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:
Customer expectations are high and organizations are constantly challenged to meet, or dare I say to exceed expectations. Interestingly, I do not think many organizations can definitively state their customer expectations, can you? Go ahead and ask, before your head of sales, marketing or anyone else with a fancy title reads this, ask them: “What do our customers expect?” I also believe that the bar is continually changing. Asking the question above often receives a “we do not simply want to meet expectations, we want to exceed expectations!” Great, you are not really sure what expectations are, but the bar has just been reset!
Think through the following: You walk into the local candy shop and the person behind the counter weighs out the 1/2 pound of Jelly Beans (Strawberry Cheesecake, if you must know). After they weigh it, they affix the little sticky with the weight and price. Before they seal the bag, they throw in another small scoop of Jelly Beans. Your expectations have just been met and maybe even exceeded. Now, what do you expect the very next time you walk into the candy shop? This is obviously an over simplistic view of the world. Take the conversation to cars, houses, software, insurance policies, mobile phone, cable and Internet provider, the list goes on and how do things change?
Expectations Around Service are Different, or are They?
The hyper-connected, mobile, choosier, but ‘I am your customer’ demands simplicity and is less tolerant of business-driven organizational procedures. Customer experiences are made up of interactions and touch points with the people, products and services a company provides to them. The connection – you might say the emotional connection – between customers and an organization consist of the sum of these experiences. The simple question is; “Are you organized in such a way to accelerate your company’s ability to deliver a 21st century experience to the 21st century customer?”
Extending the Jelly Bean example to more complex organizations is hard. For one, it is harder for these organizations to simply give you something extra with regards to service or product. I suppose that you could get a few extra minutes on your mobile phone, but if calls were dropping in the first place, then I am not sure what that does for you. As organizations decide to offer new and different channels, they might be giving the appearance of an increased level of service, but for the general population, did anything really change? You have now met the expectations on these new channels, because you are there. Well, maybe, kinda sorta, for the few that are yelling and screaming on Social channels you may have now met expectations. Did you just reset the bar on Social channels too? Did you invite more people to yell and scream?
I am excited to spend a few minutes with friends and super smart CRM folks Paul Greenberg and David Myron next week, for Webinar. The discussion will be light and we are going to have some fun (probably at my expense) and talk through some of the fun and maybe not-so-fun issues people who think about customer service stay up at night wondering about – basically that Customers are fickle. They change and are changing the way they communicate with each other – and your business – and this change is happening at a frenetic pace. Last year’s never-ending debate was the definition of Social CRM, thankfully, this year we have moved on. I can promise you that we will NOT talk about definitions, Cloud Computing nor Software-As-A-Service, we will focus on the fundamentals of customer service and keep the topic focused on business issues.
This post is a collaborative effort, not interview style, nor highlighting individual perspectives. While attending the VRM+CRM conference, we decided that if we were really going to build a bridge, it needed to be done together. Lauren Vargas and Mitch Lieberman
There has been a lot of talk, ‘he said she said’ unproductive sort of talk with respect to the different perspectives people take when talking about new technologies, buzzwords or business themes. There have even been some attempts to try and show people the other side, their perspective, the dark side (nope, not saying which is which!). We had the opportunity to spend a few days in Boston, at the VRM + CRM summit and decided we would try and do our part. The image below speaks so well to the issue at hand. The Flipper Bridge (part of the in-construction Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, link below) connects Hong Kong; where they drive on the left, with mainland China; where they drive on the right. Our goal here is not to talk about the differences, left or right, right or wrong, but what it will take to reach business harmony. We are not expecting people to join hands and join in singing a rendition of kumbaya, but different departments (sales, marketing, support) along with vendors, consultants and partners working together to understand each other and place the needs of the customers above petty in-fighting.
When you go to a meeting to state your position about a product, are you carefully listening your own words from the perspective audience? Are you considering what others could bring to the table, how they might approach the situation, problem, objective? What is great about the picture above, is that it not only needs to help drivers get across; pragmatism, but the bridge needs to put the drivers on the correct side of the road, safety. If the architects and designers did not consider the perspective of the drivers on the other side, this project would have failed. We know that seems obvious, but we believe in your daily work lives, the issues are equally obvious.
VRM + CRM Taught Us a Few Things
We each had the opportunity to attend the VRM+CRM conference hosted by Doc Searls and a few others at the Berkman Center. Our attendance was an explicit gesture by the VRM leaders to reach out to the CRM side of the house and implicitly state ‘we can try to solve this on our own, or we can do it together.’ CRM is Customer Relationship Management, while VRM is Vendor Relationship Management. To some, they are mirror images, to others, they are hand-in-glove. One thing became clear, to move forward they need eachother.
VRM + CRM illustrated that this is not a problem unique to CRMers, marketers, PR folks and technologists. Having the opportunity to be a part of the work that is happening in the social business space is extremely invigorating. However, as hard and as much we push for faster development and evolution, we need to juggle the hats of a historian and an anthropologist. It is important to know where we have been, the mistakes made and lessons learned that have occurred over time, before we can progress to successful future. And in this future, it is essential we progress with caution and learn about the new developments and behaviors that have become reality in this online dimension. Bottom line, we need to understand the basics of history and current business functions before we can rush full speed ahead. Without such perspective, we risk jumping the shark and the maturity growth of our own industry and customers.
Can you put yourself in their shoes? Are the buzzwords, acronyms and terms helping or getting in the way? Acronyms and industry lingo were established to define processes within our specific business functions, but when carried to the extreme, such terms box us in and limit growth. We become so caught up in the term we have coined, we are oblivious to the walls we have build up around us and exclude others from experiencing the term as we do or exploring it in depths we could not. Throughout history there has not been one word or function that all people have agreed upon or experienced the same way. Diversity in thought and definition is how we evolve. This should be no different in business evolution. We are not advocating the extreme abolishment of acronyms and industry lingo, but encouraging all to be open and accepting of other interpretations, as well as, stepping outside our own comfort zone and learning the terminology and context surrounding other business functions within the organization and industry.
Let’s Lead By Example
We are all trying to accomplish the same thing. Goals and Objectives are the same (or they should be). You (company) cannot solve this problem in the best way possible without help and input from all sides. Your customers come in all shapes, sizes, gender. They have different needs, and they offer different perspectives, shouldn’t you do the same? We need to keep in mind each department within our organization, just as our customers, will adopt social business functions at different speeds. Sniping at each other about definitions and roles of responsibility will not replace the need to put theory into practice. A culture shift is evident, but it does not occur overnight. It is essential we each support the discovery process of our sister departments or industries. It is only in this collaborative approach we can truly see what will succeed and fail without being at the expense of our customers or community.
Sometimes it is a good idea to keep things simple, and work to hide complexity. This type of exercise can be valuable for people trying to grasp new concepts. That said, oftentimes if you are not careful you can actually do a dis-service and cause issues. With something new, like Social Business, Social CRM and quickly evolving concepts like Social Customer and Social Relationship Management you actually need to produce something with teeth if you are going to recommend people have a strategy. Something that you (or they) could build upon, or take an executive and execute against. If the simplicity takes away all meaning or steers people in the wrong direction, then it really needs to be, well, challenged. Sorry, if this is too harsh, but just calling it like I see it.
A Social Business strategy needs to be more than just a plan that takes into account a modified definition of Social CRM so you can maximize your ability to meet specific goals. That may sound strange, but it was recently done, and I felt the need to address the trend. Something like this does not offer anything of real value to anyone (except me who can use it to try and make a point). If you really want to help businesses and prepare them for what is needed dig deeper, analyze the problem and add value on top of it. Include the work of Graham Hill, specifically his post a Manifesto for Social Business. Or, dig a little deeper on the recent post by Michael Fauscette, the Social Customer Bill of Rights. Engage with Brian Solis and agree, disagree or modify his thoughts on Social Relationship Management. Pull up a chair and talk to Esteban Kolsky about part 2 of his Roadmap for SCRM, which talks specifically about the changing nature of relationships “Shifting Relationship models”. If the relationships are your focus, how can anyone not read and reread Wim Rampen’s stellar post What Relationships You Should Care For, And Why, along with many many great comments.
I am not trying to go academic here, we have others who are much better at that than I am, really! However, a constant dumbing down of critical concepts does not help implementers, businesses nor push the thinking forward. Taking the works referenced above, and the embedded concepts contained within (including the comments and dialog) would be a hugely valuable exercise (I might just do it when I have some time), but there is no way to summarize a strategy for all of it, in one sentence. Never referencing the work of anyone else, suggests either a lack of research, or disrespect for people’s work who came before. Never commenting on posts, unless they are your own bugs me…sorry, just sayin’. It is not all about people who agree with me either. Bob Thompson, host of CustomerThink and some newer communities (SocialBusinessOne and SalesEdgeOne, two I am part of) has challenged me to dig deeper about why I am suggesting the things I am suggesting. He questions whether Social <this or that> is new, or not and needed or not. I have great respect for Bob, we do not always see eye to eye, but the challenges are respectful and thorough – and I am the better for listening. I also have great fun going at with someone I am happy to call a friend; Mike Boysen. We do not see eye to eye on many things (the fact that he is 6’4″ is only one reason). Mike is the pragmatic one in the group, and shares his thoughts on his blog – he keeps me honest. When I learn something new, I reference other who taught me, whether by name, article or twitter handle. I could have and should have mentioned more people here, I will be sure to do so in the future.
It is not about winning the battle, or the war…it is about pushing the conversations forward together for the betterment of the ecosystem. BTW, the USA won the game 1-1 😉
When you take a look at the picture below, what do you see? Do you see an older woman, or a younger woman? In case you have not seen this picture before, they are both there, trust me. OK, what is the relevance? The realization I have come to, and it is likely that others are there ahead of me, is that much (not all) of the debate regarding definitions – nit-picking words is simply due to our own myopic perspectives.
When an experienced marketer, social marketer, CMO or someone within traditional public relations looks at Social CRM, what do you/they see? I suspect, based on what I have been reading for the past year, is they see an old school system that is going to suck the life out of modern, cool, hip and social marketing efforts. When the more traditional information technologist, CIO, or 15 year CRM veteran looks at Social CRM and they see the young beauty – something that will finally breath life into what CRM was supposed to be 15 years ago – Customer Centric. There are a spectrum of perspectives, I chose only two, to illustrate my point. We need to bring these perspectives into alignment, and stop trying to prove we are right.
Know Your Audience and Lead them to Success
When someone tries to explain what Social CRM is, it often starts with a definition, followed by a talk about what it is, or does, surrounded by a few examples or case studies. Looking objectively at this, if the audience is mixed, then each person may leave the discussion with a very different idea of what exactly is Social CRM. The unfortunate truth is that within each organization there will be a bit of battle surrounding who should own this new “Social CRM” initiative. Before many people work to understand what is in it for their customers, they are likely going to ask “What is in it for me?”, sorry, tell me I am wrong. Friend and colleague Graham Hill wrote a post about 9 months ago: Who Should Own Social CRM? Graham suggests the following:
“In a business new to social CRM, this may be a disparate social network of individuals doing their own thing across the business. A self-organising group with no formal authority, but a lot of social authority. In a slightly more advanced business it might be a cross-functional team formed specifically to look at Social CRM and containing many of the earlier social network. Further on it might be a formal Social CRM Coordinator given the role, responsibility and authority to promote Social CRM across the business. In some organisations, it might even be the Chief Customer Officer (although organisations have a few hoops to jump through before they get that far!).”
Maybe you should figure out first what Social means to you
Another friend and colleague, Esteban Kolsky spoke about Social Business and specifically, he keyed in on the word ‘Social’. You can find the full post here, but, my biggest takeaway is that we all need to figure out what Social means to our business, then we can figure out what Social CRM is and who should own it. My favorite line is “Social is not about Kumbayah”, ok, that is what it is not, but, what is it?:
“Social is about leveraging the customer willingness to work with us, as a business, to achieve better products, better services and have better relationships. Social is about collaborating in a win-win environment where both customer and business achieve maximum value in each and every interaction, regardless of how it was planned and executed.”
This description does not force social efforts into one department. The ownership, in my opinion is by the business, for the business. We all need to be able to view the topics from other parts of the organization, as well as here in the blogosphere, other disciplines. What is your perspective? Have you been guilty of looking at this from only one perspective, and are willing to share?
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.
I penned a post yesterday, on the CRMOutsiders, blog titled Are all Interactions Social Interaction? The post was a little more sarcastic than my usual rants and I think it caught a few folks who do not know me a bit off guard. I start the post with the following:
“SugarCRM is holding its annual customer, developer and partner conference, April 12-14, in San Francisco. The venue is the cool Palace Hotel. It is going to be a great event, with some really great presenters, panelists, as well as an awesome evening event at the California Academy of Sciences.”
I went on further to suggest that I did a little bit of a ‘bait and switch’. I even posed a question to myself: “is what I did appropriate?” My idea was to draw people in with a topic intended to create some conversation, but was it really a marketing message in disguise? – not a very Social thing to do. The post was prompted by a question posed by Bob Thompson, the CEO of CustomerThink. The question is: “Can you do Social CRM without Social Media/Networks?” In order to answer that question, first the question of what determines if an interaction is a Social interaction needs to be answered.
Is every Interaction a Social Interaction?
The conclusion I reached, possibly prematurely, is “No” not every interaction is a Social Interaction. The post did have some back and forth with people willing to share their thoughts. I may need to retract my conclusion, or at least alter it. It it not really binary, it is a continuum, and there are degrees of social. Phil Soffer, Vice President of Product Marketing at Lithium Technologies wrote a great post which I think gets to the heart of the matter. Phil suggests the following:
“a more rigorous definition of the forms that Social CRM interaction takes. I’m not talking about channels here: Facebook versus Twitter, or whatever. I’m talking more about norms and expectations that govern the interaction.”
Phil went on the discuss the Typology of Social CRM Sociability. I agree with the concept, and even some of the specifics. I would like add a bit to this and state the following, the intent of an interaction speaks much more to the Sociability than the channel used. I can broadcast a commercial on YouTube, do nothing but send spam links on Twitter just as easily as I can pick up the phone or send an email to a group of people – which is Social which is not?
The 6 Degrees of Social Interactions
Here are examples of the 6 Degrees of Social Interactions from the Customer perspective. Since this is a continuum, as you progress from 1-6, the characteristics suggest that the customer is becoming a Social Customer.
- I said what I am said, really not hoping for a response, just action – monologue
- I am talking, hoping for acknowledgment, not necessarily a response, but might be nice – venting
- We are talking, but the conversation is a bit one sided – skewed
- I am actively asking for information, will not be happy until I get it – social pressure
- We are engaged in a conversation and others may join in to push things forward – objective
- A community of conversations Many to Many – icing on the cake
Here are examples of the 6 Degrees of Social Interaction from the Business’s Perspective. Since this is a continuum, as you progress from 1-6, the characteristics suggest that the Business is becoming a Social Business.
- Here is my press release, look at me – broadcast
- Register and Download my whitepaper – broadcast with bait
- We are listening, but I am really waiting to talk – pretending
- We are blogging and hoping the message makes it out untarnished – comment, nicely please
- The Facebook Fanpage is set up, I hope everyone is nice – <fingers crossed>
- A community of conversations Many to Many – objective
Is 6 Degrees enough? Probably not, the title sounded cool though. This is analog, not digital. How does this play into Social CRM and answering Bob’s question? Share your thoughts, mine are still gelling and I will share my thoughts in my next post. The short answer is yes, Social CRM can be done without Social Media/Networks, because Social CRM is as much about culture and other soft – but important – change management ideas.
- 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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