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As the headline implies, even though Social CRM exists as an official category, what it is and what it is not is blurry and hotly debated. Think about the vast array of vendors selling social media solutions for a moment. Many of them are positioned as Social CRM or sCRM tools, but when you examine true capabilities versus stated positioning , you will find that many vendors are in fact stronger players in social media management (SMMS), social CMS, listening, collaboration, intelligence, and conversation management.
If you think about this from a business perspective, it’s almost impossible to identify which vendor is truly qualified to deliver against the goals of a new social CRM system. Decision makers have to spend an inordinate amount of time attempting to sort through what is true and what is simply good marketing. Often, they must recruit experts to help survey the landscape and qualify vendors.
Earlier in the year, I met with Houston Neal to discuss the state of Social CRM, where it’s headed and where it needs to go. As you can see, I believe that 2012 is the year when we finally start to accurately segment the market while better defining what Social CRM really is and how businesses need to think and rethink their approach to customer relationship management. It’s part technology and part philosophy. Because, in the end, it’s about relationships.
Here’s the transcribed conversation…
Houston Neal: To begin, do you think a true social CRM suite exists in the market?
Brian Solis: That’s a good question. Let’s first take a step back. The thing that’s a little bit more interesting about Social CRM – and definitely one of the things that’s under appreciated – is the idea that it forces us to rethink the definition of CRM. By that I mean, CRM was originally about putting together an infrastructure, processes, and methodologies to support customer and sales processes. What we see now is mainstream social media. So, the whole discussion around socializing CRM is about the introduction of new touch points within the business ecosystem that we didn’t design around originally.
When you ask if there are any solutions out there, the answer is yes and no. What was CRM and what will be CRM are two very different things. And, quite honestly, you’re actually going to see a complete transformation in business in general. It goes by names like “social business,” “adaptive business,” and “holistic business.” What we’re learning now with the democratization of information is that individuals are in control of the brand and brand experience as much as the business. This is paramount. This is at the heart of what’s fueling the socialization of CRM. If I could put it into one nutshell statement it would be that brands used to be defined by the marketing department. That was because they controlled the media. Now that people are starting to take control of the media, brand equity becomes this collective of brand experiences. Those brand experiences are shared through blogs, Facebook, Twitter, forums, you name it.
When you try to design software around capturing this activity, you have to begin by questioning your business strategy. What is it that you are trying to accomplish? Are you trying to steer experiences at the beginning, during, or after? Or, all of the above? Tools are starting to emerge that allow you to identify decision making processes at every step. They are all, in one way or another, adapting to certain parts or many parts of this social CRM idea. But if indeed social CRM is much bigger, as we’re discussing here, then it’s just getting started.
Finally, just to make things a little bit kookier, what we are talking about is removing the “C” from CRM. It’s not just about customer relationship management. It’s now about this idea of what I call SRM. Drop the “C” and call it social relationship management. Or just drop the “S” and call it relationship management. The thing I like about RM is that we’re not just talking about relationship management. This could mean reputation management and a whole bunch of things. This is really what we’re talking about, right? Because you can influence the decision of someone before they’re even a customer. You can manage the whole information work flow process, channel it within the organization so that you’re not just learning and responding, but so that you are adapting as a business to be better structured to handle the customer of the future.
Moving on to a more specific question, what type of applications do you think would make up a social CRM suite?
I recently wrote an article about Dell and Gatorade building these rooms called social media command centers. They look like NASA with screens all over the wall showing things like conversations, relationships, keyword clouds, and whether certain words are becoming more or less dense. They’re monitoring sentiment in real time. It’s pretty crazy and it’s cool at the same time. But if you imagine like this futuristic world of CRM, it would start there, right? It would look a lot like that because essentially what they’re doing is they’re monitoring all of the activity that’s taking place. Who’s saying what and where, who’s asking what, who needs a reaction, who needs a response?
This is one way that the social CRM system would really start to begin. From there, it’s a matter of technologies and work flow that allow you to hear, see, process, respond, and adapt all within the infrastructure in the way the business is designed.
Take Nimble for example. It will allow you to track all of these different individuals, then at a point of engagement it, let’s say its Twitter, channel one individual to someone in customer service or product management.
So, let’s say I send a Tweet. Customer service then takes this tweet, and using a tool like Nimble, it could bring in more information than what you would normally find in that tweet. For example, the person’s name, what other accounts they have across other networks, etc. It would then build a database around it. Customer service can then push out a response and track the response. The database could also send a signal to the listening agent to say, “we’ve got this one handled, you can check it off your list.” If the listening manager finds a sales opportunity, they could funnel it over to sales. That tweet can then also populate the sales database and sales can use this to respond and track the status of the opportunity. This is just one, very light way that this can be done today. Over time, it will get more sophisticated.
If you look at my blueprint for the social business you’ll see this thing called the conversation cloud on the left side of the blueprint. You’ll notice Get Satisfaction. What they represent is this conversation cloud that channels conversations into one place. So, let’s just say somebody asks a question on Twitter, or somebody asks a question on Facebook, or somebody goes to the website to ask a question. The magic with Get Satisfaction is that they can put together common responses and common answers from a knowledge-base, directly to the individual. So it can just constantly serve up the right answer without even having to have a human being present, which is huge. It saves them a massive amount of time. This is yet another dimension to CRM that we really haven’t seen before.
So, when you look at Get Satisfaction, combine them with Nimble, then combine with a command center, we’re starting to see pieces of this complete social CRM suite emerge. Then there is going to be some type of glue that brings it all together. That glue is probably going to be somebody like Salesforce who buys all of these pieces to offer one complete solution, or parts of the solution.
What trends are you seeing in the market, both in terms of product development, and general market activity?
I’ve seen a lot of innovation in tools that are called social CRM, even though they’re really one facet of a bigger discussion around social CRM. I’m also seeing a lot of enterprises either innovating or acquiring social CRM type solutions. Though, I’m not sure that I see anything that’s comprehensive. Nor do I see a lot of strategic messaging and real expertise around that messaging. In general, I think we’re going to have more confusion before we have clarity. I think everybody is just learning here as we go.
One trend I hope to see – and I don’t know that I’m going to see this immediately – is the definition of the need. People need to have a better understanding about what it is. Before executives spend any real money or resources around designing infrastructure on the activity, they need to understand what it means. This trend is going to take a little bit of time. Right now social CRM either lives in a silo in marketing, public relations, or customer service. The most important trend we’ll see in 2011 – and going into 2012 – is the understanding of social media’s impact on the entire business.
So basically coming up with use cases?
Ahh, use cases. Lets see. I’ll give you one. But, let me preface it. Dell is often used as a social media success story. Some people believe that it’s overused. But let me tell you why it’s an excellent example of social CRM.
Dell has innovated around a problem. And that problem was that people hated Dell. If you remember it was called Dell Hell. Dell Hell was really the collection of negative experiences through blogs and Tweets. What ended up happening was Michael Dell – and the rest of the company – took it so seriously that they innovated with social CRM systems around it. And it’s still evolving today. When there’s a problem on Twitter, blogs, Facebook, or anywhere else, they watch to see which issues gain momentum. As this happens, they unearth what the problem is, get a team to fix it, then push the fix. This completely extinguishes those discussions. So that means that it went from a listening component to a development component to a distribution component of a CRM system. Phenomenal, right? They’ve got the same infrastructure for sales, human resources, finance and legal. This is what I’m talking about. Dell is able to understand the nuances of its brand and brand experiences at any step of the decision. They’re building an infrastructure, and more importantly, a methodology of philosophies around engaging with those experiences, dealing with those experiences, or managing those experiences. So while they’re far from being the complete example of an entire solution, Dell is by default, building a social CRM system for the entire organization.
I also wanted to send a special note of thanks to Lauren Carlson, Houston Neal, and the Software Advice team for including me in the 2011 Authority Awards. Other winners include good friend Mr. Paul Greenberg and Denis Pombriant, who is someone I look forward to getting to know better in 2012.
The End of Business as Usual is now available
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