Best of ECT News


Social CRM Needs All Kinds of Thinkers

This story was originally published on Oct. 4, 2012, and is brought to you today as part of our Best of ECT News series.

One of the tricky parts of developing a social CRM (SCRM) strategy is that it requires left brain and right brain thinking. The left brain, where more logical and procedural thinking takes place, is comparable to how “traditional” CRM operates, organizing and distributing data based on predetermined processes. The right brain, the center of creative thinking, is comparable to SCRM, discovering new relationships and communication models and engaging and conversing with customers.

What’s tricky is that people are not generally equally gifted on both sides of the brain. Communicators may be scatterbrained about standardized, regular tasks; process-driven people may be too rigid in their thinking to effectively imagine new ways of doing things. Every year when I sit down to do my taxes, I’m reminded of which side of my brain is dominant. Here’s a hint: it’s not the side that’s equipped to maneuver through forms and numbers.

Finding the Proper Mix

What does that mean for social CRM? It means that picking people to develop, implement and maintain a SCRM strategy is a bit tricky, and to do it right requires a mixture of talents. It’s not enough to let the right-brained creative folks run amok and develop any number of new concepts for engagement if the left-brainers aren’t around to take the results of those engagement methods, send them through predetermined processes, and collect the data for business uses.

In this early stage of the SCRM era, those process-oriented people often end up excluded from the SCRM team. And that makes sense: when an organization casts about for social media-aware folks, they find plenty of people who are already socially connected, aware of social media and eager to get the engagements started. These people are right-brainers — which means they are not as disposed to processes and procedures as their left-brained peers.

The processes they develop may not be as effective, nor may the rigor with which processes are evaluated, modified and discarded. So, when a SCRM effort hits the rocks because of ROI issues, or because data goes into a wormhole and can’t find a use, the entire concept of SCRM is blamed when the real culprit is the lack of people who think more strongly in terms of process, numbers and analysis.

The Talent Pool

A couple of years ago, Esteban Kolsky and I had a mini-argument about the kind of talent that should be committed to these jobs; I argued in favor of people who understood the medium — often, younger people, while Esteban argued that you needed people who were exceptionally well versed in the business’s processes and the business aspects of SCRM. Having staked out extreme ends of the answer in true pedantic pundit style, we were both right, really — but Esteban was more correct. People who understand how process works are important — and they’re needed perhaps more urgently than the creative social-media whizzes, who seem numerous these days.

Here’s a good analogy for what’s needed in assembling an SCRM team. I have two friends — Jerry and Judy Campbell — who are business owners of Eagle Editions. Jerry is an artist who paints aviation and western scenes, has a line of model airplane decals and publishes books. All of those creative endeavors do not seem like the most lucrative pursuits — and they wouldn’t be if not for Judy. As artistic as Jerry is, Judy is astute at keeping things in a business perspective. She guides the money side of things. Of course, Jerry has a say in business matters when it’s important to him, and Judy may suggest ideas for Jerry’s art — but there’s a distinct left brain-right brain team at work here, and it operates quite well.

Your SCRM team should be the same — not a homogenous group of social media experts but a blend of people with different talents and, potentially, different takes on how customer conversations are started, staged, understood and analyzed. You wouldn’t hire employees that are only suited to a single type of role for your entire business; avoid doing this as you build a SCRM team.

CRM Buyer columnist Chris Bucholtz blogs about CRM at the CRM Outsiders. He has been a technology journalist for 17 years and has immersed himself in the world of CRM since 2006. When he's not wearing his business and technology geek hat, he's wearing his airplane geek hat; he's written three books on World War II aviation.

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