Unleashing the value of Social CRM: Where to find the biggest return

Social CRM is gaining traction quickly. I would argue it continues to gain ground at a dizzying pace. If you are new to the term, or are still getting up to speed, please check out the articles here to provide yourself with a little background.

The Social CRM community has identified 4 primary key areas where Social Media and Traditional CRM are intersecting:

1. Sales
2. Marketing
3. Service and Support
4. Public Relations

CRM magazine did a great job of building the Social Media Maturity Model which lays out where things are and where things are going in each of these functional areas. It is a work in progress to be sure, but a fantastic template that helps to visualize how to harness the power of social media across the enterprise for companies large and small.

ROI stories are beginning to emerge from some of the Service and Support vendors like Helpstream and Parature. Lithium just released their Social CRM platform which promises “untapped value through amplified word-of-mouth marketing, improved customer service, and accelerated innovation”.

Sales and marketing folks are clamoring at the possibilities of marketing to and engaging with thousands of twitter followers, and facebook fans. Coca Cola has added more than 3 million fans on facebook in less than a year, and continues to do so at the clip of a few thousand per day

Traditional Press Releases are being transformed into interactive engagement platforms by companies like Pitch Engine and PR firms and departments are beginning to invent new ways to stir up 3rd party endorsements in the Social Sphere.

Customers are beginning to harness the power of Social Media by sharing their experiences good or bad. United Airlines took a huge hit when an upset passenger created the video below. As of the time of this article, it had been viewed more than 3 million times in just over a week.

So then, the Groundswell is moving and growing. Bottom lines are being affected significantly, positively and negatively.

Here is the question I pose to you:

Where should a company start? Which department should embrace Social CRM first? More specifically, when the dust clears, which functional area do you think will be able to leverage Social Media and Social CRM the most, and provide the greatest impact to the profitability of an organization?

I have my own thoughts, but want to hear yours as well. Fire away – this is your platform! I look forward to the debate.

31 Responses to Unleashing the value of Social CRM: Where to find the biggest return

  1. John Moore says:

    Good post, as always. Companies must

    – Have a clear understanding of the company’s goals and the strategies and tactics being employed to achieve these goals.
    – Understand how any social crm solution fits into their overall strategy. If they do not do this first then their efforts will fail.

    With the above understood a company can begin using tactics that leveral social crm. I generally recommend, however, that you first establish a presence on the key social networks (Facebook, Blogs) and focus on simply adding value to the ecosystem. Once you are established as a valuable member of the community you can begin to deploy social solutions for further your branding efforts, to manage some support (at least for monitoring sentiment).

    I’ll end my thoughts there instead of writing a book, but would also encourage people to check out my post on offshoring social media, where it works, where it fails.


    John Moore

  2. John,

    Great points, and I agree it always makes sense to reinforce the fundamentals. We are so early to the game that for many just joining in the conversation and listening makes sense.

    Are you saying that whether a company uses Social Media for the purposes of Customer Service, Support, Sales and/or Marketing will depend on what their strategy is, and what gaps in efficiency they might be trying to fill?

    3 years from now, which discipline do you think will provide the most compelling success stories as it relates to Social CRM?

  3. Wim Rampen says:

    Great overview of opportunities of Social Media in todays business environments and a very good question. I can imagine companies ask themselves the same, after browsing the web on the topic for some time.

    I tend to agree with John that it is important to get into anything well prepared and that it is always best to have a clear strategy to plug in your social media strategy. I could make an argument here that most companies do not have clear cut strategies where you can easily find your integrated spot for the social media strategy, but I don’t.

    Entering into the Social Media or Social CRM place can be considered an innovation for companies. Maybe it is best to treat it this way. Companies nowadays do quite some trials with new products or services that they are developing, sometimes even multiple at the same time. They do this to collect market/Customer feedback and to find out which product will have best chances to fly after its introduction.

    This could well be a strategy for the implementation of Social Media or Social CRM: why not try it out for as many areas and as many functions as you can imagine? Why start out with a company laboratory with specialists of all trades in it and start exploring, testing and experimenting?

    Social Media and Social CRM are new and rapidly developing. Any company can be part of the development and create competitive advantage through learning by doing. This approach has several advantages for all different stakeholders:

    – It’s a controllable environment for senior management: senior management can closely monitor what’s happening, controlling costs, fit with their strategy and results for the company as well as their customers.
    – It does not hurt that much to learn if experiments take place in a small testing environment. You will have impacted only a few customers when something does not work out.
    – You also do not have to start huge campaigns to involve the entire organization and you don’t get the negative spirit internally when you have to withdraw from something you just announced to all your employees as the innovation of the year.
    – It’s cross-functional: putting specialists from all kinds of area’s in your company at the task together will tear down silo-boundaries and generates creativity. Furthermore I believe that this will not only benefit the success of the laboratory, it will also spread to other parts of your company.

    Of course a laboratory approach does not mean you don’t have to prepare and that you can just “hit it” and see where the ship sails. It is truly important to start with forming some kind of hypothesis based on initial research of the functions available and your customer base. I also believe it is required to involve (some) Customers in your laboratory activities. Through focus-groups and/or a separate online laboratory community, you can start the conversation with your customers on your new experiments and tests.

    After all, in the end, your should co-create the value of social media or Social CRM with your customers. It is impossible to do that by yourself.

    To conclude on your answer: I do not know the answer to your question 😉 It will probably be a different one for each company anyway, because no one company is the same. I do think the laboratory approach will provide a company with the best possible answer.

    • brianvellmure says:


      Great idea, and a well thought out approach to try and answer the question. In order to make the laboratory approach work, it sounds like you’d need to invite a subset of customers and prospects to participate in a “closed door” social media experiment.

      In concept, I really think it is a good idea and there is no reason why entry into Social Media initiatives couldn’t follow the path of innovation. The only challenge is that that nature of social media demands that it is open.

      The “closed door” participation would only be as good as the trust build up with those participants who agree to participate in the closed door experiment.

      Twitter learned the hard way this week that even the most sacred closed door content – once released could run rampant. Here’s the link if you missed it: http://ad.vu/xz6i

      Your thoughts?

  4. Pingback: Want to get started in Social CRM: start a Collaborative Social CRM Laboratory «

  5. Brent Leary says:

    Hey Brian,

    Good stuff sir! You’ve covered the important ground. So I’ll take a stab at answering your questions.

    Should a company start? Yessir. I think it’s safe to say that this social media/networking stuff is here to stay. And they’ve changed the way we communicate, including the way customers and prospects expect businesses to communicate with them.

    The best way I can think of to start is to begin with the good customers you already have. talk to them, find out what sites they frequent, how they use them, who they’re talking to on them, and how to best speak WITH them. That will allow you to deepen relationships you already have, and find others who fit the profile of the customers you already have.

    Which functional areas? CRM – content relationship management, and conversation relationship management. We need to create processes for content creation, distribution and impact analysis, because content is what drives conversations. And we need conversation relationship management because we better be ready to respond quickly and accurately once we start churning out compelling content. There’s no point in pushing out good content if you’re not ready to engage in the conversations that hopefully will be generated. That would be a complete waste of time.

    If we get these two CRMs right than hopefully we can create know-like-trust to the point of transforming informal exchanges into the more formalized traditional CRM processes that will help us turn clicks into long term customers

    • brianvellmure says:


      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts…powerful stuff…

      I especially like this paragraph:

      “The best way I can think of to start is to begin with the good customers you already have. talk to them, find out what sites they frequent, how they use them, who they’re talking to on them, and how to best speak WITH them. That will allow you to deepen relationships you already have, and find others who fit the profile of the customers you already have..

      I am sure we could spend a ton of time just focusing on HOW to actually do what you just proposed. The concept is pretty straightforward, but the mechanics of forming/changing and sustaining a culture that has that mindset, and then supporting that culture with the underlying systems to enable it can be quite a challenge. I’d love to hear some examples of companies you know of who have taken that approach and have had success (and challenges) in doing so.

      Throughout your comment, it seems like conversation and relationships keep coming up as a common theme. Apart from technology, much of this stuff seems like human interaction 101. Social Media just enables that human interaction to happen on a much broader and fast moving scale. Because of that reach and amplification, we need systems and processes to enable intimate 1 on 1 interactions on a broad scale.

      I like the way that Brian Solis said it in his post a few days ago, “Socialized media didn’t invent “conversations,” it simply organized and amplified them and established an opportunity for learning and collaboration.”

      The content becomes the hook, and the conversation that ensues hopefully leads to a mutually beneficial relationship that deepens over time.

      Great stuff as always Brent! Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

  6. Nice post, Brian, and yet another great conversational thread this week.

    Two areas that haven’t been explored much yet in this thread – 1) where to find the biggest return,; and 2) what functional area shoule be responsible for social media (I’m going to interpret functional a little differently than Brent, but I think the ideas will be complimentary).

    1 – based on a lot of discussions already covered in the #cctr and #scrm threads, we should be able to agree that customer dissatisfaction is a huge cost to most organizations, and that customer service is often one of or is the major contributor to customer dissatisfaction.

    I’ll argue, then, that service/support is the area to go after. This tends to be the source of most of the viral exposures (a la United, Comcast, etc) and the solution as well. Service and support also lend themselves to the conversational/consultative discussion and soft-sell.

    2 – the contact center is the functional area to develop the expertise. This is consistent with Brent’s comments on the need for Content and Conversation relationship management. The contact center is the place where we should be talking to the customer and hearing the “Voice” of the customer. More on this already at http://bit.ly/ZNujn (my post from a while back ).

    While I agree that, just like the internet and PCs, this social media stuff is probably here to stay 🙂 we should be careful not to get too excited about what we see. I consider myself lucky to be able to sit in and listen to so many folks who are on the cutting edge of things, and to get to qask questions and add some ideas from time to time. That said, despite all the hype and the rapid adoption we need to remember that most companies are not “type A” organizations. For that reason I think Wim’s point on the laboratory is a great observation and likely the most successful strategy for moving more companies into adoption sooner.

    • brianvellmure says:


      Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and your “post from a while back” as well.

      It sounds like you think that the place to start with a social media / Social CRM initiative is the contact center, because:

      1. They are already having that conversation with the customer, and…

      2. the biggest potential financial impact to the typical organization is likely negative through negative word of mouth experiences.

      Makes sense.

  7. @drnatalie says:

    You asked where should a company start… After stuyding all the various departments that could lead social media, I’m still convinced its customer service. The reason is that while a sales social media strategy might help sales or a listening platform might help branding and marketing, those departments are only interested in their objectives – more sales or more leads… The issue is that someone need to be the interaction brand ambassador. Customer service is really the only customer interaction department… the others don’t really have a two-way relationship with customers. They push materials out… they do need the voice of the customer to do that better, but they (and the techology that supports their function) doesn’t support a two-way interaction.

    Imagine if marketing professionals had to sit in the contact center and answer customer questions. Or if sales people had to figure out why a customer’s router isn’t connecting their new lap top to their new DSL service. Neither department’s strong suit is those types of customer interactions — nor are they interested in them.

    The best strategy is always to have everyone do what they do best. Customer service is best suited to be the leader of social media customer interactions. And with the business transformations that occur because of what social media reveals about a company, things change drastically and those changes are empowering customer service to finally have the budget, resources and positional power to do right by customers; to create WOW customer experiences and to engage and enroll customers through genuine, authentic and honest communcations.

    And in honor of my fav news broadcaster, Walter Cronkite, “That’s the way it is…” or it is at least my 2 cents for this saturday morning…

    @drnatalie or npetouhoff@forrester.com

    • brianvellmure says:

      Dr. Natalie,

      Thanks for your input. While I agree with alot of your thoughts, I disagree that “the others don’t really have a two-way relationship with customers.”

      Any successful sales person/executive will tell you that the first key to successful sales is “listening”, and transforming the relationship to be a trusted advisor instead of someone peddling something and trying to convince them that they need something they don’t.

      Marketers are also quickly being forced to adapt to having a conversation instead of just “shouting/broadcasting”, but even in their case, much of what they are putting out is based upon focus groups, market research, etc. so they have also typically done some listening and are responding to it, though to your point, they are probably most removed from a “two way conversation”.

      It sounds like there is a consensus building, though, around the contact center being the most natural fit for starting with a social media initiative. I don’t have a strong opinion otherwise, but I know that there are some compelling counterpoints out there from the sales and marketing folks.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

  8. @CRMStrategies,

    My comments are focused on the Marketing “Key Area”

    I hope that future SCRM work will focus on infusing the Key Customer Lifecycle Management Processes, such as Customer Acquisition, Customer Onboarding, Customer Development, Customer Retention, and Customer Wiback, with SCRM Concepts and Elements.

    For example, how can we leverage SCRM to Improve the Performance of New Customer Acquisition, e.g, Reduce Acquisition Cost or Increase Customer Lifetime Value. See for example the “Old” MCI Friends & Family Concept.

    We also need to show how SCRM can Help Optimize the Marketing Mix: e.g., facilitate (Co-) Development of Better Products.

    First thing first, however, we need to discover the applicable leading practices and superimpose them into the above framework.

    Hope this helps,



    • brianvellmure says:


      Agreed. I don’t think there is any doubt that social media will intersect with all of the key areas within the traditional customer life cycle and what has been known as “Traditional CRM”.

      We would all be better served to define those intersection points and how to integrate social media into each of them.

      I think this part is where marketing makes it strongest point as the answer to my question:

      “We also need to show how SCRM can Help Optimize the Marketing Mix: e.g., facilitate (Co-) Development of Better Products.”

      Crowdsourcing and product co-creation is a HUGE way that marketing can leverage social media and communication platforms to significantly increase market share and leadership. Anyone else agree?

  9. Esteban Kolsky says:


    Nice post and an interesting question you pose — alas, it is a biased question.

    Organizations won’t gain much from this revolution until they see if for what it is: a diametrical change in the “relationship” with customers and how they interact with them.

    As long as they continue to interact with customers in “relationships” that need to be managed, things won’t change much. Relationships are about both parties gaining something from the other and jointly working towards a common goal, and that is not what happens when the relationship is managed. Management brings with it control, and no relationship can grow and prosper when one is in control.

    I wrote about it several times in my blog, in guest posts and articles – we are witnessing a paradigm shift in the “relationship” between customers and companies. Customers want to engage with the organization to accomplish their goals. They have grown beyond simply purchasing to wanting to be partners. You are developing a new product? I want in. New services? let me tell you what we want and need. Companies that are involved in controlling the relationship may chose to listen or not – it is their prerogative. In the past, if you did not listen your customers shrugged off since there were no alternatives. As we move down this path of social interactions (I called them many-to-many engagements – where communities of customers interact with communities of supplies) we are going to see more and more companies that will find themselves loosing customers since they did not listen — and others did.

    I don’t want to say that sales, or marketing, or service, or operations — or any department would be the ideal place to start. I don’t want to say that any one channel would be better than any other.

    I would like to say that companies that recognize the massive change happening from 1-to-1 company-customer relationships to many-to-many communities engagement will be the ones to benefit. And, those companies. will actually make strategic decisions to implement a specific channel, or two, or technology, or three, based on what they are trying to accomplish together with their customers.

    That, is in my view, how this paradigm shift will benefit organizations in the long run. short run? sure, pick a department, a function, and a tool or channel and deploy it. Chances are you get some benefit in the short run — but retooling the company for the long run is where the true benefit will come.

    And is going to be changing from customer relationship management to communities engagement platform.

  10. brianvellmure says:


    Great points and I agree with most of your sentiment. At some point, all facets of an organization will need to align itself with the customer in new ways.

    In order to survive, each organization will need to transform itself to be nimble enough to be part of the customer’s supply chain, and respond as quickly and accurately to the customer’s needs, providing more value than any other potential competitors. In many ways, this is business 101, but technology is now enabling the customer to demand more, and source from potentially unlimited vendors.

    But, this is a transformation that will take some time. The inclusion of social media and/or social crm has to start somewhere, and the payoff will likely be greater for some business function than for another.

    Perhaps it is too early to ask the question because we are still in the experimental and exploratory phase, but as executives slowly begin to see benefits, they’ll want to know how they can start with a “kernal” experiment.

    Perhaps, this will vary according to the needs and/or strengths of each independent organization?

    • Esteban Kolsky says:

      I know what you are saying, but that is the position i was trying to avoid – we need to start somewhere as we always have done.

      I try to warn people against doing things the same way as before, since there is no long-term value. They are just responding to a far with a half-baked (in best cases) setup that will be ignored later.

      IF that is what they prefer, in all B2C setups Customer Service will always have 60-90% of customer interactions and it is always best to start with the place with more contact.

      In B2B is different, but not really relevant to introduce the topic of Twitter in B2B at this time, since the relationships with clients are very different in that model and Twitter is not really that relevant today.

  11. brianvellmure says:

    Wow. Interesting…

    A couple of thoughts:

    1. Maybe I am missing something. If you don’t start somewhere, where/how do you start?

    2. I think Twitter is very relevant for B2B, though perhaps more in the sales/marketing/strategic alliance arena, and less in the customer service arena, as I agree, typically the nature of that interaction can be quite different.

    • Esteban Kolsky says:

      i am not saying not to start, i am saying change your mentality before you start. forget departments, focus on processes. customers don’t care about departments, customer-centricity is not about departments, so stop pushing customer service over marketing or sales over pr, or whatever.

      focus instead on an end-to-end process, customer acquisition through purchase, purchase though support, support through retention, etc. then you will see things the same way customers see it.

      and then, you can begin to see where scrm adds value because you are changing the tools from one-way (company to customer) to two-way (company and customers as partners in process execution, tools bring their voice into the organization to add value by improving processes, products).

      using the same model we are using now, just add something on top and expect it to work has never worked before in any function. what makes this different? there is no real innovation in putting something else on top of running processes, there is innovation in changing processes to accommodate customer-centricity and customer-involvement.

      on another note, twitter is just one of the many channels that we can use in social media (think communities, blogs, even expanding out existing channels to work in other ways) – we (and it is not just you) need to change the context of the conversation to include all these other tools if we are going to be successful in scrm — else, when twitter disappears (or evolves, or becomes something else, or whatever happens in 12-24 months to it) we risk scrm disappearing.

      • Wim Rampen says:

        Thanks Esteban,

        By far the best comment (so far) to this blog.. (maybe even to the discussion on scrm).

        The customer experience is not about one touch-point, it is about the collective or combination of all touch-points in the customer journey to co-create value.

        As a consequence scrm cannot be lead or owned by one touch-point. That would not do justice to its potential.

      • @CRMStrategies,

        I agree with Esteban and Wim:

        We need to preserve the Customer Lifecycle Management process: Customer Acquisition, Customer Onboarding, Customer Service, Customer Development, Customer Retention, and Customer Winback.

        We also need, however, to transform the focus of each of the processes from Value Extraction (1.0) to Value Exchange (1.5) to Value Co-Creation (2.0). We need to include the Customer, in each process, and promote her to a Co-Producer of Value.

        We also similarly need to transform the Marketing Mix elements. For example, Product Development will become Product Co-Development.



      • Anthony Nemelka says:

        Let’s not forget how things get done in organizations. There’s the CEO, the executive staff (organized by function), people reporting to them, and so on. If the CEO and executive staff decide that deploying scrm is potentially important to the business, they will want to nail down the specific objectives for the initiative and assign someone to spearhead the investigative effort and, later, the implementation and operation. That’s the very first decision the CEO will need to make–who to hold accountable for delivery. Saying that no one will be held accountable is a non-starter.

        If there’s already someone clearly responsible for “customer care”, then it’s an easy choice. But usually there isn’t. Ownership of “business processes” has been problematic since the phrase first materialized, with CIOs–at least in large organizations–the functional head most often tasked with the responsibility for optimizing and reengineering business processes. But is the CIO the best person to figure out how to implement something as impactful to the company as scrm? I have my doubts. And with the continued expansion of service-based computing (ie, SaaS, outsourcing, etc), IT departments and the CIOs who run them have increasingly become targets for resource reductions, leaving little skilled resource available to spearhead transformational projects like scrm.

        Businesses need help understanding how to make scrm a reality. I feel we’re moving beyond the evangelical phase and into a phase requiring clarity around the best practices for practical application. That means we need to answer the tough questions with both clarity and conviction. “What’s the justification?” “How much does is cost?” “When and how will we see the benefit?” “How should we organize ourselves differently?” “What skills are we missing?” “What policies and procedures need to change?” etc etc etc. These are all critically important questions that need to be answered with best practices that will bring confidence to CEOs that scrm will make a real difference for their companies. Given the apparent scarcity of answers to these questions, we have some work to do folks!

  12. Glenn says:

    I agree with Esteban (yet again). In our organization we assembled a group of staff with experience and a passion for social media. We are the incubators for our organization. I’d recommend first identifying those staff with the passion, giving them a charge, then zeroing in on processes as Esteban believes. Focus on the customer, not on which department will have the authority and responsibility.

  13. Great question – as I come out of hibernation (odd for a Vermonter to say that in July 🙂 My take is a purely consultative one – “It depends”.

    This is not a ‘cop-out’ – rather towards what Esteban is speaking to in his response. Go where it makes sense, where the customers are congregating. Each business, product, service is different and will have parts of their process that are likely already doing it, they just do not know it.

    Thanks for getting the conversation going, good starting point 😉


  14. John Moore says:

    As I’m coming out of vacation mode I wanted to take a few minutes to weigh in as well. Key points for me, some already made, some not:

    – Twitter is not the be-all-to-end-all. It is but one social channel. This is critical to keep in mind as you must ENGAGE with your customers where they are today. Individual platforms come and go, look at MySpace as one that continues to “go” away in relevance.
    – While important, you must then extend your reach to where your customers will be. This should be a second phase of your social rollout but is important. Gain mindshare on the platforms they will be moving to so that when they do get there you will already be established.
    – Social CRM is not for everyone. (note that I am looking skyward to ensure I am not about to be struck by lightening). There are industries, businesses, geographies, where Social CRM will make no impact. While these segements are shrinking over time remember to invest only in channels that enable you to engage with your users.

    That’s it for now.


  15. Sorry for keeping out of this discussion for so long! Been busy, will be busier still I guess. 😦

    Here my two paise FWIW:

    We all agree that social CRM is about responding to the customer’s control of the conversation. And the obvious response is to first listen to what they are saying, but that means the business needs to know where they are saying it!

    So, we need to first figure out where our customers are talking, about what & then decide who would be the most apt to not just respond but also engage & eventually be able to influence them as the new “social” relationship grows.

    But let this not merely be about social media as yet another channel. Don’t get me wrong, social media/networks as another channel works in the current framework & is the transitional step. However the eventual outcome/goal will/may be far different from what any of us can envision. I hope. For the better.

    So to take co-creation as one of the possible frontiers (thats the farthest am able to look BTW, others can help me see further), we could be seeing more & more co-created experiences, not just online but offline as well. More personalized services which have been co-created, not just crowdsourced ideation/community based design/mass colalboration.

    Does anybody think that the traditional CRM functions marketing, sales or customer service are poised to achieve any of the above ideals in isolation?

    And John, beg to differ, social CRM is not merely about the social media/networks. Social CRM had to be framed because of the customers taking control of the conversation, which was in turn made possible by social media/networks. But its not limited to online world. Its about the change we are yet to see in the kind of relationship b/w the firm & the customer – “social” relationship as opposed to the “transactional” relationship.

    In a way that would be going back to the basics. Think a century back. Or come to rural India. I refer to the “Family” doctor/ tailor/milkman/cobbler/jeweller, the corner grocer. The professionals who delivered us individualized services &/or bespoke products. They still exist in your world, but not scalable, thus pricey & rather upmarket. Advances in technology (think other than social web, like in manufacturing, miniaturization, 3d desktop printing, RFID, etc.) will allow creating personalised products on scale.

    But these don’t belong to marketing/sales/customer service either!

    Look at the Coke example Paul Greenberg wrote on his ZDNet blog. Isn’t it about personalized drinks? Who would have thunk!

    So fight all you want about where to start & who gets the most benefit, I will not join the debate. Its pointless. The change needs to happen, where ever it is in the organization.

    You need a leader & a sponsor. And a team to support them operationally and a tribe to take the message to the rest of the organization. Sorry Esteban, for driving the change we need a passionate tribe, not a community.

    Please continue the discussion. I have learnt a LOT! 🙂 I will try & join again if possible.


  16. Graham Hill says:

    Q. Who Should Own Social CRM?
    A. Not Who you Think!

    In one sense, Social CRM is in the earliest stage of its development. The rapid evolution of social tools, particularly Internet based ones (and in the near future, mobile Internet based ones) drives the co-evolution of their adoption by leading edge users. (Who would have thought that I would all but abandon blogging at CustomerThink for the conversation on Twitter?) But in another sense, Social CRM has been around as long as people have indulged in commerce. Relying on friends and family for the best advice is literally thousands of years old. In many local economies, it is part of the glue that holds traditional markets together.

    As Social CRM increases in importance to business then people start to ask who should ‘own’ it. The obvious answer is the customer, as they currently own Social CRM. But that isn’t good enough for the control freaks in management. Most of the organisations I look at don’t have any natural home for Social CRM. But why shoehorn it into a department that isn’t able to manage it properly? Rather than say, stuff it into Customer Service, it should be placed with those best able to use it, indeed, those who are probably already using it.

    In a business new to social CRM, this may be a disparate social network of individuals doing their own thing across the business. A self-organising group with no formal authority, but a lot of social authority. In a slightly more advanced business it might be a cross-functional team formed specifically to look at Social CRM and containing many of the earlier social network. Further on it might be a formal Social CRM Coordinator given the role, responsibility and authority to promote Social CRM across the business. In some organisations, it might even be the Chief Customer Officer.

    Looking beyond these traditional organisational forms, there is a strong case for building hybrid organisations to enable Social CRM. These have a rigid organisational hierarchy at their core; necessary for efficient, effective operations. But they also have a looser organisational network at their interface with the market; necessary for engaging with ever-changing customers. And for literally bringing customers into the organisation. You won’t find many of these hybrid structures in traditional CRM departments. (Although I did build one for a different purpose at a UK credit card company over 10 years ago). But you will find them in companies like Adidas, P&G and Eli Lilly actively engaging in open innovation and particularly, in lead-user innovation.

    By successively passing the baton of responsibility to more formalised groups in this way, and eventually to hybrid organisations, business has a much better chance of developing the various capabilities required to measure, monitor and manage Social CRM for optimal co-creation with customers. Something that won’t happen if it is simply given to a wholly unprepared department like Customer Service. Or Marketing. Or Sales!

    To put this in a nutshell, in proper organisation development, the form (of the organisation) follows the function (it has to carry out). Given a new function, look for the part of the organisational that has the closest fitting form. Just make sure it works closely with customers. Or better still, that it actually contains customers.

    Graham Hill
    Customer-driven Innovator

  17. To say that Social CRM should be adopted/sponsored by an area or department of a company is a mistake.

    Social Media Strategy is a very important topic and it should be kick-started by the company leaders (CEOs, CTOs, etc.), not by departmentalized efforts.

    Fragmented solutions from specific areas of a company will certainly lead to fragmented Social Media initiatives. This is what CRM is not about. This risks the brand image by showing misalignment among “Social” parts of a company.

    Benefits are all there for everyone. A strategic plan will tell where to start according to your competitors’ social efforts information, effective communication channels and actual market acceptance of your products.

  18. brianvellmure says:

    Esteban (and all),

    Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts. This is a FANTASTIC conversation and your input is invaluable to the dialogue.

    I wholeheartedly agree with your exhortation to focus on process: from lead to cash to retention. There is no debating that topic. I have been preaching for a long time to break down the silos between “departments” within the enterprise.

    That said, regardless of what you call it, there are and will continue to be high level defined steps in the customer life cycle that look something like this:

    1. Wooing and attracting potential customers
    2. Making, co-creating, etc. and ultimately reaching an agreement for the delivery of your product or service
    3. Delivering that product or service with a level of high quality
    4. Supporting the delivery of that product or service
    5. Revisiting the conversation to see how you can further offer them value

    Small companies and entrepreneurs can have one or two people carry all of these conversations. For most enterprises, each of these “functions” requires different sets of skill sets, experience, and roles. I am open to a better phrase or term than “function” if anyone has one.

    Once we focus and define the process, at some point, we have to assign the HOW and WHO . I believe Social Media (all forms – YouTube, Facebook, Communities, Blogs and Twitter were all mentioned in the original post) is significantly changing the HOW for all of the process steps/ functions above.

    Social Media will help to enable the two-way conversations you reference across the organization for people that have significantly different roles within that organization. The Social Media interaction/participation from someone is a sales role might vary significantly from someone in a support and service role, or an executive role.

    We do know that an organization will always have multiple “functions” – whether they are the old (Sales, Marketing, Support, etc.), or we define new ones, roles and responsibilities will always be broken down and assigned to leaders by “function” for the purposes of accountability and throughput. This is the nature of any organization.

    Once these functions are defined, someone has to be accountable to “own” each portion of the process.. This is the WHO.

    While all facets within an organization can AND ULTIMATELY WILL use Social Media (Social CRM) for the benefit of better meeting their customer’s needs, most CEO’s are not ready, prepared, or convinced enough to roll out an enterprise wide initiative. There just isn’t a compelling enough story yet. “Because everybody else is doing it, or you’ll lose if you don’t” won’t cut it with most senior executives.

    There are some tremendously intelligent people that have weighed in here and other places on the subject of Social CRM. I believe that we are all presenting hypothesis at this point because we are very early in the cycle, and the truth is that no one really knows how this is going to go.

    The genesis of the original question might have better been along the lines of “How do you justify the investment – time and money- in Social Media? Where do we have the greatest chance of success (profitability) starting out?” If we can collectively come up with the answers to this, we can present a much more compelling story to those who are interested in Social CRM, but have no idea of where to start, and are demanding a compelling and proven ROI presentation.

    Thanks to everyone past, present and future for participating in this discussion. It is a privilege to be a part of it.

  19. Pingback: Social CRM is there an elephant in the room « Charlie Maitland’s Blog

  20. Pingback: Social CRM: Overhyped Fad or Transformational Solution « CRM Strategies Blog

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