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Tuesday, 20 December 2011

social CRM: some thoughts

So there's been some buzz for awhile about social CRM. I must admit not to have read everything. Just bits and bobs over time but Michael Brito's blogpost about thought leadership in Social CRM (here) caught my attention. It made me aware that I have been doing so many seminars and talks on my research that I've forgotten the stuff I used to be teaching i.e. Marketing and how I've not really integrated the latest of my work with the bog standard stuff that used to be out there. I recently did one about the 4Ps (here), but thought maybe I should now tackle social CRM, and blog some of my thoughts about this changing landscape.

So CRM is some kind of systematic way of interacting with the customer but social CRM is more than that - its about engaging the customer in 'conversations' supported by a technology platform e.g. through facebook, twitter etc.

So here's what I'm thinking. First, your customer really hasn't changed much. If he has been using your product all these years, he probably is still doing the same thing. Except that suddenly, with twitter, facebook etc. your customer now has a voice. And you can hear them. And just because you can hear them, you suddenly decide its a good idea to have a conversation with them.

The real meaning of conversation, is what Milton Wright would say "an art or creation that two persons can give life to, or play with". In other words, conversations are usually interesting. Herein lies the problem with Social CRM. It's not. I mean, how can a conversation be interesting when the point of it is (as some sites have proposed) 'to assist firms to become more social, gain intelligence or harness customers as a resource'? That sounds really like having a conversation at a bar with an egoistical self centred self serving 'friend' you just met whose interest in you is all about how you can help him. ugh.

OKOK, not all social CRM are like that but if you trawl through the internet and ask about the examples of excellent social CRM, they generally fall into 5 categories. Here are the first 4: (1) feedback (2) damage control (3) promotion (4) brand identity. But guess what. It means that social CRM is just another marketing channel because those 4 are exactly a channel where firms connect and communicate with their customers - about the FIRMS, not about their customers. Nothing new there - certainly nothing new that SOCIAL CRM is contributing to thats not already available in OTHER CRM strategies. It's the usual firm-centric engagement.

What is really interesting would be the 5th example of excellent social CRM. That is around personalisation. This is where I think social CRM can really make a difference both to firms and to customers that is distinct from traditional CRM and marketing.

The idea of personalisation is that the firm can get personal with their customers, and start to socialise with them, building relationships. So let me tell you about how I am social. It's to do with my friends, my activities, my interests, my life. You want to get social with me? you've got to GET me. No, its not about pulling the conversation to what you want to talk about. its about what I want to talk about as well. its about my value creating context around your product, not yours. What do i mean? Well, let's say the department of motor vehicles wants to get social with me (why, I have no idea). Now, to the department, my car is 'transportation', which is around their categories of transportation i.e. bus, car, rail, planes. that's the government's value context. My car? my car is not in the 'transportation' value context. My car is in 'go work-go supermarket-fetch child' context. So if you want to get social with me about my car, you'll have to get social with me about what my car enables me as a resource in my micro context. So I think the biggest problem with firms when they want to embark on Social CRM is that the content around my context for social conversations may not be their you can't blame organisations. they've just been brought up badly. ;p

There is a second aspect of social CRM that has also intrigued me about personalisation.

The firm is a macro system. I am a micro system. So conversations between me and 'the firm' is a bit odd. Its like me having a conversation with a crowd and expecting the crowd to have a single voice i.e. that person interacting with me. i mean, how does that work? I suppose that could work functionally like if I wanted to ask Mcdonalds how many countries they are in, or if I want to know the ingredients in my shampoo, I can tweet and ask and the 'disembodied voice' that tweets back is just responding to a query. But personalisation in social CRM is about conversations - that means its more than functional. It has social and emotional dimensions. I was at my garden centre recently and checked in on foursquare and said that I was having tea and scones. I got a tweet back from the garden centre to say 'mm... i would love scones right now and hoped i enjoyed it' or something like that which is rather personal and nice in a way but I didn't know if I was getting personal with my garden centre or with this person whom I don't really know. So how do I negotiate attribution in these social messages? are they my garden centre talking? or someone whose messages I do not attribute to my garden centre? Interestingly, I tweeted back about the banana scone not being very good and the 'garden centre' replied to say 'thanks for the tip'. clearly, I was NOT talking to my garden centre. So what does 'personalisation' mean in this case?

My thoughts are that social CRM raises a major issue for the firm. How is the macro-level firm formed from its (micro-level) employees? social conversations are held at a micro level, The paradox of social CRM is that successful micro social conversations may run contrary to the firm's 'so-called' macro culture and identity but if employees talk too much like how mr mcdonalds or mr ikea would speak, i guarantee you it would be a very boring conversation. Social CRM is an excellent an opportunity for firms to evaluate how their culture and identity are formed by their employees and if its their employees talking personally through social channels, it should also be them talking as well. The part is the whole. I get this feeling that a successful social CRM would probably happen when that happens. But I also suspect that command and control organisation types would hate it.

1 comment:

  1. I do agree with your discussion. It was nicely deliberated and I do have found some articles reliable to this idea but you gave the most appropriate one. Good job.