I am not trying to define, nor redefine – been there done that. What I am doing is to simply share how I think about things.
Customer Engagement is the extent to which an organization commits, both emotionally and intellectually, to communicating and interacting with their customers, relative to accomplishing shared goals driven by customer need. Engagement can be seen as a heightened level of interaction and ownership where the company wants to do whatever they can for the benefit of the customer.
Customer Relationship (Management)
Customer Relationship (Management) is the proper balance of people, process and technology; practice and strategy required to meet the customer centric goals and objectives of your business. It needs to provide all business stakeholders the data, information and insights regarding current, past and future customers (people) and the ability to interact, inform and engage (see above) with these same people.
If you are interested in what led me to this, feel free to watch a short video with Paul Greenberg, and my detailed thoughts based on the video interview. What are your thoughts? To keep things balanced, should there be another word between ‘Customer’ and ‘Engagement’? Maybe Centric, Focused, Service?
Customers do not want a relationship with your business, they want the benefits a relationship can offer to them. I have been stating this for a couple years, as many people I know have also stated and written about. You may or may not agree with this, as it has seemed like a bit of a political debate, without some really solid data to back-up either perspective. IBM recently published the result of 2010 study, which revealed some interesting data points. I will be cautious, as data can be interpreted differently from person to person, but this study is grounded in primary research, published by the IBM Institute for Business Value and my analysis of the report suggests that it is worth considering.
Consumers were asked what they do when then interact with businesses or brands via social media. I am not sure which is more surprising to me, that being part of a community and feeling connected are near the bottom, or that purchase and discount are at the top. To back up a little bit, results also published in the same report found that only 23% of consumers, who go to social media sites, go to interact with brands. They go to interact with family and friends (70%). Another interesting point is that while 23% are interested in interacting with brands 22% actually go to write a blog, that is a finding which I am going to need to think on for a bit. Finally,
“just over half of consumers surveyed say they do not engage with brands via social media at all (55 percent).”
The Business Side Gap
The business perspective is more interesting, and frankly more valuable to anyone who happens across this post. The simple reason is that a business needs to care about what the customers are saying and doing, not what they ‘think’ is right or worse, portrayed by someone else who told them the ‘right’ thing to do. OK businesses, take a look at the listing your peers gave when asked the why they thought customers were following their companies on social sites. The data clearly states that businesses believe much more strongly that consumers interact with them to feel part of the community – guess what, they really don’t. The consumer wants something more.
“Businesses hoping to foster closer customer connections through social media conversations may be mistakenly projecting their own desires for intimacy onto customers’ motivations for interacting. Interactions with businesses are not the same as interactions with friends.”
The gap is pretty wide, almost as wide as the current NFL players versus owners. But, in this case it is not a matter of compromise and working to get both sides to see the other perspective. The only real opinion that matters is what your customers think, correct?
What about Advocacy?
I am not sure about you, but I have seen a lot of Senior Executives talk about “getting closer” to their customers, partners, ecosystem, prospects (IBM 2010 Global CEO Study – 88% want to get closer to the customer). In order to answer the war cry from the C-suite, marketers and executives (from this survey) believe the answer is social media engagement. However, the data from the consumer side suggests otherwise – or best it is inconclusive. The issue seems to be that you (company) are already close to your advocates; 64% of stated that passion for a brand needs to exists prior to interacting with that brand.
“In other words, consumers who engage already have an affinity for that brand or company, and mere participation via social media may not necessarily result in increased loyalty or spending. But a recommendation from a friend or family member could make a difference.”
The answer to the riddle seems to be to encourage consumers to share their experiences with friends and family. Make that easy and you now have a better chance of encouraging those at the tipping point to become advocates for your brand. I am not going to go retro and start defining Social CRM, been there, done that! I am going to suggest that you need to start thinking like a customer, outside-in, not inside out. It is not about control of the conversation, it is about mutually beneficial value. A fair exchange. Social media is part of something we call the customer engagement continuum, aka consistency of interactions and touch points independent of the channel used. A friend shared a term with me early this week which seems to fit “Reverse Logistics” – to me, it fits here because the perspective that matters is the customers.
Mea Culpa (March 24th, 2011 – Update)
There are great comments on multiple locations on this topic. I am most appreciative for all the comments. If you would like to see what others are saying, elsewhere, here are few links:
Last week, I wrote a post where I was not very nice to an author who focused on data, and not trust as the ‘tie that binds’ regarding relationships. You can agree, or disagree, but the current thinking is that engagement builds trust, trust is the basis for a relationship and a relationship is the basis for…hmmm, for what? Why do I need a relationship? For one, a relationship is valuable if we want to have a drink, play golf, maybe even do some business together. That said, if one side, or the other is not gaining anything of value out of the relationship, then what is it worth? Value itself is an interesting word, as it is a totally perceived concept, meaning, what something is worth is based on the value I assign to it, no more, no less. Back to the relationship, it needs to be mutual, not one sided. OK, what is my point, where am I going and who cares!
Social Relationship Management is PR 2.0
I have read, and reread a series posts that bring up the topic of Social Relationship Management (SRM). The latest was written by Brian Solis, a brilliant strategist and professional, for whom I have a lot of respect:
“At a minimum, SRM focuses beyond the social customer and escalates the promise and potential of sCRM across an entire organization, not just customer service. Equally, SRM zooms in to evaluate the various stages of decision making and the channels and people that influence outcomes.”
I do not see eye-to-eye with Brian, I commented respectfully and he responded (I will get into details in a moment). I want to take a quick moment and highlight the importance of engaging. A willingness to respond and engage is critical to building your own trust. Thanks, Brian, I appreciate it. There were a few other posts which touched on the topic, and I find it frustrating that on such a topic the companies would not engage. There was one written by John Bell a strategist for Ogilvy. They call it Social IRM (Influencer Relationship Management). To write in a blog format about the importance of the way YOU believe relationships should be managed, yet do not respond, is well, NOT very social is it. Sounds rather like advertising, not being social; ‘I will broadcast my message, and it is what it is, no engagement’. How then could someone trust you to engage with their customers and/or influencers?
Back to the concepts of SRM, which at a conceptual level I do not disagree with, but it feels like the direction which Public Relations needs to go, not CRM (remember, Social CRM is an extension of CRM). What I do believe is that if you spend the time to cultivate a relationship, it should be easy to quickly understand how each side gains value from the relationship. Some are customers, some are prospect, influencers, partners, suppliers, etc.,…The focus should remain on understanding what the relationships brings, not simply the relationship itself. Do we need another TLA to define these activities? If an agency needs to help their clients to manage these people differently, then maybe. For the company, I do not think so, for the agency, maybe.
Understanding Jobs to be done is the Critical Element
If you are not focused on what the customers needs to do with your product, or the service you are offering, what is the value of the relationship? In his article, John Bell makes the following statement:
“But until we connect all that great data to the actual sales data for said customers, I don’t think its wise to label it ‘Social CRM.'”
I am not going down the path of the ROI debate, which is an important conversation to have. But it sounds like Ogilvy does not believe in tying the numbers to Sales data, so what exactly should it be tied to? Again, the label game is not the critical point here, the critical point is who are the customers and what are they trying to achieve? You can and should have relationships with recommenders, influencers and the like, but how are they helping you to understand the job the customer is trying to get done. Whether you call it Social CRM, SRM, Sales or Marketing is not the question, the relationship is not the answer either – the value exchange enabled by the relationship is the answer.
The following from Brian’s post is important, but I believe it needs to be extended:
“I believe at the heart of sCRM methodologies, the recognition that customers are only part of the new equation, sets the stage for long-term and advantageous change.”
The heart of Social CRM is the simple recognition that companies are going to focus on the needs of the customer, not their own rules. Customers are not only central to the theme, they are the heart and focus. If companies spend too much time and effort focusing on influencers they will take their ‘eye off the ball’ and lose focus. There are certain parts of the organization which need to focus on the influencers and decision makers, and it would of course be advantageous to have a developed understanding of these people, whether I would call that a relationship is open for interpretation.
Starting with the basics; If Social CRM is about the company’s response to the customer’s control of the conversation, I suppose we should first ask: Does it matter that the customer is controlling the conversation? Of course it matters! However, your response to the conversation matters more.
Keep the ordinary, ordinary
As Paul Greenberg reminded us last week during his keynote at SugarCon. “Keep the ordinary, ordinary”. When conversations happen, there is a time to jump in and time to leave it alone. Listening in for while is important, to gauge trends and build up experience. If someone (Prospect, Customer, Partner) asks a question or makes a request in a public channel, answer appropriately. My point is simply that controlling the conversation is not the same as controlling the relationship and that sometimes letting the conversations happen without you is ok, really (please do not interpret this as ignore).
Are customers like your kids?
Before I get lambasted for suggesting such a thing, work with me for a minute. This is more about communications than anything else, I have a ton of respect for my customers (as well as my kids). I have 3 awesome kids, really! – I am a lucky man. Are they perfect? No. Do they complain about me and/or their mother (my equally awesome wife) to their friends or to each other? Yes. Why, because we are not perfect parents either (or, we are being parents and saying “no”). Now, when they are talking among themselves or their friends, should I jump in and try to make sure things are ok? Sometimes, I suppose, more often than not, ‘no’, actually, but it depends. Sometimes an immediate reaction is necessary, sometimes it is not.
(Yes, I am a bit of a geek, but no, I do not have neither a KRM or a Social KRM system – you can figure it out)
Taking a bit of leap, this begs the question ‘do you need tools to practice Social CRM’? My answer is the following: No, they are not required, but they will certainly help. The consultative answer is ‘it depends’. I would suggest that sometimes the tools are not new tools though. I can share with you the need to engage on the channels where you customers are talking. This is a lesson learned from my kids as well – My 15yo son shares a whole lot more with me (especially when I am traveling) via text messaging than voice (btw – email, NO WAY). Talk to your customers where they are comfortable!
Social does not demand a public conversation.
At SugarCRM, where I hang my hat, if someone writes something on our forums (4+ years of Forums BTW), answering there, or changing channels is fine. In other words, our forums are still quite active (we are thinking of making some changes though). If your customers are not on the new fancy channels, Twitter Facebook, yeah I am talking about you – then you may not need to be there either. This is a slight word of caution to companies – if the marketing group decides to jump onto a new channel, then you will need to listen appropriately on that channel as well.
A good practice would be for the whole company to agree on the social channel strategy. According to Denis Pombriant (someone who I have great respect for), the proper balance of talking to listening is around 25/75; plus/minus. As he states “The ratio of outbound to inbound need not be 50/50, in fact, most of us don’t want to provide input to our vendors most of the time, and vendors don’t want all of that input. ” Kira Wampler, of Intuit, shared the example that the most important Social Channel for Intuit is Amazon – where customer reviews happen. That channel has been around for a long time, it is where their customers are, makes sense to me.
In further reading Denis’s post; The Relationship Entity he also makes a great reference to the old CRM 1.0 world, and offers some sage advice: “When CRM was a new idea companies — large, respectable companies — ran out and bought Siebel for no other reason than it was what other large, respectable companies were doing. I know because I asked them.” Skipping ahead, I love this line from the post, so I needed to include it “I just reading the labels looking for nutrition” – As a vendor, the message to me is ‘I better be part of a balanced diet’
I do believe there is a difference though, this time around the customer is driving the change. Companies are put in a position of needing to change, exactly how is not 100% defined yet. The change is both cultural, internal processes as well as technology. Does this change mean Social CRM for everyone? No, probably not. Friends have said to me “If you are a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail” – point taken. From a Social CRM perspective, there is buzz and hype – I am on record as stating we need to get past that, but companies are already doing ‘it’. Sometimes the effort is organized, sometimes, not so much. The key question is, who is doing the organizing?
By the way, I most certainly did not answer the question – but control is a very strong word. I suppose you could say it was a bit of trick question, as I do not think there is a right answer because independent of the first clause, no one really controls the relationship, because ultimate control is ending a relationship, and either side can do that.
- There is a Big Difference Between Can’t and Won’t
- Stop Thinking in Two Dimensions
- No Beginning, No Middle and No End
- Rethinking the Customer Journey
- The Simplest Thing I Ever Had to Write
- Context Integration, the Future of System to System Interactions
- The Evolution of Customer Community
- The Fine Line Between Personalization and Creepy
- Experience Innovation
- Maybe We are Using the Wrong Words to Describe Collaboration
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