The Slow Path to SCRM

In 1991 Siebel introduced the concept of a CRM Suite.  The first complete version came along shortly after, and the first successful, complete implementations were around 1995-1996.

In November of 2007 Oracle, Siebel, and Microsoft announced their first “Social CRM”-aware products, and it was only earlier this year that Paul Greenberg set a working definition for Social CRM.

Did you really think we would have successful implementations by now?

The reality is that SCRM is still a couple of years away.  As deafening as the hype is, we have only recently began to understand what it is that we are trying to build.  Communities existed for some time, but they are just a portion of SCRM.  Feedback Management also existed for quite some time, but, again, also just a small piece of SCRM.  The path to SCRM is going to be as slow as the original CRM  — so what should you do right now?

Three actions to ensure your SCRM success in a couple of years.

1. Education. Social CRM is the company’s response to the client becoming social.  The biggest challenge to its adoption is to make sure that everyone in the organization understands that.  The generational shift we are experiencing takes some years to work through;  generation Y won’t immediately seize control of the world and change the business model.  It will take 5-10 years to become a reality.  Educate executives, employees, and partners in what it means to become social.

2. Piloting. A few years into the CRM “revolution”, after seeing the first failures, we realized that CRM cannot be implemented as a technology, nor can it be done all at once.  The changes that the organization needed to make to their systems, databases, and processes were too large to take on all at once.  The concept of “piece-meal” deployment and leveraging pilots for CRM should be applied to SCRM.  Deploy a couple of communities.  Test what you can do with Twitter, Facebook and other social networks.  Don’t believe the doom-sayers: your company won’t collapse if you get it wrong the first time.

3. Planning. Launching any one tool or technology and expect it to solve the “SCRM Problem” is naive at best.  Organizations that want to succeed at SCRM must develop a strategy to get there.  Determine your reasons for adopting SCRM (as I often tell my six-year-old, “because” is not a valid reason).  Determine the metrics for success. Plan the slow implementation, the education and training, the changes in systems and processes.  Worked for CRM – eventually.

As Prem Kumar wrote in his blog last week, the road to SCRM is long and you have to make sure there are no weak bridges on the way.

What do you think? Am i missing something? Are you already working in your slow path to SCRM? How it is going?

The SCRM Panel: My Notes…

Earlier this week I moderated an SCRM panel for the CIO and IT Executives of the Bay Area meetup group.  We covered all sort of topics in 90-minutes (there is link to the video at the end), and here is my summary.

First, the level of people in the panel was exceptional: Chris Carfi , an exceptional thought leader in the social world, and one of the first ones to recognize the shift in the world from the 1-1 relationship between the organization and the customer to what he called back then the “Social Customer” (this was in 2004); Lyle Fong, CEO of Lithium and one of the most passionate people in the world about communities;  Anthony Lye of Oracle, who is in charge of all Oracle applications worldwide and who founded the precursor to SCRM some 10-odd years ago in the form of ePeople; and Tony Nemelka, one of the pioneers in the field, who co-founded HelpStream.

To me there were three key things to takeaway from this event:

SCRM is real.  We did not bicker about definitions, or where does it sit, or who owns it.  Those are not the the important issues.  The title of the panel was “Is SCRM For Real?”  and the answer was a resounding YES.  We are still in the early adopter stages of the solution and there are great examples everywhere of organizations doing things that are SCRM.  There are almost not two projects alike, and all are very interesting. Alas, most of them go far beyond Twitter and Public Social Networks.  The meat of the solution, it seems, is in adding the Social Channels to CRM and going back to the basics: companies need to make money and they need to listen to their customers.  How to make it all work together?

It is about Signal Attenuation. there is a sensational discussion on signal attenuation (separating the wheat from the chaff, the noise from the and signal), and the reason I am so interested in SCRM.  If you start from the premise that SCRM is an add-on to CRM, and then try to figure out how to extract value from the channel you very quickly get to noise reduction.  We talked about whether Twitter matters or not (it does not, for the most part, as a channel) but we spent most of the time talking about filtering and attenuation techniques as being critical.  Lyle Fong talked about trying to discover value in community posts from among 3 million people as an example.  That is the secret to SCRM success, how to capture valuable data and move it along to CRM so the fourth pillar (Feedback Management) can make sense of it.

The strategy is not to jump in, but to be thoughtful. The bottom line, SCRM is about business.  I know it is shocking, but it it not about the customer.  The customer is one part of the equation, and just jumping in will not make a difference in the long run.  Doing something without a strategy, listening to the customers and do something without knowing what, is not a solution and is definitely not SCRM.  Integrating the SCRM channels with CRM and the rest of the enterprise apps is where companies will create value,  and see the value for SCRM.  Don’t just do it for the sake of doing it, it is expensive and has no value.

My final thoughts: the winning phrase of the evening (and probably the most open to debate) was Anthony Lye trying to determine whether CRM was a “feature or a market”.  I think I can be seen nodding vehemently when he said that, and I like that approach.  You probably already read my post on whether SCRM is a market or not, but I think he clearly threw down the gauntlet on where we stand now and it is up to us to pick up the glove, help move SCRM forward and grow it into a market.

As a side item, everyone in the panel recognize the value of the “accidental community” in Twitter and the discussions we have as very valuable in moving the ball fowrard.  And I agree.

So, who is going to pick up the gauntlet from Anthony? Ia it a passing feature that we are going to end up attaching to CRM solutions?  Or can we build a market around it?

What are your thoughts after watching the video?

Only You Can Prevent Project Failure

Fifty percent of CRM Projects Fail.

Thirty Five Percent of all IT Projects Fail.

Do you know why? Asuret does.

You probably read Michael Krigsman column on ZDNet dealing with failure.  If you can say this without smiling, he knows how to fail.  He also knows how to prevent it.  His company is Asuret and they have created a solution that leverages wisdom of the crowds principles to show you critical project health indicators in a easy-to-navigate platform to  help you avoid, or at least manage, the type of risk that carries failure with it.  I saw a demo a couple of weeks ago, and I am still impressed with what I saw.

You know your employees know more than they are willing to express freely (they may fear for their job, or to hurt someone’s feelings, or to cause political problems, or to expose their own weaknesses, or– you can add your own reasons why here).  In addition, you know that what they are not saying could be the difference between success and failure.  Even though Change and Risk Management programs are designed to manage that risk, not many organizations undertake them;  the ones that do don’t really understand exactly how to use change management efficiently and their half-baked efforts don’t manage all the risk.

Asuret created a solution that collects information from stakeholders in different departments in the company as enterprise IT projects are company-wide initiatives that affect all departments and all people in the company.  Asuret also collects information from the solution providers (consultants or integrators) and vendors if any of them are involved in the project.  Using an electronic questionnaire that takes about 15-20 minutes to get through and all questions are multiple choice.  This questionnaire has some “demographics” information (such as department, job function) but it also has thresholds built in to prevent an answer to become identifiable.  In other words, this is all very confidential and results are only shared with the appropriate people in an anonymous manner.

To build the questionnaire they create a model of the project to reflect the current situation, risks to monitor, and particulars for that specific stage of the project.  Questions are drawn from a question repository with options for different type of projects (e.g. CRM vs ERP) and different stages (e.g. launching vs end of the first stage).  As agile projects change the focus and methodology from stage to stage the questions vary slightly from one stage to the next. These questions are divided across seven key vulnerability areas (these areas came as a result of years of consulting in change management).  See figure 1.

Figure 1 - Key Vulnerabilities Leading to Project Failure

Once they have the questionnaire compiled they write the potential answers for each of the questions – and assign a numerical value to each answer.  (see figure 2 for an example).  The methodology is similar to the one I used when doing Magic Quadrants and Marketscopes – and it is the key to remaining impartial. Doing this allows them to convert the textual answers to numerical values — which is the next critical part of this process.

Possible Answers to Question on Executive Sponsorship
Figure 2 - Possible Answers to Question on Executive SponsorshipT

These questions (under 50, but varies for each project type and stage) are asked of all concerned stakeholders in the company and third-parties associated with the project.  You can probably start to see the value of knowing what everyone in the company – not just the project people – think of management stability.  Aggregating the answers to all these questions we begin to see the chances for the project to succeed.

And that is exactly what the third step does — with a twist.  See figure 3 for more details.

Figure 3 - Rollup of all Answers in Asuret Product

By aggregating the data for each question asked and the importance level assigned to each, and cross-tabbing that with the consensus (i.e. how many people think it is a problem), you get a clear picture of what the stakeholders and associated third parties think of the project, and its chances of success. That by itself is great, but you can also drill down in each score by job function, by department, and basically by any of the demographics you selected when you created the questionnaire.

Can you imagine if you know before you begin the project that IT doubts the executive leadership?  Or that the business stakeholders believe that the vendors are going to be a problem?  Or that the Executives think that the PMO (project management office) does not have the necessary requirements to succeed in the project?

Talk about Change and Risk Management!

This is a path to success in the project.  You know what problems you are going to find, what hurdles, and how to schedule and manage your project accordingly.

I have been in several large projects in my corporate life, both as a consultant as well as a member of the teams.  I can tell you that all this information is what is usually known after the project starts (actually, usually at the point of failure), because the people who know this beforehand did not want to say anything for fear of retribution of getting into trouble.

As I said, only you can prevent Project Failure — but take a look at Asuret to help you there.

What do you think? Interesting enough? Has a chance? Would you use it?

Disclaimer: Asuret is neither a client nor a prospect of mine, and I am not compensated in any way for this post.  As I said before, I only talk about the products I truly believe in and think that would be interesting to the readers.  There is no conflict of interest, no sponsorship, and no relationship with Asuret that has influenced my opinion of their product.  It is just that cool.

What Social CRM means for the IT Department

If he’s not careful, Anthony Nemelka may become the Paul Lynde of guest bloggers. This is his second guest blog post this week and surely not his last.  Anthony is a long-time veteran of the CRM industry, having previously served as a senior executive at both Epiphany and Peoplesoft and most recently co-founder and CEO at Helpstream.

You may have noticed that Esteban’s Social CRM discussion panel scheduled for later today is targeted primarily at CIOs and other IT department professionals. This is the first time I recall seeing an SCRM discussion panel focused primarily on IT professionals.  The Social CRM community has thus far primarily (and rightly) focused on the needs of the customer first and customer-facing business functions second.  But the IT department—particularly in large organizations—continues to be the function primarily responsible for designing, implementing, and managing the business systems required to make things like Social CRM a reality.  Like it or not (and I know that many practitioners in our community do not) appropriately addressing the needs of the IT department is critical to this process.

Though the theme of today’s meeting is “Is Social CRM for Real?”, I suspect that many of the people at today’s meeting will actually be thinking “What exactly is Social CRM and what does it mean to me?”  Of course this question has been asked and answered in a number of blog posts by various members of the SCRM community, but the perspective of the IT department has been largely ignored.  So in preparation for today’s meeting I thought I’d take a pass at trying to explain what Social CRM means from an IT department perspective.

#1  Social CRM represents part of the general trend toward socially-driven business.

From a business systems point of view, becoming a socially-driven business requires that you re-think and re-engineer your business systems and processes in order to take advantage of Web-based social tools, technologies, and concepts.

The general approach is similar to what you’ve done in the past. With each wave of new technology comes a wave of business process innovation. What’s new this time is that getting rid of people is not the goal.  Leveraging people and Web-enabled connectedness is the goal. The people part of the equation is the most critical component now.

#2  Social CRM is different from Enterprise 2.0 in that it’s primarily focused on improving customer engagement.

With Enterprise 2.0 tools the asset being leveraged is employees. With Social CRM the asset being leveraged is the customer.  Done right, Social CRM allows you to do much more than just serve your customers better.  It helps you unlock the power of your customer base to serve the broader needs of your business. Whether that’s helping you identify more sales leads, solve problems for other customers, prioritize product features, identify competitive threats, and so on, it’s about taking an under-utilized asset called the customer and transforming it into an active asset to improve business execution.

The Social CRM toolset broadly enables a) rapid, asynchronous, real-time communication and collaboration, b) social profiles and permission-based access to people and information, c) real-time data solicitation, aggregation, and analysis, and d) assignment and tracking of the activities required to appropriately respond to customers. ROI is measurable and compelling, driven by better and faster decision making and more efficient and effective business operations.

#3  Social CRM is not social media.

Social CRM leverages social media but it’s not a replacement for a social media strategy. Social media are the many-to-many communication vehicles enabled by the Web.  Social CRM, on the other hand, is focused on how you run your business.  Or as explained by Paul Greenberg, the godfather of Social CRM, it is “”the company’s response to the customer’s control of the conversation.”

For most companies, that response today is completely reactive.  A customer has a bad experience, a video about it is posted YouTube, the company feels pain, and people inside the company try to figure out how to respond.

But Social CRM done right enables a response to be delivered in a more automated, predictive, and even anticipatory way. SCRM accelerates the process of communicating, learning, determining appropriate actions, and carrying out those actions. Ultimately, the ability to anticipate—not just react—to customer-related opportunities, needs, and concerns is the disruptive competitive advantage enabled by Social CRM.

#4  Social CRM will definitely impact your IT infrastructure and resources.  The time to plan is now.

New tools are always built on the latest technology platforms. For Social CRM that means the Web. Whether you call it SaaS, On Demand, vendor-managed appliances, or Cloud Computing, you should expect that the tools and technologies for enabling SCRM will be available exclusively on these deployment platforms. If your company has already embraced SaaS and its cousins, you’re in good shape from an infrastructure point of view.

But the biggest impact to your resources will likely be driven by the business process re-engineering efforts required to optimize Social CRM for your business. Each company will have somewhat different requirements and IT infrastructure issues to work through to move from the old way of doing things to the new way. Skill and resource requirements will vary accordingly. Think big, start small, and expand as you experience success. That approach has proven effective time and time again in this type of situation.

So what do you think?  What would you add or subtract from this list?  What else do you think it important for the IT department to know about Social CRM?

The Three Rules for Making Social Marketing Work

John F Moore recently wrote in his blog, and Paul Greenberg concurred, that we need to move beyond just Customer Service for Social CRM.  Today I am privileged to have Allen Bonde write a guest post on Social Marketing.  In case you don’t know Allen, he was the head of his own research group (The Allen Bonde Group) while I was at Gartner (he was one of the few people outside of Gartner that it was OK to read).  We also worked together at eVergance, where he was the CMO, and he is now starting his own consulting firm (EvokeCRM).  He has a well established career as a CMO, and knows more about marketing in the this new world that I would ever care to learn.

As someone who recently completed a stint as CMO (with our esteemed blog host) and is now spinning up a new consultancy focused on the convergence of social media, marketing and CRM, I’ve been thinking a lot about the rules of social marketing (loosely inspired by the “immutable laws” books from Ries and Trout).  I also think that despite the current buzz around cool ways to use Facebook (see the new Vitaminwater app) or Twitter (see Esteban’s Comcast interview) or other social tools to connect with customers, things are getting a bit too “frothy!”  Perhaps businesses and marketers just may want to take a breath and look at not only what works with social media and CRM – but also where it misses the mark.  After all, from a service and sales perspective, social media really is just another channel (mostly!).

So…here’s a starter-set of 3 rules for social media marketing, with more to come.  I’d love your feedback and ideas for additional rules.

1) Social marketing is a cornerstone for Social CRM

It’s not just the marketing of your Social CRM project (still really important).  It’s the marketing potential in SCRM.  If all relationships begin with a discussion – a core belief behind many of the marketing program I’ve created over the past decade – social media is arguably the ultimate discussion starter.  From forums, to reviews, to feedback, social media can “fully activate the brand” as pointed out in a recent post.  But I think it’s even more than that when combined with multi-channel marketing and CRM.  Communities may in fact define your brand.  And your products.  And what makes your products fun or useful or even impossible to live without.  That’s why core aspects of marketing, from targeting to messaging to feedback, need to be in your SCRM efforts from the start.

2) Each social channel has its own persona

This is where the old mantra about brand consistency kind of goes out the window.  The roles a company and its employees (and customers) play on a corporate blog vs. a personal blog, or on Facebook vs. LinkedIn, really are quite different.  The audience in many cases is unique, and the expectations about how personal (or not) the exchange is or what information or offer is being made requires very different tones and even authors.  In other words, each channel (or site) has its own persona.  Take Twitter for example: somewhat friendly, connected to a lot of people, but short attention span.  A great listener, and good source of breaking news, but kind of anonymous (followers are NOT = friends).

3) Social campaigns get better over time – and with more connections

Just as the effectiveness of social networking grows with the size of the network, social campaigns and the “Community Marketing Model” I’ve started to define gets better over time.  Each new post or review offers additional perspectives for the community and potentially additional data points for social search or other analytics tools to capture insights and improve the experience (and kick-out leads).  At the same time, I have found that the effectiveness of social marketing campaigns is improved with more “cross links.” For example, using LinkedIn for promoting regional events has worked well for my team.  Inviting LinkedIn connections to follow us on Twitter for real-time event updates works even better.

What other rules would you suggest?

Master Interviews 4 – Ed Thompson of Gartner on Social CRM

Master Interviews: 1 – Frank Eliason (@comcastcares) talks about justifying SCRM
Master Interviews: 2 – Marshall Lager (@Lager) talks about the Future of SCRM
Master Interviews: 3 – Bob Warfield @BobWarfield) talks about the World of SCRM

In case you don’t know Ed Thompson, he is the Gartner analyst doing research, writing, and presenting on Customer Experience Management.  We wrote a book (well, a long research note) on how to do Customer Experience Management that was one of the most read notes.  He is also one of the few people in the world who can deliver a 45 minutes presentation in almost two hours – and still get  a perfect score.

I asked him his perspective on where SCRM is today, where is going tomorrow, and how to get there.

1. How do you see Social CRM and Customer Experience Management meshing?

Interesting question. I see CRM as having broader goals (eg acquire more customers or cross-sell upsell, or CSAT) and narrower roles (sales, marketing, CSS) than CEM. Social CRM I see as more customer centric than analytical or operational CRM so closer to helping CEM than other forms of CRM projects. Social CRM is key in setting expectations, collecting feedback (community EFM) and in some cases delivering such as customer service with Lithium. So I guess I would say its more aligned with CEM than other forms of CRM projects and technologies.

2. You are exposed to some of the largest organizations in the world and assisting them with their CRM and CEM implementations, are they getting on board the social network integration?

No. Most are wary and most are being very careful as they can see many downsides. In particular many are stuck on how to handle the governance and rules for employees. They know they can’t stop it but if your employee bad mouth’s the company what’s your policy? Some are caught up in discussions with unions, other with regulatory bodies like the FDA and others with their lawyers. So even if the intention is there, the operational aspects have not been ironed out. There are some who are moving ahead aggressively and gaining from it like P&G but the majority are moving ahead tentatively.

3. Is it very different to deploy Social Networks and Communities as new channels for your CEM initiatives?

I view social networks in three types: those inside your org looking at the outside world, those you host as a supplier and those that are independent and in which you can take part like Facebook. Each has a different role in terms of improving the customer experience. The first two are seeing technologies already delivering well with more to come – and are easier to sanction and prove the business case. The independent social networks are being monitored so the org can respond and used for testing of new ideas and products but everyone can see that they have not yet been fully harnessed but equally if you make the wrong move it may be very damaging for the reputation of the firm.

4. Can you share with us two or three of the best practices you recommend your clients embarking on this journey?

A) focus on internal social networks, hosted communities before messing up your image/brand/reputation on independent social networks. Instead experiment with the independent social networks and monitor them closely.

B) accept that the customer does not want to have to come to you, they want you to come to them – that may be on their desktop, phone, email, portal, social network – but only when you have permission. Building your own better website that personalizes better and better will be necessary but not sufficient, you’ll need to fit in with the customer’s environment in order to be trusted

5. What is your vision for Social CRM and CEM in three, five, and ten years?

I’ll look out 10 years. Social CRM will move from 0.1% of CRM application spending to 10% of all spending by then. Still not anywhere near as big as traditional SFA, Campaign Mgmt, Customer Service but vastly bigger spending than today. I don’t think it will be revolution but it will be a big change from today. Personally I think 2020-2030 will see the bigger transformation of CRM applications and processes.

Social CRM or Social Business?

Anthony Nemelka, today’s guest blogger, is a long-time veteran of the CRM industry, having previously served as a senior executive at both Epiphany and Peoplesoft and most recently co-founder and CEO at Helpstream.

When the CRM community first started talking about the potential for using social technologies to improve customer relationship management, the biggest debate was over what we should call it. Kudos to Paul Greenberg for putting that debate to rest and declaring it “Social CRM”. Since then, the Social CRM community has done a great job defining and legitimizing SCRM as a valid business concept–building a robust community of customers, experts, and practitioners along the way.

The debate within our community has since shifted to issues of execution. One of the more interesting debates is whether or not SCRM tools and technologies represent an extension of existing systems and processes or a completely new approach to doing business—a.k.a. a paradigm shift.

Paradigm shifts are tricky things because, by definition, most people don’t see them coming and only recognize them in hindsight. But this question of whether or not SCRM represents a paradigm shift is a critical one, both for the companies developing SCRM related products and solutions and for the companies attempting to deploy them. The wrong bet can mean the difference between dramatic success and complete and total failure.

Software vendors and solution consultants are aligning themselves on both sides of this debate, along fairly predictable lines. Those who have been around for a while tend to see SCRM as an extension to CRM. Those who haven’t been around as long tend to see it as an opportunity to redefine what we mean by CRM. And some of us simply like change and will vote for anything that causes the greatest disruption—you know who you are!

As the co-founder and former CEO of Helpstream, it should come as no surprise that I am a strong advocate for disruptive innovation. Just as the ubiquity of WANs and distributed computing presented a whole new paradigm for business process innovation in the 1990s, the integration of people-process-technology enabled by the Web increasingly requires that companies re-invent how they operate. Those companies that merely extend and modify what they do will be defeated by those that figure out a new and better way. Think Southwest vs. United.

Though customer-facing processes are a great place to start figuring out how to leverage social technologies, I think it’s important to consider what being social means to a much broader set of business challenges. Will there ever be Social ERP, Social HCM, Social SCM, Social BI, etc.?  I continue to be amazed at how many high tech entrepreneurs are figuring out how to leverage Web-based social collaboration and data aggregation to improve just about everything a business does. Will these innovations simply extend and improve existing processes or do they represent a new paradigm that requires a complete re-thinking of how a business should operate?  I suspect it’s the latter.

So what do you think?  Will Social CRM eventually be viewed as an extension of existing CRM or as just one critical component in adapting to the realities of a Web-connected world? Will companies deploy SCRM as a result of thinking “how can we improve customer relationship management?” or will they deploy SCRM as a result of thinking “how can we transform ourselves into a socially-driven business?” The only thing I know for certain is that it will be a very fun ride.

Join Anthony Nemelka, Lyle Fong, Anthony Lye, and Christopher Carfi in a panel discussion moderated by me, Esteban Kolsky, to discuss the future of Social CRM.  Details can be found here:

I Am Not A SCRM Market Expert, I Just Play One On Twitter

If you have been following the #SCRM Accidental Community on Twitter lately you probably have seen my crazy rants against — well, anyone out there who calls SCRM a market, or a technology – or anything other than new channels for CRM.

This post is an attempt to summarize some of those rants and move the stake in the ground  that Paul Greenberg has set (much better than me I might add) so we can move forward.  Having an agreement on what it it and what it’s not makes a great difference in the speed at which we grow.

At the heart of all this is the definition of SCRM as a market.  I spent nearly eight years at Gartner debating markets and whether or not new innovations were them.  I took the lead in the discussions for E-CRM (electronic channels), RT-CRM (real-time), M-CRM (mobile) and just about any other x-CRM you can imagine when they first emerged into the scene.  They all carried great promise and lots of bells and whistles that made them as attractive as glass beads.

And they all failed to deliver the promised revolution. Why?

Great Question.

They failed because they tried to create a market.  Vendors wanted to differentiate themselves from the rest of the market by offering the “original” or “first to market” of that type of software.  Consultants wanted to have the “only methodology” for implementing it.  An IT worker wanted to be the “cool guy” (or gal) to implement it first.  In other words, people’s ambitions got ahead of the capabilities of the moment – and hype killed the cat (sorry, the market).

So, how come they could not define a market?  Another great question (darn, you are on fire today).

A market for enterprise applications is defined (and I am not going to go to the dictionary here) by its key characteristics.  Markets MUST have:

  • sufficient differentiating features to make it independent of other markets
  • the ability to operate independently of other applications (no do-or-die dependencies)
  • an addressable, unique problem that cannot be solved with other applications
  • a revenue projection that will make it worth the time for vendors and providers
  • a business justification, tangible costs and benefits, and in some (OK most) cases an ROI
  • a story that is easy to understand by Sr. Management, Middle Management, and users

Brighter minds than mine prevail in this debate, this is just another brick in the wall.  The following are places where you can get many more details, and where I undoubtedly took inspiration, on what SCRM is and what it means.

Paul Greenberg – Time to put a stake in the ground on Social CRM
Prem Kumar – Social CRM: Some Temporary Definitions
Mitchell Lieberman – Enabling Social CRM is a convergence of Enterprise 2.0 and CRM
Wim Rampen – What a social CRM strategy is all about
Brian Vellure – Social CRM: Overhyped Fad or Transformational Solution

Please comment.  I want to have a good conversation and learn from you.  I know there are holes in my argument.  Find them.

Is SCRM a Market?

Guest Post: A Different Perspective on Customer Experience

This is the first of what will be many different perspectives on Customer Experience.

Today we have a post by a very accomplished brand expert.  He is currently leading his own firm (Brandfields) where he works with leading clients creating brands that connect people and companies.  Prior he was the Creative Director for re-branding UPS and branding Air Canada, as well as several high-profile projects while working with FutureBrand.

He is also my twin brother, Diego Kolsky.

Time to stop promising and start delivering

Despite all the talk about the brand supporting customer-centric relationships, most companies still use their brand as a promise of delivery, and not as the delivery of service itself.

The fact that brand has transcended its long-established roles of reflecting a company’s identity and becoming a platform for integrating communications has been widely accepted. It should be hard to justify then, much less defend, marketing campaigns that use the brand simply to make noise or boast claims. Companies should embrace the larger role brand can play in creating new and richer connections. How?

By expressing a compelling value proposition, not a vision. Many brands are still aimed at communicating a competitive position. Focusing on customers means taking an extra step in understanding how a company’s “strategic advantages” can be used to enable its customers’ aspirations and start a meaningful, rewarding relationship.

By using media to fully activate the brand, not only generate visibility. The speed and scope of change in how people connect with brands demands a thorough evaluation of marketing practices. In a market in which customers see  content as confirmation of value, companies must look at both traditional and non-traditional channels as opportunities to make the brand available, and put it in motion.

By aligning all resources to deliver an experience, not just to sell.  Those that succeed in building relationships understand that the core of their business has expanded to include services and programs aimed to engage customers, and use resources and channels accordingly.

The fundamentals of branding still apply. The best ingredient for building richer and lasting customer relationships resides inside the company, and customers still trust best those that deliver ingenious solutions to their needs with an attitude they can identify with.

What’s changed is the context. Brand is the message, media is the stage and experience is the currency. When working together, they make engaging with customers  the first step to delighting them.

Master Interviews 3 – Bob Warfield on the World of SCRM

Master Interviews: 1 – Frank Eliason (@comcastcares) talks about justifying SCRM
Master Interviews: 2 – Marshall Lager (@Lager) talks about the Future of SCRM

Continuing with the series of Master Interviews, I want to bring you the perspectives of Helpstream’s CEO Bob Warfield.  You probably have read his very eloquent and poignant posts, or seen him promoting their upcoming Webinar with Chasm Theory founder Geoffrey Moore.

Here are his views on Social CRM.

1. Bob, you are the CEO at Social CRM Pioneer Helpstream, and have been there almost from the beginning. I met you two years ago, and the change in the product and the market has been mind-boggling. Can you tell us a little bit about the most interesting trends you have seen in the last couple of years that helped make Helpstream what is today?

Probably the most interesting trend has been the mainstream adoption and the fallout from that (Gee, we havve to make it work and not just be a cool demo), as well as the evolution of best practices that results from real usage.

The early Social software was very much based on consumer software. Consumers don’t care about all the enterprise issues like role-based security, branding flexibility, and integration with existing business systems. A lot of the current market is still burdened by a lack of awareness around these issues, but I can assure you that enterprise customers understand them very well and are less and less tolerant of Social Software that doesn’t address their business needs.

The area of Best Practices is also fascinating. Here again, there is a real dichotomy among the camps– one world wants to reject all process and metrics and argue that not only does Social not need it, but is a better solution without it. Those are largely the first generation. Later generations figured out that you don’t have to rip-and-replace the old, and in fact it can be very detrimental to do so. Those later generations have evolved Best Practices that look less like keeping score in video games and more like traditional Business Best Practices. Their ROI’s are better as a result.

2. You created an ROI model at the time when no one was thinking ROI for SCRM. I am still not convinced it is necessary. Why is the ROI so important in this market?

Often, ROI is just a sales gimmick. You have the “everyone-is-a-winner” carney barker pitch where the prospect fills in the worksheet, and low and behold they can stop the entire rest of their business because the ROI from your solution is so outstanding they shouldn’t bother with anything else.I agree, that sort of thing is not necessary!

For Helpstream, ROI is just a shorthand for “metrics that tell you when you are maximizing your business value.” It’s a diagnostic and management tool, in other words. The right metrics are tremendously important in helping you understand whether you’re getting the desired value from your solution. Your Social CRM solution is no different. It’s going to produce differing results depending on the solution, your strategy, your audience, and your individual Best Practices in using the tool.

We want customers to be able to continuously improve their results, so we built ROI measurement directly into our product. It’s been a wonderful tool, and we’ve evolved a number of new Best Practices by studying the results across our user base. These Best Practices start out being recommendations and are eventually baked into the product.

3. What is your take on Social CRM? Is it here to stay or is it a stepping stone towards something bigger?

Well, of course there is always something bigger, that’s what I love about this whole industry. We’ve hardly scratched the surface of what computers and software can do for us.

That said, Social CRM is here to stay. It’s been through the right cycle of revolution and is now engaged in evolution. Soon, it won’t even be the shiny new thing! That’s when the real work begins and the real value is delivered.

It is an answer to the evolution the customer-vendor relationship itself has gone through. CRM started out not as “Customer Relationship Management” but as a “Command and Control” system for sales. In an era where the customer has seized control, it’s time to put the relationship part back into CRM. That’s the role of Social CRM. I like the moniker too because it isn’t as hype-y sounding (or as likely to be dated) as all the “2.0” labels.

Social CRM is here to stay.

4. What is the most important best practice or lesson learned that you can relate to your prospects and customers?

First, you don’t have a choice. Your customers are already Social. You can keep being anti-social, or you can engage. They don’t care. They’re in control.

Second, you don’t have to be afraid of Social. It isn’t about the technology, it’s about the people. Everything we do with Social Software has a bricks and mortar face to face analog. Jump in and start swimming—the water’s fine!

5. Do you have a prediction for the next 2-3 years both for the company as well as the market?

Market prospects are excellent. The megatrend is well underway and we’re having a blast surfing that wave. As I said, we’ll shortly be leaving the shiny-new-thing phase, rolling up our sleeves, and actually treating this as the normal way to do business instead of the avant-garde. It starts with Customer Service, which we view as the “on-ramp” to build your community, but it will touch marketing, sales, and every aspect of your customer experience.