Social CRM vs. the Unimaginative, the Unmotivated and the Skeptical

When I go to CRM conferences — and I go to many — one of the things I relish is the opportunity to speak to leaders about thinking surrounding social CRM (SCRM). That group is not limited to the pundits and authors most closely associated with SCRM; it also includes users at these events who have reached the decision to fully embrace it in their businesses.

I leave these events filled with excitement for the next great leap ahead in customer engagement, the next breakthrough for sales people, and the next — or perhaps first — revolution in how we render customer service.

But reality soon delivers a slap to the face: A service experience goes awry, or a salesman spends the first 30 seconds of a conversation trying to pronounce my name, or I’m hit with a hopelessly off-target marketing message.

Here’s the reality: The vast majority of businesses still don’t have a grip on CRM (without the S) — and many simply never think about it. I’m talking the discipline of CRM, not the technology. The conferences I attend are, essentially, members of the choir preaching to each other. As ye, the impact of the concept on the average consumer — B2B or B2C — is negligible.

So how do we change that?

Simple. Take SCRM and crush your competitors with it.

Seize Your Advantage

Sounds a bit simplistic, I know. However, the fact that you are reading something called “CRM Buyer” right now means you’re aware of the ideas. You probably know about the technology, and you’re hip to the idea of SCRM. That means you’ve already cleared a bar that your competitors likely have not. It may be set low, but you’re over it.

The next step is to exploit the ideas and the technologies. They’ve been discussed at great length over the last few years; now’s the time to seize upon them. The time is right because a bit of investment in SCRM now will get you off the starting line while your competitors are still standing still. They can catch up over time, but it’ll be far harder for them to do so if you open the distance now.

Because here’s who you’re up against: the unimaginative, the unmotivated and the skeptical. Here’s what I mean.

The Unimaginative

The unimaginative can look at a case study demonstrating a successful use of SCRM and, when all has been explained, fail utterly to grasp the possibilities for their businesses. “That’s neat and all, but our business is different,” they might say. “We can’t do anything like that because our customers and our vertical market is different.”

Exactly — which is why each business needs to build a SCRM strategy that takes advantage of those differences. There are no best practices for SCRM; the best practices employed by one company will be hopelessly inappropriate for another business specifically because of those differences.

Only when you come to terms with the differences and use some ingenuity to discover ways to use SCRM to capitalize on them can your business build a strategy that works.

The Unmotivated

The unmotivated already have a business that’s doing well. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” they say — and, indeed, in some niche markets you can coast for a long time.

Still, the reality is that for most markets, social is going to break some things — the way you relate to your customers, the way your customers learn about you, the conversations your customers have about you — and any illusions you may have about controlling those conversations.

You may be unmotivated today, but at some point in the near future you’re probably going to become very motivated. Sadly, it’ll be because you’ve lost your spot in the market to a competitor, and you’ll have to learn the SCRM lessons you could be learning continuously in a crash-course for survival.

The Skeptical

The skeptical still think this social media thing is a fad. This number is shrinking, but there are still a large number of skeptics who think the secret to winning in the social era involves waiting social media out, thus not investing any money in it while competitors are throwing good money after bad.

However, the numbers don’t bear this out. Studies show that large companies are increasingly investing in social media. Betting that your business will outlast social media becomes a worse bet every day.

The other form of skepticism is that the ROI for social and social CRM is impossible to compute or hard to come by; various models for computing ROI already exist, and the reality is that ignoring social media brings a set of negative impacts that can be computed in terms of the cost of lost opportunities for marketing, sales and customer loyalty.

So my suggestion stands: If you’re moving boldly into the social era, and you’ve found ways to make SCRM work for you, crush your competitors. Do it for yourself and your bottom line, of course, but do it for the rest of us, too.

The more decisively you do this and banish the unimaginative, the skeptical and the unmotivated, the more rapidly all businesses start thinking about CRM and SCRM, and the sooner all customers can benefit from a business environment more attuned to meeting their needs than to meeting the needs of business.

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.

1 Comment

  • Thanks for this thought-provoking post.

    Do you see CRM and Social CRM as inhabiting parallel worlds or is SCRM a part of the former?

    I think there are many businesses embracing SCRM (whether their approach is structured or not is another question) whilst skipping traditional CRM, in other words building up a great source of knowledge about their publics, but without the tools to leverage this. I guess this approach is the same as the one you mention about people struggle to come to terms with the discipline of CRM.

    Would you say that the best course of action would be to

    a. establish a firm CRM strategy and

    b. use this to capture SCRM

    Or as mentioned at the start are they two seperate beasts?

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