again.

The bottom line is that CRM is about companies engaging in relationships with customers.  That has not changed,nor will it change.  Even if the focus changed to marketing and communication functions in version 2.0 (as it will change when we reach version 3.0 and shift to Service, and version 4.0 when we finally understand that it is a business-wide initiative, not driven by a business unit), it remains the same thing: evolving culture, business models, and technology that assist organizations to have better interactions with their customers.

CRM is not the end-game, nor is Social CRM a destination.  They are both stops in the evolving journey to work better with customers.

If we can agree that CRM is continuously evolving, and that it never ends regardless of what business changes we see maybe we can stop these ridiculous arguments about definitions and to see who is right and who is wrong and focus on how we can evolve into the next generation. Or two.

What do you think? Are you really focused on how to have better relationships with your customers — regardless of business function and channels? Would love to hear what you are doing.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Esteban Kolsky
ThinkJar, LLC
Esteban Kolsky is the founder of CRM intelligence & strategy where he works with vendors to create go-to market strategies for Customer Service and CRM and with end-users leveraging his results-driven, dynamic Customer Experience Management methodology to earn and retain loyal customers. Previously he was a well-known Gartner analyst and created a strategic consulting practice at eVergance.


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