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Posts Tagged ‘SocialCRM’

Social Hearing Versus Social Listening, There is a Difference

I am torn between two topics this weekend – one is the subject line above, the second is is the fun topic of “Creepful”; the awkward combination of being insightful and sharing so much information with the person you are speaking with that they believe it is actually creepy. I will come back to that one, and post it over at CRMOutsiders, as a follow-up to Martin’s great start to the conversation.

Are you Listening, or just Hearing?

I am hopeful that most of you who are reading this post realize that there is a difference between hearing and listening. It is possible that it is one of those topics that you do not think too much about, but now that I am bringing it up, it makes sense. According to the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of hearing is “the faculty of perceiving sounds” whereas listening is to “take notice of and act on what someone says.”  So, hearing is the physical part, but listening is a cognitive or conscious response to what has been heard. Said simplistically, for those of you with kids, we know they heard you, the question really is did they listen to what you said. In the age of the Social Web, I will suggest that hearing be extended beyond just sound to include what is ‘said’ via the written word, on both standard (mail, email, fax) and Social channels (Twitter, Facebook, Blogs).

The mirror image to the listening versus hearing discussion is the open versus transparent discussion. I made my feelings pretty clear on that topic, Transparency is a Characteristic, not a Goal. In this post, I suggest that transparency is the ability to witness with an unobstructed view. Suggesting further that these organizational characteristics will lead to an increased level of trust, or the ability for people unfamiliar with you, or your organization to build trust more quickly. To me, transparency is a little bit like hearing (but a little more sophisticated), it is important, it needs to happen, but in isolation, it will only take you so far. So, what is the listening equivalent? Being open. Open is transparency plus participation, which leads to trust and value creation.

How do these pieces fit together?

There are hundreds of Tweets and Blogs, presented by ‘experts’ where listening is ‘strongly recommended’ as the starting point. While I agree that listening is important, I fear that what is actually happening is not really listening at all. If you do not plan to take any actions based on what you hear, are you really listening? Does Social Media monitoring really start with listening? You could say that all I am doing is playing a game of semantics, and you might be right (but, I would disagree with you). In the world that Social Media, is there such a thing as ‘Social Hearing’? Yes, it is called Social Media Monitoring. That said, monitoring and hearing are pointless if you do not plan on doing anything about what you find. What is really needed is Social Media Listening. There, I said it – but I am not going to suggest another TLA. What I am going to suggest is that if you plan to monitor, then prove to people that you are listening, not just hearing.

There are two ways to prove that you are listening. One way is transparency, allowing people to see inside the organization where they can witness what you are doing. The second, more interesting way to prove that you are listening is to be open. As I have stated previously “Open suggests that I can not only see through the window, but I can walk through the front door and participate.” I am not suggesting either that this conversation is over, I am suggesting that you need to make sure that you are doing more than just hearing, and that in order to do that, you might need to be more than just transparent.  Happy Sunday – please do let me know if I have missed something big (or even little).

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It is about the People, then the Product

June 24, 2010 2 comments

Paul Greenberg did a great job of highlighting some cool folks with his “Following on more than Friday” post. I am humbled to be on that list and Paul, right back at you. But you knew that and I do not think it is a stretch to suggest that we have all learned a lot from you! We all learn from different people in different ways, which is what leads to the variety and diversity of opinions. We also all have our own purpose for being here. No, I am not going all philosophical, I mean Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, YouTube and Blogs. While there are some great people who get it, there are a large number who don’t. Yes, that is a bold statement, bordering on ‘them is fightin’ words’.  I could call people out by name, but that would not be very social, not really interesting either.

What is more interesting is to extend Paul’s list a little, with some smart folks who live on the vendor side of things. These folks not only have some great things to say, but are also translating that into product; by listening, engaging, reading and thinking. My focus for this post is people who spend time thinking about small businesses and the issues they face. I also have a soft spot for people who are within the vendor world, because that was me not too long ago. I am not saying one product is better or worse than another, nor am I endorsing any one product here (disclaimer: no one on this list is paying me). I am focusing on the people not the products. Some have blogs, of these some are personal, some are company, some do not have blogs, but they still share. The common denominator is that they all have active Twitter accounts, thus that is the link I am providing. The path you take after that is your choice, like Social XYZ, to me it is about the people, so, that is my focus today.

They have more to offer than just a product! (in alphabetical order):

Jon Ferrera  (@jon_ferrara) Nimble (Product – Nimble, Beta soon)
T.A. McCann (@tamccann) Gist (Products – Gist, Google Apps Version too, Live*)
Pam O’Hara (@pmohara) BatchBlue (Product – BatchBook, Live*)
John Rourke (@johnrourke) Bantam Networks, (Product – BantamLive, Live*)
(* I am using the word “live” as they are all SaaS based applications)

Since I am focusing on the people, and not the products I can get away with not specifying a product grouping or market segment. All the products live somewhere within the CRM and/or Social CRM landscape, though Gist can live within, or as part of another application. The others may extend beyond what people think of as CRM as well. More importantly, each of the people focuses on solving specific business problems, and their products follow their lead. My interactions with each of these people came to be differently, some by research, some by twitter and blogs and some via a somewhat colorful Twitter conversation, but all is good now. I am appreciative for the time spent and more so, the time sharing issues and ideas, not only product.

Jon Ferrara has a long history within the CRM space, founding Goldmine 20 years ago. After interactions with Jon via Twitter, and Blogs we scheduled a call to talk. Here is the really neat thing, Jon was willing to talk to me the first time, while I was still with SugarCRM. He knew what I was doing, and of course what he was doing, but the interactions (including RTs ) were and are always positive. I have enjoyed the many interesting articles which he has shared, and learned from his comments. I look forward to the product. My sense is that Jon is more worried about the size of the pie, not the size of his slice. Jon has said to me on more than one occasion that if he focuses on the success of his customers, then his own success will just happen.

T.A. McCann has a neat background which goes back to working in the Exchange group at Microsoft. I do not have an extensive background with T.A. but have had some great interactions with Greg Meyer (@GregAtGist) and he set up the discussion with T.A.. During the conversation, T.A. and I talked about many different aspects of information, mostly social and aggregate, but the value of having it when you need it. He has a very pragmatic view, with the ultimate ROI of all of this – Time gained, time saved and efficiency. That is of course an over simplification, I will be writing up a post with more details soon. T.A. shared a passion for the space, which I look forward to seeing more of in the future. A passion and energy is good for us all.

Pam O’Hara has been thinking about small business for a long time. The CRM part came out of a need for the small business owner. I did recently speak with Pam, and had forgot that I had participated in a few of her TweetChat sessions (#sbbuzz). That is of course because those were a really long time ago, eons even (last year). Because of her focus on small business, Pam has an acute sense of time (spent, wasted and what it costs). Whether this is because Pam is focused on creating a better work/life balance for herself and her employees, or the focus is on the customers, it does not matter, we all benefit. Pam is constantly focused on efficiency, which is a good thing.

John Rourke is a little more colorful, could be the New Yorker in him (being one myself, I can say that). The first few interactions with John, were, let’s say interesting and direct. But, I take ownership for the escalation, and blame the channel (Twitter). Trying to understand someones personality, and objective in 140 character snippets without the context of ever meeting face-to-face is not a good idea. This is an example of ‘ I should have picked up the phone sooner’ After some time went by, John and I did pick up the phone and talk. John is laser focused on the business problem faced by his customers. He is willing to share his ideas openly. John might sometimes a little too focused on product, but it is not hidden or in any way obnoxious (really). Like me, John is a passionate person, and his passion for what he is doing is good for all of us.

I have been in the CRM space for a long time. When I spoke with these folks, there was very little talk of technology and infrastructure, at first this was surprising. Then it occurred to me that as an application for small business that is their problem not yours. Besides, these folks would rather talk about the business problems not the technology ones… I am constantly listening and trying to learn, in order to do that it is a requirement to extend the people you listen to, and be willing to contribute. The common theme here is that we are all overwhelmed with information, and time is a valuable commodity, making their contributions that much more meaningful. 10 years ago everyone was focused on real-time information, guess what, it happened. Another theme within this group is not about real-time information, it is about the right information at the right time.

CRM in the age of the Social Web

June 18, 2010 1 comment

I was invited to give a talk in Montreal this past week, by SugarCRM , which coincided with my attendance and participation at Enterprise 2.0 in Boston. I also had also just released a Guide to Understanding Social CRM, a white paper produced with Chess Media Group. Personally, I am growing tired of the definitions, the spin, nitpicking on what is a strategy (yeah, probably mine too). I have been working really hard to remain objective and balanced. I do not really care what we call it either, I just use an umbrella term which simply allows people to understand at a glance the general topic. So, if I stop using the term, what will happen – for one, I might miss out on what Gartner releases in their MQ (which I am concerned is going to really confuse things). The main issue, which is the key to the presentation below and the supporting white paper is that things have changed, therefore you need to change too.

What is really new?

The one area I did not really touch upon in the presentation is The Social Customer. The Social Customer is new, I know some will agree with me, and some will not. OK, so the Social Customer is not really new, I will disagree with myself right there, done. Let’s move on. What is new is the ease (time and energy spent) with which this type of individual can make an impact (Vast and Fast as friend Brent Leary likes to say). What is also new is the amount of information this individual has instantly available on a wide variety of topics, including your products. How do you respond? Some people are happy to refer to this as a strategy, some suggest this is not the case. Again, I am a a bit tired of that battle. My objective is share that things have changed, and let’s work to respond to that change. Here is a quick example, showing why I think things have changed:

In 1984 Ben and Jerry’s successfully carried out a campaign, which at the time was almost unheard of, but it worked. In 1984 pre-Web and certainly pre-Social Web the campaign took a lot of effort (6 months – 1 year, selling t-shirts 1800 numbers and an airplane over a football game), but that special type of customer certainly did exist. Ben and Jerry’s “beat the establishment”. The funny thing is that my next example is also a Vermont based controversy. Fast-forward to 2009 and a small Vermont Brewery, RockArt, ended up in a similar battle with “the establishment”. This battle time line can be measured in weeks, not months. Why? Because of the social web. In both of these scenarios, the ‘small guy’ would not have survived if it were not for vocal advocates, customers, influencers (US Senator Bernie Sanders sent a letter in the Beer battle). I bet if the issues were reversed in the historic time line (Beer in 1984, Ice Cream in 2009) the relative time to impact would have also been reversed.

So what does this prove? It proves that a special type of Customer did exist prior to the Social Web. Now, is it the Social Customer, I do not think so, but feel free to disagree. The Ben and Jerry’s advocate did not have text messaging, much less a cell phone, no email, no Facebook, myspace, youtube – you get the point. I know that I am going to hear “well those are all technologies, so Social is just technology”. Social Technology has changed the culture of a generation or more. A response to this change will require more than just technology.

Very Detailed Thoughts on Social CRM and the Value it Provides

June 14, 2010 3 comments

“Social CRM is based on the simple premise that you are able to interact with your customers based on their needs, not your rules. It is an extension of CRM, not a replacement, and among the important benefits is that it adds value back to the users and customers.  It is the one part of the social business strategy which addresses how companies need to adapt to the social customer and the expectations these customers have with respect to companies they do business with. With a focus on strategy, customer engagement and relationships, Social CRM moves beyond management of customers, transactions, and money.

Social CRM is a strategy first, but it will not be successful if it is not supported by people, processes and technology with defined goals and objectives. The way customers are interacting with companies and a companies’ brands is changing and this poses a challenge; a challenge of volume of new data, scale and speed.  Social customers are now in control of a significant part of the business ecosystem, not just as purchasers, but as influencers.  Individuals are influenced by friends, friends’ friends and friends’ friends’ friends. For Social CRM to be successful, and by extension the businesses who employ the strategy, we must recognize the power of social networks.”

A balanced approach is a critical success factor

We believe that one of the most important extensions that Social CRM adds to traditional CRM is the inclusion of a business strategy (maybe even a Social Business Strategy), specific to customer engagement and customer experience, beyond just an implementation strategy. Traditionally, CRM has been thought of as just a technology framework, thus Social CRM is often discussed as simply new tools on top of that framework. We work hard to build the case that Social CRM has value beyond simply social technology. Yes, social technology is a big big part in many instances, but it is more about how you, as an individual, and as a company, interpret information and communicate. If Social CRM goes the way of CRM and simply becomes a technology platform with bolt-on utilities and some new channels, I will personally be disappointed. I do not believe that is the way it is going.  Social CRM is not only about strategy either, it is about a balanced approach to modern business problems – modern problems are driven by modern customers, who are hyper-connected and smart (in other words, they started using the technology first).  The balance includes many many elements, and as an organization you should make active decisions on what to use and when to use it. Choosing not to do something is different from simply not doing it.

A Social Business will likely begin at the department, or even individual layer within an organization, the tools and technology will aid the executive office in adding cohesion to the strategy.  It would be preferable, moving forward, that the Social Business strategy would begin from the top with executive support and from the bottom with a willingness to try new things, working towards the middle, together. Social CRM and online communities might be different from the internal parts of the organization and their collaboration efforts, but as Social Business matures as a practice, the two concepts will continue to merge. Each organization will not need to completely rebuild (retool), but they will be able to build upon the solutions already in place and extend them to meet the demands placed by the consumer, partner or supplier. Important to both, crucial even, are the cultural issues which will likely arise due to a lack of understanding, a resistance to change and the earlier struggles which a more than likely to occur due to uncoordinated efforts to track the connection to revenue (Yes, in all this Social, business do still need to make $).

The Value of Social CRM to the Individual Employee

June 11, 2010 1 comment

I wrote a piece a couple weeks ago  where I referenced Laurence Buchanan’s piece “Measuring the ROI of Social CRM“, now, I am taking a look at it from a slightly different perspective, the value to the employee. How very ‘Inside-out’ of me, I know, but hang in for a moment, there is something here. My favorite quote from his post still stands, and sets the stage:

“The real question in my mind is not whether ROI is measurable or valid (it is), it’s whether ROI is the only metric worth evaluating? I would suggest that ROI as an isolated metric is not enough. In fact nothing like enough.”

Absolutely, ROI is NOT enough. There are lots of ways to look at return, how about employee empowerment? I have suggested myself, on the shoulders of many others that happy customers start with happy employees. Is it then a big leap to suggest that passionate employees might lead to passionate customers? If you are willing to make that leap, as I believe you should, then there is real value to the business!

Reap the rewards of a innovative and passionate organization!

Innovation can seldom, if ever, be measured in the time frame of one quarter. It is like watching your child grow, there in front of you every day, then suddenly, ‘wow, you grew’! If you encourage individual, or small team initiative, what your teams can and will do, if empowered to do it will surprise you. If you sponsor and enable, people within your organization to get closer to the customer through Social means, the payback (Return) will happen.

As an organization, you need to be flexible with regards to the return, flexible in what and when. I realize that some might take issue with the flexibility on return, but you might also be flexible on the cost part too – since people are the main cost, there are worthwhile, non-monetary rewards.

What are you doing to reward employees who take initiative?

I previously used the Twelpforce initiative by Best Buy to make my point. Are there others? There must be, what are yours. How do you reward the employees? For businesses of all sizes, employees with passion are a great asset. Allowing these impassioned employees to get close to and help customers get their jobs done builds stronger relationships, and dare I say leads towards loyalty. I had the chance to chat with the smart folks over at SpigIt a few weeks ago, and they have some great ideas on how to reward initiative from a ideation (sharing ideas) perspective, I bet many of the same concepts would work here.

I highlighted this sentiment with a post on ZDNet this past week, with the following ideas:

Innovation, the Kissing Cousin of Initiative
One path to solving this is to make, foster and push people to shine. Innovation is directly related to initiative, and you have everything right there in front of you. If you encourage and empower individuals, or small teams, the results can and will surprise you. Taking it a step further, to sponsor people within your organization, specifically to get closer to the customer through Social means, the value to each side of the equation will amaze you. The return on initiative will pay dividends well into the future, for both you, the employee and the customer.

How to get it done:

Tackling the hard problems Ask people within the organization to focus on their role in the customer experience, they have one, it might be obvious, or a stretch to figure it out. How can they improve that experience? What do they find frustrating? By taking initiative, focusing on, or even directly helping customers, employees will elevate their visibility, and gain personal satisfaction as well.

Taking a chance Do not make it taboo to take risks, calculated risks of course. Do not punish for initiative, or even failure. A Social Business needs passionate employees, ones who do not always wait for their boss. Yes, they must be willing to be accountable for their actions, and have sound business logic behind their ideas.

Voice of the Customer The hope is that as many people as possible are talking to customers as frequently as possible. Within an organization, you are always knowledgeable about your products and services. Add this knowledge along with something you learned about your customer and tell someone, become an advocate for the customer!

Create a Company of Entrepreneurs The best employees are self-starters. Giving them the freedom to do what it takes to get the job done. Using their best judgment in all situations enables them to express their individual creativity. By encouraging and supporting a culture of freedom and trust, employees will naturally assume a feeling of ownership – ownership in delivering a remarkable customer experience.

All initiatives need to be supported by a business case. It is possible to measure return by more than dollars, but cost has only one measure – or does it? As an organization, you need to be flexible with regards to the return, flexible in what and when. If employees are allowed to put a little bit of passion into their own work, the payback is going to be very powerful. They will become the new shiny object.

In a response to the post, Maria Ogneva, of Attensity360 suggested that “companies are starting to realize how important voice of customer is. However, most still fail to realize that voice of employee is just as important.” She also pointed out that barriers are a problem: “Putting red tape in employees’ way, making them feel stifled and unappreciated will definitely not result in any kind of passion or excitement.” What are you doing to make sure that your employees feel empowered?

The Value is still with Customers, but Looking Beyond is OK

I followed up a post written by Brian Solis yesterday, and shame on me, I am doing it again. But, today’s post was not really written by Brian, it was written by Paul Greenberg, not sure that makes it much better. Is this cheating? You know, writing a blog based on a blog, then following up that blog with other one. I happen to know Paul is in Europe for a couple weeks, so, I figured I would put my thoughts here. Brian is asking us to look beyond folks that we have a direct transactional history with, beyond just prospects.

I said yesterday that I believed SRM (Social Relationship Management) felt more like PR 2.0. Brian responded to my post, saying that we were not really talking about different things, but that he does not see SRM as PR 2.0. I am not yet convinced that it is a lot more, BUT I am willing to hold off pushing it too hard until I have a chance to talk with Brian (In real life, phone or some other traditional means like face to face even). I have and will maintain an open mind, willing to bend a bit, if needed. I am looking forward to the conversation

In today’s post Paul bridges the gap between SRM and Social CRM (potay-to v potah-to ) via the work of Dr. V. Kumar, Chairman of Georgia State University’s Marketing Department and the Executive Director of the Center for Excellence in Brand and Customer Management (CEBCM), what he calls CRV (Customer Referral Value). The idea is that you should maintain these relationships, as there is value in the referral, and we can measure it.

“CRV is a measure of advocacy and positive business value that an influencer brings. It fundamentally acknowledges the existence of the social customer that Social CRM deals with.”

To really build a well rounded picture of the impact of CRV, the introduction of one more TLA is required. I will be brief, but Paul does a more thorough job here, a post from August 2009. NPS (Net Promoter Score) is a large topic, which has issues all its own, and not something I am going to dive to deeply into today. Dr. Kumar, in his work actually expands/extends NPS to make it more meaningful and useful (ie, one question just is not going to cut it, sorry). Let me explain: NPS asks a customer one simple question “Do you intend to recommend this product or service to someone you know?”, while that question is interesting, the study shows little correlation with the really important question: “Did you actually recommend this product or service to someone you know”. For now, take my word for it, then feel free to read the article referenced.

They are still customers, or are they?

The studies done to date refer to customers, and struggle to put a stake in the ground on the actual value of influencers, who are not customers. That said, as Brian suggests, we need to look beyond the customers, or at least look within more closely.  While Customer Lifetime Value is a more direct measure of what a customer spends and their direct value to the bottom line, we need to look beyond these people and understand better those who are engaged, advocates and otherwise bullish on your products and services.  The extreme case here is that they are not actually a customer,  but there is value to the organization to have a relationship with this person.

Do you know who those people are? If you have an idea, do you actively manage the relationships, or are the relationships managed externally? In a response to his first post Brian makes an interesting (valuable interesting) statement:

“..how do you move something beyond the literal interpretation when the infrastructure (technology, process, and methodologies) works again much of what you’re attempting to implement?”

Do your current processes or technology prevent you from reaching this goal, if it is a goal? If so, what are you going to do about it?

Relationships need to have Meaning

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.