Social CRM needs more than a CRM approach

Ross Mayfield recently published a fundamental post about “social CRM“. The statement of fact is simple : 1% of customer’s conversations improve the organizational knowledge, 9% touch the organization without changing anything and 90% are not heard at all, businesses miss an impressive source of possible improvemens. I’m not meaning 100% of these conversations are valuable but harnessing only 1% of them is a real risk. At this point, the question is not to know how to take this conversations into account but, first of all, to be able to join them and participate. Even the stupidest conversation may be of some interest since not paying any attention to it can be seens as disdain. More, statisticians would tell that if businesses want to harness the conversations that can bring real opportunities, they also have to pay consider the less intereting ones : we’re talking about a domain where, if one aims at excellence, he has to accept a high variability, what is the opposite of the beliefs most our business processes rely on.

Those who’d look into this subject because they have a traditional CRM issue may suffer from vertigo : it’s about CRM…but also many more things at the same time. As Ross writes, it’s impossible to change the way a business considers and implements its customer relationship management without changing the way people actually operate inside the company. Knowing how hard it is to change things internally, the point of deciding what has to be changed first (internally or externally), one pushing the other, can be discussed. But the fact is both are needed and that they are the two sides of an only project.

CRM has always been a well defined subject, with clear borders. And the said borders will inevitably collapse. It’s been used to manage a sales pipe and, once the client signed, to manage deception. But if we assume that busineses now have to adopt an active approach to conversations with and between clients, the challenge is much wider. Consummers, who have been used to be taken for a ride for ages, between marketing illusions and deceiptive promises, do not only expect businesses to hear and listen to them. They want actions and change. Of course, explaining things and strenghtening ties matters, but it’s only placebo if it does not bring any change.

If one want things to really change, the social CRM approach has to be connected to the innovation process and, even more, to the whole chain that  starts with ideation and ends with implementation, whether the final result is a new product, an improvement, a new positoning etc… What is, a the beginning a domain that’s reseved to a defined number of people / departments becomes a transverse process that must involve people that are not used to working together, indeed not to listen to anyone outside of their own walled garden when they need to decide anything. It’s easy to undersant that if we want social CRM to deliver its full poential, we have to go far beyond CRM or change its definition and scope. Essential, but not easy at all.

At first sight, it seems that aligning things that used to be disconnected like marketing, innovation, quality is a key issue. But it may lead to a sequence of independant activities that may not be flexible and where endless talks and internal fights for power may ruin the whole process. So it’s rather about merging all these things, making them become an only transverse flow. Plus, it would help to make enough sense to make things work at both operational and financial levels.

So, social CRM seems to be about revisiting the whole value chain to include  new stakeholders. And businesses will have to learn that marketing, innovation, quality management, customer care…are not separate activities but the different sides of a unique one.

chaine de valeur, conversations, CRM, crowdsourcing, Innovation, marketing, process, qualité, social crm


Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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