Social CRM – I still don’t know what it is

Way back at the beginning of May I was lucky enough to attend yet another conference. This time Social CRM 2011 in London. A day of talks on the burgeoning topic that is a bringing together of the almost ubiquitous word social and the ever so exciting acronym for Customer Relationship Management. It replaced the previous moniker of CRM2.0. Neither of these tags define exactly what it is (just like web2.0 and social media never have and never will).  It is widely regarded that Paul Greenberg has provided the most complete definitions of Social CRM. I hoped that a day of excellent talks on the topic would help clarify things for me. it did not. It did however give me some great insight on what it might be and how the term does not matter one bit.

I find the main lure for conferences is the people speaking i.e. the people I have heard of/follow/am inspired by irrespective of the topic. Sometimes a conference manages to align with speakers and topic but most of the time it does not matter (especially in banking as the conferences on that topic are few and far between).  Social CRM had a pretty strong line up of speakers I wanted to hear on a topic I want to know more about.

First talk of the day was by Brent Leary.  Someone whose work I have followed for a few years now and as well as being an expert on Social CRM he also has pretty good taste in music as evidenced by his regular weekend mixes which feature some of the finest old skool Hip Hop known to man. He began by using the example of Norton (makers of fine computer security products) who have moved pretty much all of their website to Facebook. They feel they will get more engagement from users on THE social platform (750,000,000 users etc) built on top of the web (Will replace http://www.? God I hope not). His other starting example was the beer seller at the Seattle Mariners baseball team. Instead of walking up and down the steps of the ballpark looking for people who want beer he has set up a Twitter account so people can tweet their beer orders. The two examples showing Hyperlocal vs Hyperglobal which JP Rangaswami covered recently when I saw him speak ‘There is no ‘National’ anymore just hyperlocal or hyperglobal if you fall between those then you will fail’. Brent covered a hell of a lot more and his (90s style 😉 slides can be viewed here

For me the best speaker of the day and the one who most looked like comedian Simon Day was Esteban Kolsky.  He started strongly by sharing some analysis he had done with the people tweeting in the room. Apparently their was only one Brazilian currently doing a Masters degree present. He shared the 90s style slide design that Brent had shown to great effect earlier but a passionate and knowledgeable talker will always make up for that.  Esteban focused on the data. The amount of data available is only going to grow. Huge torrents of data from social channels of which 98% is probably going to be noise. There will be an even greater need for smart analytics tools and humans to operate them/make sense of them.  The other thing Esteban was keen to point out was the need for social tools i.e. to allow conversations to take place to be used both inside and outside and to also where possible move towards a hybrid model allow internal and external to meet.  This ties in perfectly with the classic ‘If you are 1.0 on the inside then don’t try to be 2.0 on the outside’ which was excellently covered by Lee Bryant a while back.  Esteban’s beautiful slides are here

Esteban on the right obviously

The prettiest slides and most intriguing use cases of the day came from Catriona Oldershaw of Synthesio. This was not your usual event sponsor presentation it did feature the product quite heavily but did so with very relevant and interesting case studies while not being too gratuitous. Take note dull sponsors/vendors *cough* Salesforce *cough*. Catriona also go the biggest laugh of the day be referring to the Pippa Middletons Bum Twitter account which sprang up after the Royal Wedding. One of Synthesio’s clients is Regaine (the hair growth product) as such they were monitoring social media around the Royal Wedding and they had serious chat with Regaine about doing some adverts relating to the wedding because there was so much chatter about Prince William needing some! In the end they decided they could not react in time and that the brand mentions they were getting were good enough. It did highlight how monitoring needs to be treated with importance in an enterprise  and not just a couple of people watching. If it was built into their processes could Regaine have got an advert out in time e.g. 12-24 hours?

Another interesting case study shared was around the use of Synthesio by a certain hotel chain who were trying to link comments made online via Twitter/Trip Advisor and through their feedback channels to actual rooms in the hotel. So if customer x commented on the cleanliness of their room (room 316) on Saturday the 2nd of July they could check the room, work out cleaning rotas etc. Real actionable feedback. Catriona’s slides are here

My final favourite from the day was a talk by Richard Hughes on ‘Why your company needs a managed Social CRM platform’. Now this presentation was for a vendor selling products that allow you to host your own community instead of using all the free(ish) ones out there such as Facebook & Linked In so I was not expecting much. My scepticism however was short lived as Richard made a very well reasoned and entertaining argument. He used a classic quote to exemplify his thoughts ‘It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.’ Lynden B. Johnson famously said this of J. Edgar Hooover and the point being that it may be worthwhile providing a platform for conversation in areas that you own to help you at least have some control of the situation. Although you can’t exert too much control. Richard gave excellent examples of Apple and how they exert a little too much grip around their online community (banning people from talking about beta fixes/releases, responding as little as possible etc.) leading to people seeking other forums to get richer sources of information. I would love to see banks have open support forums on their sites but would they be able/willing to let users talk freely? Richards slides are here

Should we have our own communities or use those outside our control?

My takeaway from the day was that the main focus for Social CRM is customer service via so called social media channels. I think this is the obvious starting place but it is what comes next that is of real interest. The linking into existing operational systems and business processes is where the cool stuff should happen providing it is changing those systems and processes for the better. There must be a view to two way dialogue not just broadcast marketing. It is still very early days for Social CRM and I am not sure a useful definition of the term will arrive. The one I am working towards is around actually talking and listening online to customers because that is what will get things moving and make change happen. Paul Greenberg managed to boil down his definition from 18 paragraphs to 71 characters ‘The company’s response to the customer’s control of the conversation’. Companies will increasingly be measured based on the types of response they make. Let’s see how that pans out.

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