Holiday rant: SocialCRM, the latest xLA

Holiday rant: SocialCRM, the latest xLA

Summary: SocialCRM...groan...not another xLA designed to sell more technology. Yet that seems to be the way it is going. I want a complete CRM reboot.


I remember when CRM was coined to reflect the growth of Siebel as the market driver. At the time I wondered who dreams these TLAs up and what goes on behind closed doors to negotiate the best way to spin a tech category. OK - so it's mostly Gartner.

Prior to we'd had ERP: Enterprise Resource Planning as the validator of SAP's mashup between MRP and accounting. It sounded way cooler than anything else at the time. In turn, Customer Relationship Management sounded more sexy than what it really was: sales force automation that evolved to encompass field service and call center. Almost nothing of the technology that sits behind the definition has/had anything to do with managing relationships with customers. At least not from where I am sitting.

Fast forward and customers are still bemoaning the little things that would demonstrate that business does want technology that helps it better understand customers. In my own case, why don't airlines with which I travel frequently retain my passport details? Why when I re-enter Spain on the same airline I've flown for years do I have to re-register the same information. It's annoying. Now I hear Sameer Patel trotting out a tale of woe on his experiences with Dell:

CRM is a mess. Internal departments are not sharing my customer profile to appreciate my historical allegiance to the organization. OEM partners who had to collaborate to have the slightest chance at winning my business are not sharing data amongst themselves. Even when they know that keeping me as a long term customer is predicated on them both serving me equally well. As organizations, we just don’t have a handle on how to use what we already know about the customer.

I bet that story could be repeated a thousand times across a thousand different companies who all claim they want to get closer to the customer when in reality they just want to sell more 'stuff.' It's BS, it's Sameer suggests, it's the stuff of migraines.

And now we have SocialCRM. Puhleeeeease. Rescue me from this alphabet soup of mealy mouthed nonsense.

Sameer tries bravely to figure a way out with appropriate references to Paul Greenberg's treatise on the topic and the freshly minted Gartner SCRM MQ but even he seems to give up saying:

Failing house cleaning on existing CRM design and decisive use of Social data as part of that revamp, we’ll just have glorified community forums that no doubt look far more sexier than forums of yore, but don’t mean much when it comes to tacking large scale operating and growth objectives of organizations.

Hooray - someone finally says it. CRM is a crock and no amount of slapping it will solve the problems. Darned right. Unless we want to call it what it really feels like: SMS or Sell More S%*t. So let's start from basics.

Instead of worrying fretfully about whether Jeff Jarvis Dell Hell is a line in the sand denoting the start of socially mediated temper tantrums, whether the Facebook flashmobs really impact Nestlé's decision making or whether you really are going to have a voice in the design of the next Apple product (nooooo - don't go there), how about recognizing that in a world of abundance what we all want is s-e-r-v-i-c-e first.

Instead of monitoring the effectiveness of sales messages inserted into the Twitterstream how about recognizing that the customer is sick of being sold to and just wants stuff that works? When it doesn't work or where there's an issue, how about fixing busted processes instead of sugar coating or offering throw away alternatives? Or booting employees who do nothing wrong except point up silliness. That would be a good use of social computing.

I doubt I'll see a concerted effort in that direction anytime soon. Unless...the companies looking at SocialCRM start to recognize they have a lot of things to fix in order to create the sustainable businesses we're being implored to develop.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Software

Dennis Howlett

About Dennis Howlett

Dennis Howlett is a 40 year veteran in enterprise IT, working with companies large and small across many industries. He endeavors to inform buyers in a no-nonsense manner and spares no vendor that comes under his microscope.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: Holiday rant: SocialCRM, the latest xLA

    I actually had a client that did really care about their customers. from the early 80's to the early 90's I did a lot of consulting to the various companies of the United Telephone System (which eventually merged with Sprint and has since been spun off again as Embarq). They were passionate about customer service. They rewarded employees who went out of their way for customers. They had a newsletter about employees who rescued people from fires or babies from drowning. If a lineman was nearby and a customer's cat got caught in a tree, they'd go get it. When a storm took the lines out, they would mobilize every resource, their own and contractors, working 24/7 to restore service. It was an important creed. Frankly, I was proud to have them as a client.

    Obviously, they were the exception. I have no idea what it would take to move an existing culture to one like theirs. I suspect part of it was that they were a regulated utility and as such, didn't have that much to "sell" their customers.

    -Neil Raden
    twitter: neilraden
  • You're on the button ...

    In my experience, customer focus came from culture first, people second, systems third. And were a number of examples - though they were mostly in the 80's and 90's. Is there a theme at play?

    ... Although, we do have an example of Facebook creating a Metallica concert in Christcurch New Zealand through fans using facebook and other methods to raise attention



    good one
  • Social will kill "Social CRM"

    It's ironic that the social media itself, which is a kind of sunlight on the b.s. that used to go unchallenged in the 1.0 days, will probably kill the term "Social CRM." Because it seems clear that, despite Gartner's attempt to spin in into a $billion market and others promoting its ability to make water into wine, that there is no agreement on what it means. But like all good buzzwords, it doesn't really matter. So long as companies are willing to spend $$ on SCRM, it's all good.

    My study in mid-2011 found general agreement (among business managers) that SCRM means using social media to support external relationships, and most also believed it would involve integration with existing CRM systems. But what really concerned me was the "irrational exuberance" about expected SCRM benefits. Which led me to write "2011: The year when 80% of Social CRM projects will #fail ..."