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.