I am on a quest to understand Social CRM. Not so I can be an early pundit shouting “to dos” at companies or pointing out their mistakes; but so I can really understand the value proposition it can bring to an organization, their constituents and ultimately my clients. I even joined the Social CRM Pioneers Google group to start marinating in what influencers are talking about and it’s been good, real good.
I have read several excellent definitions of social CRM but I am yet to be satisfied. I often try and put myself in my client’s shoes and evaluate whether a given definition (program or strategy) makes sense for the business. So far, a lot of what I have read is either fluff or so high level that it’s not actionable. And from my experience working in the enterprise, a strategy that is not actionable is usually just someone’s really good idea that will never get implemented.
Here is what I have learned thus far.
I really like what Martin Walsh wrote about Social CRM – “Social CRM is a process to monitor, engage and manage conversations and relationships with existing and prospective customers and influencers across the Internet, social networks and digital channels” and found my good friend Jacob Morgan’s infographic on the Social CRM process to be extremely insightful. And of course, Altimeter’s recent report – The 18 Use Cases of Social CRM, the New Rules of Relationship Management – gives insight on how organizations are leveraging traditional CRM tools and social technologies for marketing, sales, support and collaboration.
The challenge that I am finding in reading a lot of other material is that the term itself – social CRM – can be substituted with just about every other new buzzword on the social web; and it’s all saying the same thing over and over (i.e. it’s about listening to the customer). While I agree wholeheartedly, there is so much more that has to happen on the backend for this to even work properly.
From a very high level point of view, it’s important to first highlight what my colleague David Armano wrote about this new evolution in business called social business design. I see this as a natural business progression as market conditions change and technology advances. Businesses are getting smarter and acquiring new technologies, intelligence, talent and motivation to get more social. Social CRM is just one component of this transformation. I have been fortunate enough to witness firsthand how organizations are evolving from a business that merely engages in social behavior into a social business. There is a huge difference.
In its most simplistic terms, and as explained by Jeremiah Owyang, a social CRM scenario would look a little something like this in the very near future (summarizing in my own words from a recent SMC panel he participated in):
Imagine that every employee in the company regardless of what department they work in will be equipped with a dashboard as a part of their computer monitor. This dashboard will include all relevant customer data to include recent purchase history, demographic data, previous interactions, call support history, recent tweets and Facebook status updates. This data will equip employees to provide more relevant and personal information with every customer interaction via web, over the phone and even in person.
Now it’s really easy to argue back and forth about how accurate this scenario may or may not be in the future (and for the record, I believe this to be very accurate); but from an organizational perspective, it takes a lot of internal collaboration, planning and technology integration for this to actually make this happen.
Jacob and I had a brief conversation about this a few weeks ago over the phone. I asked him what the biggest challenge organizations face when it comes to social CRM. His response to me can be summarized something like this: no two companies are the same; and every company has different needs and challenges when it comes to social CRM (i.e. user experience, creation of advocacy programs, etc.) While I agree with this 100%, the problem with this reasoning is that it can be applied to just about any other business issue i.e. operations, marketing, customer support, supply chain, etc. But if I am a brand marketer and ask, “how do I launch a successful social media program” and the answer I get it is, “it depends”, well there is definitely a disconnect.
As summarized in his recent post, Jacob basically said that those who are involved in social CRM need to do a better job conveying its definition to those who want to learn. He is absolutely right. I would also add that there needs to be models defined or at least discussions of how social CRM theory can be put into practice from behind the firewall; not just from what a successful scenario might look in the future but how it can actually be achieved.
Now, I have a tendency of over simplifying everything; but I will go ahead and take a crack at defining what social CRM means to me.
Social CRM is one component that helps organizations evolve into a social business. It is a strategic business initiative that considers technology, intelligence and process; so when organizations communicate with their customers they know what to say, how to say it and when to say it in order to provide a more relevant customer interaction.
Seems pretty straight forward to me but before a company can fully accomplish this, they will need to ensure that they are capable internally first. I live by this motto and believe it to be 100 percent accurate and also relevant to social CRM; that is, before a company can successfully manage external conversations, they need to first master internal conversations.
As companies begin to start thinking about deploying social CRM, they will need to consider two factors; organizational readiness and the external social landscape.
Organizational readiness refers to the internal landscape (and culture) of an organization and addresses such issues as technology, process and people.
Technology is probably the most important issue because in large organizations much of the internal infrastructure is not integrated and many times scattered across multiple divisions, groups and even geographies. Organizations need to ensure that traditional CRM tools like SAP, Oracle and Salesforce are integrated with external social tools like Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Google Profiles and listening software such as Biz 360 or Scoutlabs in order to gather and consolidate customer data. Other technologies worth considering are Peoplesoft and Ariba; which could be used to integrate human resources and vendor relationships. There are several other software applications; too many to name here.
Process takes into consideration business rules, work flow processes, data & systems integration, escalation, global expansion and crisis management to ensure maximum efficiency within the organization. It also addresses governance. Even though many of the processes and integrations will be managed by the back end; having them will help maintain consistency for teams/employees that are on the front lines interacting with customers.
People address the cultural dynamics of an organization. It involves employees (and teams) to serve as change agents and work together to collaborate in order to create policies & procedures, training and governance. They are responsible for shaping the social CRM initiatives ensuring proper alignment with other social programs both internally and externally. They will drive policies that outline the following:
- Ownership and governance of Social CRM
- Internal & external policies for gathering and integrating customer data
- Policies for engaging with customers externally (probably a part of a larger social media policy)
- Global and regional deployment and training
- Budget and vendor management
EXTERNAL SOCIAL LANDSCAPE
The external social landscape address intelligence gathered from sources such as Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, social listening software, etc. It also takes into consideration what networks people are using, how they are using them and the information being shared.
As the market changes and evolves, it’s important that social CRM leaders are thinking about forecasting consumer behavior as it relates to these tools; and identifying shifts in attitude and usage of social networks. Partnering with a research firm like Forrester would be ideal for organizations that don’t have market research resources internally.
The dynamics of the social web are changing rapidly. Consolidations of social networks are on the horizon. New networks and capabilities are launching every day; and acquisitions are already among us. All of these shifts will impact social CRM so it’s important for organizations to stay ahead of the curve and not fall behind.
So that’s my take on social CRM. I would appreciate any feedback.