Friday, 26 February 2010

The Emperor’s new Social CRM clothes

"How do I look?"
"Wonderful, your majesty! Your new Social CRM coat really brings out your customer-centric side"
"Do you really think so? It was made by the tailors in Silicon Valley you know, using the very latest Fabric-as-a-Service (FaaS). The fabric is so fine it looks almost invisible"
"Incredible, your highness. You look just like the King of Zappos, or his Royal Highness, the Prince of"
"Excellent. What do you think my subjects will think?"
"They will marvel Sire. They have long expressed a desire for you to set up a Facebook Fan Page so that they may honour you"

Make no mistake, I am a huge advocate of Social CRM. To anyone who has worked in the CRM space for some time, it should make perfect sense. Social CRM completes CRM. It's the missing piece in the CRM puzzle that gives an organisation the potential to listen to the direct voice of the customer and use that feedback to co-create products and improve services. It allows an organisation to create a platform to facilitate and help customer to customer collaboration. If your customer's feel positive about their experiences they may chose to answer queries, recommend products and fix problems on your behalf (see my post on "Outsource your marketing, sales and service to your customers").

But, to clear, there are many things that Social CRM cannot do. I'd advocate that anyone embarking on a Social CRM journey understand these before they proceed.

Social CRM cannot compensate for poor products or services

If you core offering is poor (you can't deliver products on time or your widgets routinely break down after 6 months) then Social CRM is not a band-aid that will fix those issues. In fact, more likely, your customers will use social tools against you (see my post on "Star wars and Social CRM" – focus on the dark side of the force). Social CRM can however, help you to listen, understand the issues from the perspective of your customers and then improve and respond.

Learning and improving do not automatically follow listening

Social CRM provides a platform to listen to the customer's social voice. Many organisations who start deploying Social CRM technologies, start by deploying a listening platform. The key challenge, however, is translating the learning gained from listening to customers into improving products, services, offers etc. This is as much an organisational and cultural issue as it is a technology issue.

Social CRM does not replace CRM and cannot compensate for a poor CRM foundation

Customers turning to social channels to fix a service issue, often do so as a last resort once other options have failed. In a recent post on Virgin Media, I was recently positively surprised that someone had responded to my #fail tweet, however, I would argue that my service problem shouldn't have escalated to the level where I felt I had to tweet in the first place - all traditional CRM channels had let me down.

Social CRM does not guarantee customer participation or success

I recently read Jeff Jervis's blog post post where he recited the story of a newspaper published who asked Mark Zukerberg how he could go about building his own community. Mark responded; "you can't". The point he was making was that communities already existed and the right question to ask was how they could help them do what they wanted to do. The Social CRM world is already littered with the corpses of failed social marketing campaigns, that have tried to "engage" customers and entice them to participate in their viral community campaigns before they have listened and understood what their customers really wanted  (see example from UCC Coffee in Japan).

It's easy to get caught up with the hype of any technology. Most technology buyers end up buying far more functionality than they really need to solve the business problem that prompted them to begin evaluating technology in the first place. Whilst I am very bullish on the potential of Social CRM and constantly enthused by good examples of Social CRM in action, I think it's always worth looking in the mirror and considering with brutal honesty how your subjects (customers, employees shareholders etc) will feel about your new clothes!


  1. This is another excellent post and kind of wierd that although separated by 500 miles we have been thinking the same way today - - with posts quoting 'The Emperors New Clothes' released within about 2 minutes of each other.

  2. Thanks Jamie! Appreciate the comment. I enjoyed your last post also

  3. Hi Laurence,

    Good article, it is now time to start moving from theory to implementation. Social CRM is actually a way for companies to a building the products or services that the customers want by getting a conversation going and understanding their needs.

    I agree that a lot of work will have to be done to get the company in shape in terms of organisation and culture to obtain the actionable insights. This is where the fun is according to me :)


  4. Mark - I completely agree. Social CRM also lends itself more to an agile / iterative approach to implementation which will doubtless help the change effort and help build momentum within organisations.

    Thanks for your comment


  5. I agree that there is really a guarantee that business will reach its peak upon using social CRM. It is still important to gain their trust or other wise, our so-called business tool, the CRM will be used against us. Computer networking support is essential to compete in the market, but gone are the days that its easy to cover up bad publicity. Today is the age where both the consumers and the producers have a say - virtually.


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