The discussion on "social" is painting much of the business landscape, not with a brush but with a bucket thrown at the canvas. It has become so ubiquitous, so omnipresent and omniscient, that even the New York Times, in their long running column "On Words", had an enthused discussion on the word's very presence in the literary landscape (I have to say, I found out from a tweet that mentioned that I was in the article, much to my delight - since my interests are literary - though it called me a "customer relations management expert." Close enough, especially when I got equated with being one of the cognoscenti). But, even though it is the hottest of hottest conversations in any enterprise/business town, what has been noticeable also, has been what hasn't been spoken much of, besides giving it the appropriate lip service, not because of anything malevolent, but because of the excitement of Social CRM - and social media. Its what makes the two distinctive (among other things) that in fact is being somewhat ignored. That would be the basic blocking and tackling of traditional CRM that is still part and parcel of any actual strategy - and any implementation. The operational"stuff." Even with all the incredible roaring, growling, yelling, about social and even with the party-level polite conversation going on showing thought balloons (or tag clouds) with "social media", "Social CRM", "cloud computing", "Tweet (oh wait, that's a Scarlet Tanager that flew in the window)", "conversation", "mobile CRM", "Facebook CRM", "customer engagement" and any other sexy cool term with meaning, one thing we can't forget. That's would be that CRM - be it our contemporary Social form a.k.a. SCRM or even the traditional CRM which is still an instrumental part of many businesses - has some basic operational requirements and planning that has to go into the development of an overall program for customers that a business can use successfully to accomplish its particular aims regardless of the changed circumstances of the modern customer controlled ecosystem. What we are dealing with when it comes to SCRM is, simply, what kind of particular program does an individual business require to reach out to their customers and provide them with what they need to get what the business values in return?
A ProgramThe best way to think about SCRM/CRM for simplicity's sake is that it its a customer centered program. The program's focus/direction needs to change from time to time because of the business exigencies of a particular era. For example, five years ago I would have said it was a program for customer management, now I say customer engagement. Which is more than a po-tay-to, po-tah-to distinction. It has serious implications for how businesses need to conduct themselves. But the basic requirements for the program's construction remain the same. It needs these following components if CRM in any form is going to be executed successfully.
These are the basic building blocks of what comprise a CRM strategy and program. They were needed in traditional CRM and they continue to be needed in Social CRM plans. While the emphasis and approach to the components vary from era to era, and while there are some additions to the list, all of them still need to be thought through, decided on, budgeted, organized into something and then followed through and then tweaked, tweaked and maybe even rebuilt, to make the changes in how the business thinks and runs, not just thinks. If all of that is done, the customers' requirements for continuing to do business with your company can be met. When it comes to some of the things (note I said "some") that distinguish Social CRM from its older sibling, such as social media (as tools) and social networks (as channels/locations) they have to be factored in, but not at the expense of the other pieces. In a perfect world, all of them need to be incorporated into the planning. In that perfect world, technology is a part of the program, but not the program.
A Clarification on TechnologyBefore I continue on, I need to clarify something. In my response to Bob Thompson's superb discussion on the Altimeter Group's Social CRM Pioneers Google Group, "Does Social CRM Need Social Media", I said emphatically no. That doesn't mean I'm opposing technology, nor do I think in a business, a Social CRM program can scale without it. But also remember at this point, when I say technology is needed to scale, then I'm also saying that social media is not the only technology involved in a Social CRM implementation. It just happens to be the one currently oozing sex. However, the traditional operational and transactional technologies such as a customer record - preferably with a single view, or a business rules engine, a workflow creation tool, a set of automated processes, communications channels etc. will continue to be as or more important than ever before. You still need to record transactions, you still will be wise to know what your customer is thinking and to use analytics help you ascertain that. You will still need to be able to track what your employees are doing with their customers, not just what the customers are doing. No way should you simply assume that you can substitute a customer's social interactions for recording a customer's transactions. You shouldn't underestimate the importance of having and knowing a transaction history. Knowing an interaction history simply gives a business the means for richer customer insight when used in conjunction with customer transactional behaviors. In fact, interestingly some of the more recent efforts by vendors like Oracle and SAP base their social knowledge of the customer on existing transaction records - not social interactions. The start to some pretty sophisticated customer insights and some really sexy customer-usable tools, starts with the historic transaction record. In fact if you look at what kind of IT framework you're going to need for Social CRM, you'll note some comfortably familiar faces mostly grouped on the left and underneath along with the scarily unfamiliar. Here's that.
What's sitting all the way on the left is what we think of as traditional CRM. They are on this tools map a necessary part of a larger framework of foundational architectures, web services, applications, services, and ways to deliver these services. The technology here is what's needed to run this thing at the enterprise level. This "thing" is CRM - be it traditional or social. Again, basic blocking and tackling stuff.