I was going to do this long post about something but I decided instead to accumulate a few things in a shorter format and lay them out to you. They are both industry driven and highly personal. So here we go:
Stop the Vendors-as-a-Class Beatdowns
I’m tired of industry pundits and others beating on enterprise software vendors simply because they are vendors. When I was in Amsterdam/Arnhem last fall to speak, I had an epiphany when I saw how they treated vendors. They were treated as citizens, not lepers with money. Vendors are companies trying to sell services and products, pretty much like the people they are selling to – or like whoever it is you work for even if its yourself. They don’t deserve to be attacked because they are stereotypically presumed to be crappy because they are big or ponderous. Ponderous does not equal evil. If they do something wrong, go after them. If they do something right, praise them. But don’t launch a cynical attack on them because you presume their evil ways. “Ah, you say, but they have a history of being pushy, selling what they can’t deliver, etc.” Then attack the practice. You know that I’m not one to be kind to what I perceive to be bad. I think I’ve made my bones there already. But I also have a lot of friends who work for dozens of vendors across the software solutions spectrum and they are wonderful people who do the right thing all the time. Does their association with their company make them inherently evil. No. Are there bad folks at the company? Most likely. But why assume the company is evil on the face of it. Companies are vessels that comprise an ever changing pool of people who shape its look, feel, and actions.
If the culture is bad, nail it. But if the company is big and powerful, so what? That’s neither good nor evil. That’s just big and powerful. Companies change too. Three years ago, I wouldn’t have given Oracle the time of day. Now I think they have one of the most talented CRM teams in the business – innovative, creative and damned good human beings.
Microsoft does good and bad. SAP does good and bad. Oracle does good and bad. They aren’t inherently ANYTHING. They are products of their culture, personnel, and the world around them. Do some thinking before you presume their evil. They may surprise you. If they don’t, be my guest and go after them. But do your homework first.
Stop the Competitive Vendor Beatdowns
That said, it’s also disgusting when vendors attack other vendors in the name of “competitive differentiation.” I see this all the time from the vendors who feel compelled to “market” by denigrating their competitors usually with some video or document entirely unfunny to anyone but the originators. This may be some sort of SOP but the reality is that its about the equivalent of someone who decides that they need to mock the small size of someone else’s organ because they have a pretty small one too and, I guess, that bothers them. I suppose attacking their competitors that way makes them feel better. Compete by the strength of your offering, not by the virulence of your silly, little, sad mockeries of your competitors. Trust me, no one thinks they are useful, funny or have an iota of value – except maybe you. Little fella.
Stop the Jockeying for Position
Its funny. the release last Friday of the Altimeter Group’s excellent, needle-forward, Social CRM Use Cases paper (see below) created an incessant backchannel chatter going on about Altimeter “interlopers” – with a negative connotation. People seemed to be concerned over their positions as the “top dogs” in Social CRM – at least that what I would guess. First, as far as the Altimeter Group report goes, its well done, it was done openly and with collaboration and agreement of many in the business. Also, Ray Wang is one of the best enterprise software analysts in the world and his joined-at-the-hip partner Jeremiah Owyang one of the most influential people in the social space. So they have both credentials, position and street cred. So their “position” wasn’t relevant or lacking.
More to the point, what I saw roiling around the publication of the report is something that I see all the time in multiple places. People deciding they need to jockey for position, or who are worrying about their position, etc. I’d say this was more the latter than the former. While this particular incident will pass, there are those in the enterprise software world which includes Social CRM that do this all the time – maneuvering in ways that ultimately attack others to allow the maneuverer to “get into position.” To me, that behavior is intolerable.
What do I mean by that? Simple. When this manipulating jockey decides to differentiate to get “position” they denigrate what others do. One example of this was a claim that the only reason that someone would hold onto the term “Social CRM” is because they have a vested interest in it – never mind that it might just simply be a useful thing to do – something that companies could understand a little more easily.
But, you might be thinking, that’s easy for you to say, since you have “position.” You’re the “Godfather of CRM.” You are an alpha dog in the CRM universe – according to many.
Look, let me be clear. While I think its a total trip that people call me that, do you think that I really care one bit about my position in the world of Social CRM’? I just turned 60 and, believe me, I know what my priorities are. Plus I’m confident of my abilities to succeed to the level I want to succeed. Period. Let me clarify this.
- I don’t care about my position whatever. #1 or #2 or #3. Godfather of CRM or not. What respect I have from people I prefer to think I’ve earned by being fair, straightforward, thoughtful and good of heart. If not, give the title back to Marlon Brando.
- I don’t mind competing, its fun. But I don’t lose sleep over losing either. When I have a deal in the works for a contract that might be competitive, I have never once lost sleep over fear of losing the deal. Know why? Because a. I know even if I don’t get it, there will be something else. and b. you can’t lose what you don’t have.
- The world of CRM is a nice big part of business, but a very small part of the universe as a whole. I’d prefer to be remembered by my contributions to the larger part of life – or, if they must be within the CRM world, then these contributions add to the advancement of the industry and to the benefit of somebody. For the former, thus, CRM at the Speed of Light. For the latter, hopefully, fond memories of me past, present, and those not yet formed.
- Since as the clichéd expression goes, life is short, my business objective is simple – support my family, make an impact, be happy. That’s pretty much it. So far, I’m, for the most part, able to do all three, though the latter can be elusive sometimes.
- That also means, I’m marching to my own drum, but sensitive to the instruments that all others around me are playing. My best scenario is to add my drum to the orchestra of others and make great music. Sorry for the hackneyed analogy, but it fits. Its in my interest to support the interests of others.
There you have it. So, if you think that you’re going to get somewhere by a jealous negative attack on others who are trying to live their lives as well as they can in the way that they find enjoyable or necessary, think again. Don’t bother to ever, ever think I’ll do a thing to support you.
We all need to remember that while we may debate differences in thinking, have competing opinions etc. there is still loads of room for success for many. The rest of it will play itself out.
Sorry to rant but I’ve needed to say all of the STOP stuff for a long time. There it was. Ahhhhh.
A Quick Review of Extant Social Business/CRM Literature
There are a substantial number of documents that have appeared in the last few months on Social CRM and social business that are notable – either because they had buzz – or because they were good – or both. Here a few with some quick hit reviews.
Altimeter Group – Ray Wang and Jeremiah Owyang – Social CRM: The New Rules of Relationship Management
I’m not going to go into an extensive analysis of this document – its not necessary. It’s an important additional piece of the “HOW” of Social CRM and, at this stage in the maturity of SCRM, a needed addition. What makes this a refreshingly straightforward and useful document is that it shows 18 use cases for SCRM, categorized by 6 areas – 4 of them traditional (yes, 4) – marketing, sales, service & support, and customer experience and two of them contemporary – innovation and collaboration. There is some wiggle in the latter.
Now an argument can be made that when it comes to Social CRM, since we are dealing with new ways that customers interact with companies and corporate response – then innovation and collaboration are arguably part of a single category – since innovation with customer participation would indicate collaboration as the means for the innovation. In fact, when you read how Ray and Jeremiah differentiate it, collaboration is much more aimed at internal collaboration to respond appropriately to customers versus innovation which directly engages customers in ideation of some sort – either large scale or small scale. A pretty good differentiation. However, there are use cases where collaboration leads to innovation – see how SAP for example works with its customers to develop new products – its not crowdsourced R&D, its specific involvement of specific customers in specific product development with shared IP. Frankly, despite a few things like this which could be considered, what the Altimeter paper lays out is a much more than adequate addition to the hard core “how” – its a great addition.
I’ve read some feedback about the paper which somewhat complains over the mention of “only” vendors in the “5 Ms of Social CRM Baseline Processes.” The explicit reason for the concern was that SCRM is a strategy not a technology – which while true isn’t the focus of this paper. Believe me there is no problem with the Vendors to Watch. When push comes to shove, enterprise applications and services are most often used to implement and automate processes. At the enterprise level, while a few remain manual most aren’t, nor can the enterprise afford the time and expense it takes to keep manual processes. This paper is aimed at the enterprise – the larger companies that need to automate best practices. So vendors to watch are not only a valid category but important – even if I and the authors of the paper by the way, believe that SCRM is a strategy first. We can’t get too rigid in our thinking or interpretations, folks.
Finally, the recommendations are top quality and I would particularly point to number 2 - “Breathe social, invest in change management and training.” There is nothing more important than making sure that your corporate culture can sustain a Social CRM effort, not just start one.
All in all, this is a must read, mission-critical document because it is the first document in awhile to improve the discussion on the “how” when it comes to Social CRM. Go. Read it right now. Shoo.
Forrester Group – Bill Band w/Paul Hamerman, Andrew Magarie– Trends 2010: Customer Relationship Management
Bill Band does some of the more significant “take the air out of the overinflated balloon” kind of research when it comes to CRM. In his latest “Trends 2010: Customer Relationship Management” (a no nonsense name if I ever heard it), the point made most emphatically throughout is that whatever you may be doing socially (in the business sense – not dating), the fundamentals of business operations still need to apply and are, in fact, what businesses are looking for. According to the report, “selling, ordering and servicing solutions deliver the most certain business value.” If you look at the results of this survey, given the criteria of 1. Criticality; 2. Reputation and 3. Barriers – all of which are self-explanatory, I think, the areas that are of the highest business value to the respondents are in order:
- Order management solutions
- Customer service and support
- Contact center infrastructure
- eCommerce applications
- Sales force automation
All “traditional” (in relative terms) areas of CRM. What is noticeable and I’m proud to say proves a point that I (and Dr. Natalie Petouhoff of Forrester) and some others have been saying is that customer service (shown by the pre-eminence of two categories) is becoming the most important pillar of CRM – though our reason is that the social customer is demanding a more sticky and more transparent relationship to the company which translates to “customer service.”
What is also noticeable in the responses is that customer community platforms and customer forums (both due to an “optional” criticality); are low in importance for their business value according to the respondents. From my perspective, that’s because its early in the game and the ROI isn’t that well established yet, not because there is little value. Time will change this one.
The trends resulting from this survey that are most important:
- Both B2C and B2B businesses are highlighting customer loyalty as a priority goal – though B2C sees improving the customer experience as another key while B2B sees capturing new customers as another key.
- End to end customer-facing processes more of a priority than ever – with an “extension” of traditional CRM to include billing, order management, contract management etc.
- SaaS is the default choice for CRM buyers delivery mechanism.
- Social CRM hype (I’d use quotes here personally) reaches a crescendo but most projects in pilot. We should expect 12 more months of the hype.
- Mobile CRM is a must have.
All in all, there are several others that you should get the report and read about but these five are the most important in my book. I am in sync with all of them except that I think the statement on Social CRM hype is too simplistic. There are competing forces operating that make the “hype” sometimes not even hype. Here’s what I think to put it quickly. There is a LOT of actual hype around social media – whether as part of social CRM or not – and its business value. Note I said, social media, not Social CRM. Social media is a set of channels and the tools to communicate within those channels. They are dumb, agnostic tools with no inherent business value. The strategy to use them is most important. For example, you could use social media monitoring and note that “OMG, they hate us” and do nothing but note it – and thus the tools are useless to you because there is no action taken, nor a strategy for that. So the hype around the tools is excessive. Second, Social CRM on the other hand is an emerging area that is an extension of CRM (beyond order management, billing etc.) that is growing rapidly into a strategy for customer engagement. It is not mature, but there is no hype as to its business value so far that can’t be shown and there is little to show when it comes down to it as such because it is still being defined. The only thing known is that the transformation of CRM to a strategy for customer engagement rather than management is now on the agenda of everyone for reasons that are outlined in a zillion places.
That is my major beef with this this document, which isn’t that major. It does identify one thing necessary to SCRM as well as CRM practices – you still need to run your business. You still need processes that work. You still need to measure what you do. All of that is as important as how you engage your customers. Bill gets what it takes on the side of sound practice.
IDC – Mike Fauscette - Insight: The Intersection of Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0 and Collaboration: The Social Business
This should be coupled with the IDC survey also authored by Mike entitled the State of Social Business: 2009 Survey Results (he had Caroline Dangson and Robert Mahowald’s help here). What makes this interesting is that Mike truly understands how you should be drawing conclusions – not to suit your theory per se but to identify a true trend and then recommend against the observation. What is particularly valuable about his analysis of social business is that he makes the point that needs to be made – business has been social for a long time and what we are seeing now is not that the interactions per se are new, but the ability to scale those relationships between massive amounts of customers individually and the largest companies is new – and the aim of social business. His “new normal” recognizes that the conversation is controlled by the customer and that the companies will be increasingly adoption social business processes and tools to do business with that customer.
As part of their State of Social Business survey, IDC found that there is an increasing desire to use the social tools represented by blogs, wikis, crowdsourcing, microblogs (e.g. Twitter) for marketing and channels (e.g. Twitter) for customer service. But the bulk of the respondents still have no desire to use any of the tools in the next year, supporting the slow adoption, some experimentation that Forrester also found (see above). I’m not going to go into all the characteristics of a social business that Mike defines, just enough to tell you that he gets it – meaning he sees the general power of transparency with employees, customers, suppliers/vendors, partners etc. and how important it is to engage the customer in an ongoing relationship – thus where communities come it. Those are teasers. I can’t find a thing wrong with this other than its too short. Also the state of Social Business Survey costs a bloody damned fortune ($4500), but if you love data that has value – you need to check it out. You do.
Accenture – Todd R. Wagner & Joe Hughes – Social CRM: The New Frontier of Marketing, Sales and Service
This is NOT a “move the needle forward” document and does little to advance the discussion on Social CRM, which is a shame since Accenture has decided that its an area that they want to go to – and a company their size could do a lot of good. In fact, interestingly, its noticeable that Cap Gemini, a company of a similar nature at least the Euro version is doing a lot to add to the discussion around Social CRM due to the good works of Laurence Buchanan, Mark Hayfield Smith and Andy Mulholland.
That said, there’s little wrong with this document. Its an aggregate of what Social CRM is according to Accenture and what they think it is, isn’t far from wrong though it takes a pretty pedestrian view. For example, they do what many others have done before them, corroborate the fact that consumers trust each other and use social media to gather info on a product, brand or company. Check. They show a classically confusing diagram (they aren’t the only transgressors in this. Many do) that is designed to show the complexity of the way that consumers find information – again nothing wrong with it – but nothing new either.
The one place that this document does get it well and pushes something forward a bit is what they describe as the “collapse of the marketing funnel” which was the company’s way of driving loyalty and exposing the customer to more and more benefit as he or she progressed through the funnel. Now, the dialogue is open and real time at each stage of the influence that was previously described as a stage in the funnel – Awareness – Consider – Purchase – Usage – Loyalty. So marketing moves from controlling the brand messaging and relationships to becoming the first line of communication with the customer and a line that exists throughout the history of the relationship – transparently and immediately.
Now there is one thing that I find kind of humorous. As you know, my definition of Social CRM is pretty well known and existed for a long time. That would be:
“Social CRM is a philosophy & a business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules, workflow, processes & social characteristics, designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted & transparent business environment. It’s the company’s response to the customer’s ownership of the conversation.”
Here’s a section from their definition of Social CRM (thanks to several people for bringing this funny thing to my attention):
“An operating model, supported by technology and business processes, that is designed to engage customers in a mutually beneficial two-way conversation. Social CRM is a company’s necessary response to its customers transformation from spectators….to participants….and their subsequent co-ownership of the brand.”
Rhythm section, please. I’m just sayin……
In any case, beyond the marketing funnel collapse they pretty much echo what everyone else has said, and, as Seinfeld always said, “there’s nothing wrong with that.” One big mistake they make is that they use Frank Eliason’s brilliant work at Comcast using Twitter for customer service (with no credit to him particularly in the paper) as this extraordinary example with a comment from Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast saying “Twitter has changed the culture of our company.” Yet, Comcast (thank you, John Burton) which consistently ranked at the bottom of customer service and customer experience surveys for many years, even in 2010 gets no higher than 126th of 133 on Bruce Temkins Customer Experience 2010 service experience providers rankings – which means it hasn’t changed the company’s culture – except for PR purposes – and Frank’s brilliant work is what gets it off the floor to the not-bottom. Probably the wrong choice by Accenture here.
Again, I guess I’m damning them with faint praise, though I don’t mean to. This isn’t bad, it just isn’t much original beyond the collapse of the market funnel – which is worth reading. You can get it here.
The Social Customer – Brent Leary – The Social Contract: Customers, Companies, Communities, Conversations in the Age of the Collaborative Relationship
You know what I LOVE about this document. It is on customer service in the era of the social customer – and it is real stories by real people who are really doing it and actually seem to be enjoying what they’re doing. This is a slam dunk of an e-book released this morning that basically is a practitioner dream (no, not THAT kind of dream). The amalgamation of authors ranges from authors like Emily Yellin, who wrote the best selling, “Your Call is not that Important to Us” to practitioners like Ellen Filipiak, SVP of Customer Care at DirecTV to Scott Rogers, who has been a David’s Bridal rock star himself when it comes to how handle customers, to David Alston, VP of Marketing at Radian6 to Sanjay Dholakia, to industry legends like Martha Rogers and Don Peppers and new stars like Chris Brogan. Plus the WHOLE thing is organized by SCRM influencer and bud, Brent Leary who also writes for it, proving he is a five-tool guy after all. This was put out under the aegis of hot social media property The Social Customer, one of the many properties of Robin Carey’s Social Media Today (SMT). I wrote an e-book with a great group of authors on social selling for them, but this kicked my butt! Seriously. Not only is the content a cornucopia of best practices but it looks really damned good.