The place where the Customer counts

Free thoughts on CRM, Business and the next big thing

The place where the Customer counts - Free thoughts on CRM, Business and the next big thing

Social CRM and the everlasting struggle between strategy and tech

This is my first post directly written in English so sorry for errors and grammatical mistakes (have mercy on me 😉 )

There are lots of rumors on “Social CRM” term and concept all around recently. So many experts are really disappointed by the way it’s evolving all the set of discussions and formal outputs on what can be one of the most profitable market of the last (and future) years. And maybe the fault is ascribable also to big players like Gartner which for the second time publishes a Magic Quadrant report where a melting pot of solutions are blended, covering different aspects of social communication and collaboration framework but forgetting the process-driven one (traditional CRM as we knew till now).

I really don’t understand why this exciting evolution of CRM concept is finding so many troubles on its path and so few support to finally find a defined shape commonly accepted.

Maybe this situation rises from the eternal struggle between strategists and technologists which want to drive the market using their influence but … what’s the result? Still trying to define or design an effective lane towards a convincing solution for customers and companies.

This diatribe could keep on “ad libitum” if we don’t manage to look at Social CRM from high level and more pragmatic perspectives. Who can guarantee that, with all the social tech features available, a company would not focus its CRM efforts only on mere social media marketing campaigns through Facebook page without engaging and serving customers? Or that, with all the good business intentions to engage and serve them, it’s unable to act because of a lack in social tech features. There’s always a strategic perspective and a technological one which must match each other achieving business objectives thanks to the operational capabilities availability.

Strategic perspective

If CRM means building and managing relations with your customer, in other terms the “infrastructure” for value co-creation, now you have the chance to put it pragmatically because the social paradigm, supported by communicative and collaborative platforms, will tear down the walls of silos created by traditional channels that never allowed a real multi-directional interaction and consequent engagement.

But first of all you have to understand that “social media strategy” term is rubbish, it means nothing (IMHO).

There is only ONE business strategy which now have to consider the fact that customers (which have always behaved “socially” being humans) amplified their voice and enriched the conditions they interact each other and with companies (from the awareness phase to the churn or repurchase events). So start by reviewing your business strategy and try to imagine how it evolves considering social paradigm (you can use PEST analysis, SWOT analysis, Porter’s “whatever” model and many more). Don’t create a brand-new, parallel and useless strategy that can overlap or, worse, diverge from the main one.

In this phase it’s fundamental a listening activity to support the analyses: you need to understand how to approach social platform as a valuable channel. No one tells you if it’s more valuable in a specific moment to invest on Facebook or Twitter or a forum, or whatever, if you don’t preliminary observe what’s happening in the social world especially if related – directly or not – to your brand, products, services, industry, etc.

It’s mandatory to have a clear understanding of where your customer expresses his opinions, his social habits, his current and potential global experience. So you don’t have to pull up only to the “communicative” aspect of the social paradigm, but deepen how much it can be helpful to shape customer experience and which are the impacts on operational processes that support it. Because it’s in this phase that you create value; not just opening an account on Twitter and telling a junior employee to answer whenever some question arrives but understanding how to really help, fix, inform, support, suggest, solve, facilitate, assist, etc.

After that you need to turn your head “inside” and understand consequential changes in organizational model, internal communication flows, cross-departmental operations, rules, guidelines and all other aspects that allow a fluent and dynamic business process management.

It’s not easy for sure, it’s not short, it’s not costless too, but you’re obliged to follow this scheme to create the foundation of a new way to relate with your customers.

Technological perspective

Now you should know where you’re going and you need an enabler, a technology that can help you to follow your business strategy. Nowadays there are a lot of diverse proposals around, satisfying different requirements but too often not providing the right level of integration between them. As Gartner reported we just have applications for:

  • social media monitoring and analytics
  • collaboration
  • community management
  • feedback management

but that’s not enough. So, understood that strategy is the prime mover of business (social or not), what I think companies really and practically need now by vendors is to:

  • find a way to catch customer social profiles avoiding (or better mitigating) the risks of ambiguous catch (a sort of deduplication)
  • understand the level of social adoption by your customers (where they are, etc.)
  • create appropriate multiple company social profiles where needed to provide communication channels for each CRM pillar (marketing & communication, customer service, sales, innovation)
  • create, develop and manage a communities that can support CRM activities
  • find the best way to track all interactions, status and related upshots in the contact history in order to satisfy (and manage) a real multi-channel experience
  • integrate (un)structured and multi-sourced knowledge into a unique, dynamic and connected base
  • understand how to use efficiently the social incoming data differentiating them for each CRM pillar (simple keyword filtering for sales and reactive customer service, advanced semantic algorithms to select n-plets of most meaningful words / concepts to be analyzed by proactive customer service, predictive content modeling for marketing, etc.)

It’s not easy for sure, it’s not short, it’s not costless too, but you’re obliged to follow this scheme to create the foundation of a new way to relate with your customers.


Stop-press news: I swear I’ve not read this till 5 minutes ago. I also suggest you to read this fantastic live blog post by Dion Hinchcliffe directly from Dreamforce 2011.


Now, let me know your opinions and comments

Category: CRM, SCRM