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Chris Is Social CRM a Fad?

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 By Chris Bucholtz

Social CRM as a fad, flavor of the month, or tough to achieve innovative business strategy

There's no shortage of discussion of whether Social CRM is a fad, flavor of the month, or if this social media applied to CRM concept has "jumped the shark," as social media/social CRM guru Denis Pombriant posted. Denis might be closest to business reality; the term "Social CRM", often abridged to SCRM, has been debated long enough that there's a backlash brewing (although social CRM advocates have done nothing so completely desperate as to officially indicate the sunset of the term). But anyone who thinks the business concepts describing the term Social CRM are passé are deluding themselves. The fact that your company may not be ready to internalize new ideas is not a valid reason to pooh-pooh new ideas, or other innovation, and that's true with social CRM.

I believe there are at least two factors behind the Social CRM backlash. First, many companies are still grappling with the essentials of basic Customer Relationship Management strategies and supporting CRM software systems. Even without the "social" in front of it, Customer Relationship Management is a daunting business discipline to implement and sustain. It's not an IT project, although a lot of organizations reduce it to that and unfortunately set the stage for subsequent disappointments. Customer Relationship Management is a company-wide business strategy, or maybe a philosophy, that involves not just getting the CRM software right but also getting your customer facing business processes and the attitudes of your employees right. Those last two ingredients are much more difficult than just implementing CRM software – and Social CRM requires you to add even more complexity to that aspect of the Customer Relationship Management equation. That's somewhat intimidating – and I think it's led some business and IT people to write off or delay Social CRM as a result.

The other reason for an apparent backlash against Social CRM is that there are no "Social CRM" software products to achieve the mission. You just can't buy a software product from a vendor and suddenly achieve the advantages ascribed to Social CRM. Again, this follows the CRM-as-IT myth; the reality is that Social CRM will manifest itself in different ways for different companies, making it pretty tough for software vendors to craft a one-size-fit-most Social CRM suite that actually delivers strategic and sustained benefits for its customers. In some eyes, the lack of software products means there's a lack of validity for the concept.

Both these takes are understandable, but they'll ultimately prove unforgivable for business leaders. Social CRM is going to manifest itself as a competitive advantage – not because a software vendor delivered a sprawling, Social CRM omnibus suite that can do everything but because forward thinking companies will seek out the right tools to work with their customers and derive customer intelligence from those interactions that allow them to spot hidden opportunities, grow customer relationships, and subsequently grow their companies. Of course this topic is complex, but your customers are themselves complex people. As they gain new found power in the relationship, it makes sense that the equation is shifting.

Sticking to what's easy for you and your company is business-centric thinking. So is dismissing the fact that the customer now controls the conversation. As thought leader Paul Greenberg laments, Social CRM is business's response to the customer's ownership of the conversation. You might think the jargon of Social CRM has passed its expiration date, but you're well served to recognize the reality of what that jargon signifies. Otherwise, I fear it may be your company that's jumped the shark. End

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Comments (5) — Comments for this page are closed —

Guest Bruce Harrison
  I think part of the reason for the market place skepticism is the lack of legitimate Social CRM experts and consultancies that offer Social CRM professional services to help companies out.
  Denise Denise Holland
    I think you've identified a big contributing factor. I find it ironic that the single greatest Social CRM expert, Paul Greenberg, doesn't proclaim himself to be an expert on the topic - although the industry at large clearly recognizes him to the social CRM thought leader. In Paul's case, I believe his position is reflective of his deep humility and belief that much more learning is required on this topic. To the other extreme, I'm always amazed as to the number of self-proclaimed Social CRM experts. As another social CRM thought leader, Denis Pombriant, commented, there may be a direct relationship between the number of social CRM experts and the number of laid off marketing and PR people from the tech sector. Denis goes on to suggest that maybe were in need of some clarification of core ideas and clear determination of what is and is not part of the social CRM movement. Similarly, I think many of the large system integrators such as Accenture, IBM, and Deloitte, which enthusiastically embraced and built global consultancies around CRM software systems, have found social CRM less profitable, and therefore less exciting, as there isn't a combination of business strategy and business software systems which offer large dollar consulting projects. This will change somewhat over time as software vendors release innovative products and better merge social CRM tools into traditional CRM software systems.

Guest myscopic
  There's little reason to delay in social CRM or social media, especially from the marketing department. The speed and reach of online word of mouth is unmatched for those companies which take advantage. Social media marketing empowers smart companies to dramatically increase their message distribution and develop brand advocates which in turn further propagate the messaging. Like any outreach program it has to be done right. But failure to implement such a program will clearly put you behind competitors which don't incur the same delay.

Guest Jonas Jameson
  Do you consider social CRM to be more of a process or a software technology?
  Denise Denise Holland
    Just as with traditional customer relationship management, social CRM is a business strategy supported by software tools and automation. Reference the most recognized definition of social CRM for a more thorough understanding.


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Social CRM (SCRM) is complex to understand, challenging to implement and difficult to measure – causing some to question the legitimate upside of this business opportunity and give delay to advancing customer focused initiatives. However, when forced to recognize a change in customer relationships, as a consequence of a change in the customers control of the conversation, business leaders can continue to lie behind the difficulties, or seek competitive advantages over those laggards.


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