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Business - Written by on Thursday, August 13, 2009 10:16 - 4 Comments

Social CRM – rescuing CRM from its hijacking

As the Web 2.0 movement began to penetrate into the enterprise several years ago, customer engagement immediately became an interesting application point of this new technology. In recent weeks, starting with Paul Greenberg moving the debate on Web 2.0 and customer engagement forward by putting a stake in the ground on the name – Social CRM (and a tactical win for Oracle), the discussion on Social CRM has really lit up.

Perhaps this is because customer engagement appears to be the quickest path to value for the enterprise with Web 2.0 technologies … a point we at nGenera believe in given our investment in the Customer Interaction Management (CIM) space with our Talisma acquisition, a CIM application suite we have been transforming to a Social CIM suite.

I have always felt that the term Customer Relationship Management (CRM) was hi-jacked in the client/server days of enterprise software – where the value proposition was focused on internal efficiencies and automating transactional processes. Paul Greenberg highlights the evolution of CRM in his post, which also highlights the fact that the influential Enterprise Irregular group is also now fueling the Social CRM discussion.

In Ross Mayfield’s post, he highlights the fact that the tip of the iceberg is about all we’ve seen so far on Social CRM. Notably, he shares data from the Consortium for Service Innovation (CSI) which highlights that 90% of customer conversations never touch the enterprise. These “unknown unknowns” are now possible to know. Why? While the customer always had a voice, the customer’s distribution capability was limited … she could tell her friends, family and colleagues, and if daring enough try to navigate the labyrinth of the company contact center. Today, with Twitter, Facebook and other communities and social networks, the customer’s voice is amplified in a massive way … to hundreds or thousands at once, and then exponentiated by friends amplifying to their friend networks, and so on. Customers are now demanding that their voices be heard and companies can no longer ignore this desire / need for engagement.

The Social CRM movement has the potential to re-claim the term CRM for its real purpose – engaging customers and driving a virtuous cycle of value for the customers, company and shareholders. In fact, in my recent post Unbundling the 20th Century Mindset, I refer to this Social CRM/CIM movement as a case example of the opportunity for enterprises that embrace collaborative business processes and the supporting Web 2.0 technologies for these processes.

Social CRM is not a transaction automation effort, and it does not throw away the investment companies already have made in Transactional CRM; rather it builds on top of it. The contact center does not go away, but it and its infrastructure gets leveraged. As Vinnie Mirchandani notes here, it’s more about engaging customers quickly when they need / want it, and proactively handling situations before they get out of control. Effective integration of collaborative management processes with the contact center and the important workflow capabilities that exist there today is key.

For example, while a sales team manages a sales cycle effort in a Transactional CRM system, many others participate in bring a deal to fruition and a lot of effort and collaboration goes into the effort. Social CRM would bring a collaborative capability on top of Transactional CRM to allow the legal team, partners and even the prospect to collaborate on the sales cycle to bring the deal to a close. At nGenera, we have an application called Wikiforce that does this connected to Salesforce.com.

More critically, Social CRM is proactive and it does drive productivity improvements for the enterprise. It is proactive, in that it enables the people within the company (not just the support staff, but also the marketers, engineers, product managers, etc.) to proactively find and engage customers where they are engaging on the web about the company. This may be on Facebook, Twitter, Industry communities, or other social networks.

nGenera bet over a year ago that Social CRM would be a key beachhead in the effort for enterprises to transform themselves into the era of collaborative management. I’m glad to see the discussion and interest in this area heating up. What are your thoughts … is Social CRM real, and a true catalyst in the collaborative management movement, or is it just another overhyped technology movement?


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Naumi Haque
Aug 14, 2009 10:49

Great post Brian. What really fascinates me about the Social CRM movement (I’ve decided to call it that now since it has been branded) is the tremendous amount of customer data that is now available to the enterprise. You mention the 90% of data that is generated at non-touchpoints, but even the data generated in the contact center is under-used. The idea that companies are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on market research when customers are – sometimes quite literally – screaming at them with feedback does seem ridiculous. The emerging model is definitely one where companies are engaging with customer in the contact center and online and then capturing the data from those interactions to derive new customer insights.

I started researching this shift over a year ago in the contact center (see http://www.wikinomics.com/blog/index.php/2008/07/20/wikinomics-in-call-centers-part-ii/ ), and am now looking at new tools and technologies that help companies mine customer opinions online (using sentiment analysis) and even mine customer behaviors in the real world. What I’ve found is that that the contact center applications of Social CRM are extremely valuable for customer engagement purposes, but the real untapped value is the ability to analyze aggregate customer data and share that information across the enterprise for market research, product development, competitive intelligence, and even continuous strategy.

Brian Magierski
Aug 14, 2009 13:42

Naumi – thanks for your comment and link to your past posts. I’m re-reading them see the alignment in thinking.

I completely agree with your viewpoint on the analytics, and with the expansion of customer commentary outside of the contact center, it will become even more critical. This data (inside the contact center and out) is powerful for feeding product / service development and design, strategy, etc.

Greg Y (@piplzchoice)
Oct 7, 2009 18:09

Brian and Naumi,

Just came across of this post.

I am also fascinated with the fact that such a wealth of potential insight is being wasted. However there are some Customer Experience Management practitioners who deny value of data acquired from social media and insist that information distilled from these sources is dangerous. Personally I am in violent disagreement, but I am biased being in business of mining sentiments.

Naumi Haque
Oct 8, 2009 15:56

Hi Greg, if you’re interested, I’ve posted an update on Wikinomics with some of my additional thinking on how social media and sentiment analysis might fit into CRM (http://www.wikinomics.com/blog/index.php/2009/10/07/a-future-vision-of-crm/). Looks like Amplified Analytics is thinking about this stuff too – I’d be interested to hear how you guys envision CRM integration in the future.

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