Don’t Let Social CRM Become New Buzzword

What happens when you combine a new buzzword (“social”) with an old buzzword (“CRM”)? You get the opportunity to waste money in entirely new ways.

Many CRM projects failed because they focused on the implementation of technology, not on the core needs of the business. Social CRM has the same potential. That’s why one of the 7 keys to customer experience that I listed in CRM Magazine was “Don’t get too distracted by social media.”

Am I recommending that companies stay away from social media? Absolutely not. Firms definitely need to tap into peer-to-peer and community-centered interactions. But they should focus on a few applications that match their business strategy. If you’re wondering about the spectrum of options, Altimeter Group has posted a list of 18 use cases for social media.

Here are the top social media projects that I recommend for companies (when it comes to customer experience):

  • Social support. Find ways to encourage and enable customers to help other customers; especially when there is significant technical support required. Blend your support people into the dialogue where needed and repurpose good advice into knowledge items that can be repurposed in other channels.
  • Feedback communities. Create online communities of your key customer segments so that you can regularly get feedback on everything from product development ideas to the language used for marketing campaigns. Make sure to actively manage the community.
  • Active listening. Monitor social outlets for early warning of issues and to get deeper insights into problems that you find through other listening posts. Handle this insight as part of a comprehensive, cross-channel voice of the customer (VoC) program.

The best way to defend yourself against negative social media feedback is to give customers a good experience to begin with. This lowers the number of people who might say something bad about you and motivates other customers to come to your defense if they do.

The bottom line: Social CRM represents opportunity, but not a panacea

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I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

13 thoughts on “Don’t Let Social CRM Become New Buzzword”

  1. Great article, Bruce. “CRM” is a term most often used by vendors and their customers who are trying to manage their Sales, Marketing and Customer Support functions. I don’t often hear consumers using the term “CRM.” When a vendor designs applications to improve customer experiences AND puts the consumer at the heart of the experience (e.g. how does a consumer want to interact with you), they have a much better chance of designing an application that creates a good experience. So, what experiences matter to customers? I think it’s a good Web Experience, Contact Center Experience, and Social Experience. And when it comes to the social experience, organizations need to engage their customers in the communities where the customers and conversations and comments are already taking place, or they need to create communities for customers where these interactions take place. Your three recommendations for social media projects – social support, feedback communities, and active listening – are great initiatives more companies will need to consider. Those who don’t are missing out on ways to create value for their customers.

  2. Bruce,

    Good warning and well heeded. I have similar concerns.

    Your list here is a great place to start and the Altimeter Use Case paper is an excellent framework for discussion and identification of opportunities, but it is still mostly focused on the implementation of technology.

    In order to effectively leverages the societal and technological changes:

    Companies MUST align their entire existence around helping their customers accomplish what they are trying to do.

    The debates about E20, Social CRM, Social Business, and corresponding terms and definitions are largely irrelevant. In short, organizations must know their customers (based upon more than simple transactional data), partner with their customers, and align their ENTIRE value delivery chain around helping their customers meet their needs as quickly and effectively as possible. This is my charge to the C-Suite.

    Remember that Customer Experience trumps everything:

    Companies must map their customer experience. Focus your attention on accentuating your strengths while improving your troubled spots. Your customers will pay more, evangelize more, and stay longer if you are able to execute.

    Sincere regards,
    Brian

  3. I would suggest that creation of Feedback communities may not be a good investment as it will always represent only one of many channels for customers to communicate about your products or services. The beauty and the challenge of “social” is in an ability for customers to communicate where they want to, and not where it is convenient and economical for the company. Any attempt to manage these streams may backfire and create very negative reaction. Customers are tired of being manipulated and if company attempts to provide an incentive to participate, they deflate the quality of feedback they try to collect and learn from.
    The best approach is to listen to customers wherever they choose to speak and if “Know how to listen, and you will profit even from those who talk badly.” -Plutarch

  4. Let’s leapfrog this CRM and Social CRM discussion and go directly to the heart of the matter with VRM. After all, CRM is still an incarnation of the sun revolving around the earth. True customer control requires a VRM like solution; and irrespective of how much ‘social’ you pour into CRM, it is still a company perspective of reality.

  5. @chris, you know better than to be that much of a cynic! And while Chris and Marc are right that VRM is probably the end state, that doesn’t mean that social support doesn’t value along the way.

    (Ahem) My definition of social support is: “Service and support offerings where voluntary customer actions meaningfully change the customer experience for other customers—either directly in support, or indirectly in the rest of the whole product.”

    Anyhow, this is really different from, “we’re creating cases from Twitter; we’re so cool.” This is acknowledging the reality that most support is social, even though our case tracking systems don’t know about it. And it’s figuring out how to help enable and measure it, rather than considering it as some X factor.

    That’s worth working on, however imperfectly.

    Best,
    David

  6. Right on Bruce – and even so we are one of those (introducing Social CRM system this week), I fully support your warning signals. Any system and Social CRM is no different is like giving a chain saw to a 10 year old:
    – If that ten year old has a clear need to cut down some tree
    – Is well trained not only in how to hold the saw but where to cut the tree
    – Has an understanding how the thing works
    – And use it to cut a tree and not just because he want’s one
    Even a chain saw can be a great asset to that ten year old. Otherwise disaster striking is rather probable.

    And like Chris said – the train left the station. sCRM is already a buzz word and it will become much more. But rather stopping the unstoppable – I guess it is all our responsibility to help those who jump on it, understand what they are jumping on.

    Axel
    http://xeesm.com/Axels
    (my personal social map)

  7. A note on VRM vs. CRM. Isn’t it just moving the discussion from one end of the spectrum to the other. Brian Solis stated once “Take the C out of SCRM” – meaning you end of with Social Relationship Management. We are all customers of somebody else and we are all vendor to somebody else – one way or the other. We all have a need to handle our social relationships to the people we care about in the best possible way. And if we are true to that thought – it doesn’t matter if the other is a Customer, an Alliance Partner, a market influencer or a vendor.

    However our consciousness also resonates with our reason of existence and if that is a channel manager I’d rather have a tool that speaks to me (PRM) and if I manage my vendor relationship I’d rather use a VRM…WRM (whateverRM)… and so forth.

    I guess what we need to consider is fusing them together where meaningful and leaving them dedicated where required.

  8. Good article Bruce. Anybody can build and deploy social media capabilities. However the bigger question is “how is social medial serving the company’s overall strategy?”. Information should be collected only if something is going to be done with it. Targeted communities are an excellent way of learning about the customer and improving the experience based on the knowledge gained from the dialog. However, if nothing is being done with the information then the company has introduced more risk to their organization.

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