Time to Put A Stake in The Ground on Social CRM

The debate and discussion about what defines Social CRM a.k.
Written by Paul Greenberg, Contributor

The debate and discussion about what defines Social CRM a.k.a. CRM 2.0 vs. its traditional parent has been going on for about 2 years pretty regularly and started, according to thought leader Graham Hill almost a decade before that.

Personally, I'm done defining it and am moving on.  I think enough time has been spent trying to decide what we're calling it and what it is.  I think that we've reached the point that though there is no one point of view, there is a general idea of what we have.  So this post, which will be on ZDNET and PGreenblog is my stake in the ground for the definition of Social CRM.   If anyone asks me what the definition is, they are going to be referred to this post on either blog. I'm putting it on both blogs, but it has implications for each blog that are somewhat different. Check toward the end of the post where I'll discuss how I'm going to approach each one.

Also, for this post, I still will welcome comments and discussion on the definition if you want. But I'm really ready personally to move on.


First, there seems to be a consensus on the definition already. We all agree on its general characteristics. We see it as the use of social and traditional CRM tools and processes to support a strategy of customer engagement.  Or some permutation of that.

Second, there's too much other work on Social CRM to do.  Its time to start figuring out and documenting the business models, policies, practices, processes, social characteristics, applications, and the methodologies that we need to actually carry it out.  There is some great work going on in those Social CRM areas already with folks like Graham Hill, Denis Pombriant, Thomas Vander Wal, Brent Leary, Prem Kumar, Chris Carfi, Bill Band, Natalie Petouhoff, Mike Fauscette, Michael Maoz and Ray Wang, among others (please forgive me if I didn't mention you. There are many others).  But we need to create a repository for all this work - and an institution that can represent it agnostically. Right now, the body of practice out there is all over the place.  Even with this, the work on Social CRM's "how" needs a dramatic escalation now.

So, I'm providing one last aggregate look at what I see Social CRM to be.  When the 4th edition of CRM at the Speed of Light comes out, you'll see a lot of the what and how in that nearly 800 pages. This is the condensed - black hole condensed - version of that.

I hope that I'm reflecting the consensus. If not, I'm sure the discussion will go on. But as far as I go, I'm interested in the more substantive discussions on what we actually have to do - not how it differs from traditional CRM nor what we're talking about when it comes to "social" and whether or not we are going to call it CRM 2.0 or social CRM.

My Take On It

Okay, here's my take on Social CRM's definition.

  1. I'm conceding to "Social CRM" as the term of choice, rather than CRM 2.0. If ZDNET will let me, I'll change the name of the blog to "Social CRM: The Conversation"  CRM 2.0 has been a placeholder at best and obscuring at worst - it doesn't reflect the customer's control of the business ecosystem all that well.  Social CRM is a better, though not great, reflection of what we're talking about.  Let's use the acronym of the Twitterverse group for it - SCRM or sCRM. I don't care which.
  2. The customer controls the business ecosystem and the conversation, but not the business a.k.a. company a.k.a. enterprise itself.  What that means is that while customers have much greater control over their destinies in how they interact with businesses, make no mistake about it, they don't run the business, nor does the business have to concede everything to the customer.
  3. What this means is that SCRM is an extension of CRM, not a replacement for CRM. Its a dramatic change in what it adds to the features, functions and characteristics of CRM but it is still based on the time honored principle that a business needs its customers and prefers them profitable and that same business needs to run itself effectively too.
  4. The transformation that's sparked the need for Social CRM seems to have occurred in 2004. It has been a social revolution in how we communicate, not a revolution in how we do business per se. All institutions that humans interact with have been affected by things like the cellphone/smartphone, the new social web tools and the instant availability of information in an aggregated and organized way that provides intelligence to the person on the street, not just the enterprise.
  5. Part of that transformation affects how we trust and thus who we trust. Since 2004, "someone like me" is the most trusted source, not businesses, NGOs, government agencies or corporate leaders.  That means that peer trust is how influence and impact germinates and then propagates most effectively - at least as of now.
  6. The lesson for business, in terms of Social CRM is that we are now at a point that the customers' expectations are so great and their demands so empowered that our SCRM business strategy needs to be built around collaboration and customer engagement, not traditional operational customer management.
  7. We've moved from the transaction to the interaction with customers, though we haven't eliminated the transaction - or the data associated with it.
  8. Businesses still need to run their operations, set goals that are cognizant of what the customer wants and needs, but not determined by that.  They need to map their goals and objectives to the customers' goals and objectives  to make it work for all concerned.
  9. That means that we need to recognize that there is an extended enterprise value chain which consists of the company, its suppliers, vendors and agencies that the enterprise has to deal with. There is a separate "personal value chain" which is the total greater than the sum of its parts of what an individual customer needs to achieve whatever their personal agenda is.
  10. For the company to succeed, since they cannot control the personal value chain of the customer, nor should they want to, they can only provide what the customer needs to satisfy that part of the customer's personal agenda that is associated with their enterprise.  That means products, services, tools and experiences that allow the customer that satisfying interaction.
  11. The intersection of the extended enterprise value chain and the customer's use of part of his personal value chain to satisfy that personal agenda creates the possibility for a collaborative value chain that engages the customer in the activities of the business sufficiently to provide each (the company and the customer) with what they need from the other to derive individual and mutually beneficial value.
  12. That means that transparency and authenticity become more than buzzwords because in order for the customer to make intelligent decisions on how they are going to interact with the company and the level of that interaction, they need that visibility and honesty from the company.
  13. That also means that the companies need to make the decision that its a good thing to allow the customer to have that increased level of knowledge, access and honesty - it can help the company immensely in their engagements with their customers. That's a cultural issue that has to be resolved for Social CRM to work.
  14. If these aforementioned conditions are met,  the customer is afforded the ability to co-create by the company. What that means is not all that pat. It can mean anything from customers and the company collaborating on product development, to customer suggestions on how to improve a company process, to customers helping other customers solve customer service issues, to even doing what gamers do and modifying game play using tools for scenario creation which adds value to the game. Co-creation is the ability of the company and customer to create additional value for each other - what form it takes is not always THE BIG THING.  But co-creation, mutually derived value, is at the core of SCRM.
  15. SCRM differs from Enterprise 2.0 though is integrally related to it. Enterprise 2.0 is organized around increasing the productivity of the workforce in all that it does utilizing new collaborative tools to do so. It uses those tools to aggregate and organize information and systems.  However, though different, Enterprise 2.0 is integrally related because part of that improvement in productivity increases the effectiveness of employee-customer interactions.  It also increases the company's ability to capture useful information and knowledge about customers, not just boatloads of data. But what it doesn't do is provide avenues for the customers to engage themselves with the company. That's not its purpose. That is the purpose of SCRM.
  16. SCRM also changes the nature of what kind of customer is optimal for you. Rather than aiming at a satisfied customer (an increasingly useless metric) and even rather than thinking that a loyal customer is your best customer, your objective should be to create advocates and settle for loyal customers.
  17. How you measure customer value changes when you're thinking about SCRM. Rather than just Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) - which reflects the direct financial value of a customer to a company over the life of his relationship to that company, think too about Customer Referral Value (CRV) which measures how valuable influential customers are when they tell others about your company, not just promise to.
  18. When you look at the SCRM applications out there - there are no actual SCRM suites, no matter what the claims of any company on either the CRM or social tools side.  What you do have are effective and important applications that increase the ability of employees to interact with customers - though they are not tools that facilitate the actual interaction.  You also have the integration of social media and community building tools with traditional CRM tools which are providing effective combinations which are leading toward SCRM.  I want to emphasize. These are all good tools. They are worthy of any company's consideration. There is just no SCRM suite out there - as of yet or in the near future.  Which doesn't matter one iota.

I'd say that covers the basics.

A Shorter Definition

For a shorter definition of SCRM, I'd say:

"CRM is a philosophy & a business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules, workflow, processes & social characteristics, designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted & transparent business environment. It's the company's response to the customer's ownership of the conversation."

Well, it may not be tweetable but it's shorter.

A Tweetable Definition

"The company's response to the customer's control of the conversation."

With the quotes and the period, its 71 characters.  Get rid of the period and you can just write it twice.

What's Next?

Let me reiterate something. This is my stake in the ground. It would be presumptuous of me to assume I can halt a discussion that I no longer want to participate in. That said, in presentations etc. I'm going to continue to give the definition of SCRM because people will be asking.  But I'm not going to try to define it anymore. I know what it is. I think that most people who read my stuff know it too - and many who don't, also know it.  I also am no longer going to engage in discussions or defenses of whether or not it's "necessary" or "marketing hype" or any of that.  Again, stake in the ground. While there is plenty of room for traditional CRM strategies, the change in the customer necessitates some sort of commitment to social CRM to succeed with that neo-customer.

So, here's what I'm going to be doing and not doing from here on.

  1. No more debates on what Social CRM is, though I certainly will discuss what it is in presentations and when else it makes sense. But I'm not trying to define it any more
  2. No more detailed defenses on whether or not its necessary. Its existence is always necessary. Its use is necessary in appropriate situations.
  3. No more calling it CRM 2.0 for me. Its Social CRM.
  4. In all the venues I have when it comes to discussing Social CRM, it will be the new business models, the processes, the methodologies, the practices, reviews of the applications that are part of the SCRM universe - and debunking the claims of those apps if need be.   I'll be providing as many success and failure stories as I humanly can so we can develop a body of practice.
  5. For ZDNET, now that the book is done, I'm going to focus on what the ZDNET audience loves the best - the technology and processes of Social CRM - related or otherwise. Plus the practitioner stories of successful implementation.  There will be deviations from that but that's my ZDNET primary direction. Plus I'm going to try to change the blog name, if it doesn't wreak too much havoc to Social CRM: The Conversation
  6. For PGreenblog, the focus will be on the discussions ranging from the business models, the social psychology, the economics to the theoretical concepts and the practical strategies.  I'll look at the culture of the companies, the nature of the customer's thinking, the effect of style on all of this, etc.  I'll do the best I can with what the line of business person needs to know and what the academician needs to explore.
  7. I'm going to spend some time trying to create an institution to capture all of this called the Institute for the Future of Business and the Customer (IFBC) which will include the actual B2B and B2C and B2G customer on its leadership body with the company leaders. Unlike any other institution of its kind that I know of.  This is not an easy task. I've been trying for two years to do this already and have made some progress but it needs a good academic institution and an endowed chair and a couple of companies to underwrite it. It is an agnostic body that will attempt to aggregate and organize all this incredible knowledge on how companies and customers engage and establish what the new business world looks like going forth.   Ambitious, even grandiose? Maybe. But I'm going to try or go down in flames trying.

That's it. Stake is in the ground. Comments on the definition per se are welcome this one last time on either of the blogs that you see this.

But I'm done. AND I'm just starting.

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