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'Social' CRM rethought (part 1) - a stake in the ground moved

Paul Greenberg Profile picture for user pgreenbe September 8, 2013
This is the first in a 5 part series that revisits the evolving concepts behind CRM. It is an important addition to a subject that has become increasingly muddied by the introduction of social elements.

In this guest post series, Paul Greenberg, sometimes referred to as the godfather of CRM and the father of social CRM starts rethinking what is happening in the CRM space. In this 5 part series, he explores how he perceives this topic is shifting. This is part 1, tomorrow, he moves on to examine the customer experience element of this evolving equation.[divider] [/divider]

paul greenberg
Just a little bit over four years ago, I wrote what became a pretty widely discussed post called “Time to Put a Stake in the Ground on Social CRM.”  In it, among other things, I ceded the name CRM 2.0 and indicated why we had to stop arguing about the definition of CRM and also why we needed to call this nearly evolved CRM, Social CRM (thank you my BFAM Brent Leary for that).

I’ve left it alone (mostly) for the last four years.  But, once again, I’m here to shoot off my big mouth and make some modestly inflammatory statements and, hopefully, try to give some meaning to a few things. As of today, it’s time to once again redefine where CRM is at and drop the “Social” from Social CRM and just call it CRM once again. Why?

To avoid market confusion, to recognize how mature CRM-formerly-known-as-Social CRM is as a technology, business science, a discipline and as a matter of thinking; though still somewhat lagging in its execution.

The invasion of social

It’s been almost two years since we’ve established that “social” is no longer something that deserves separate consideration in the business pantheon. As has been repeatedly discussed, it should be simply part of multi-channel and cross-channel strategy discussions and programs.  We’ve also seen CRM evolve from its more historic role as a platform and system for the operational and transactional side of sales, marketing and customer service to something that is considerably more attuned to interactions and engagement (in addition to operations and transactions) between the company and the customer.

In an informal study done by me of nearly 300 practitioners (no scientific method, just reading and talking), the standout lesson was that younger, Gen Y, CRM practitioners think that social channels and interactivity are part of what they call CRM.  They don’t have a clue that there was a CRM that didn’t include social – and they don’t call it social CRM either.

I wrote about this right after Christmas 2011. As we travel through 2013, the difference between SCRM and CRM is increasingly indistinct, as is the perception. Its original purpose was to address a phase change, an evolution of CRM – not a separate discipline – as I, as well as many others, made it, I think, quite clear.  The need for that distinction at the level of strategy, program, and systems/technology is no longer there. In fact, CRM without social channels might as well be called dCRM - deficient CRM. The incorporation of the use of social channels for both communication and data gathering is now table stakes for the CRM industry.

Gartner Group recognizes this. To their credit, they got rid of the ridiculous SCRM Magic Quadrant. I would venture a guess and say that the reason they did was that the perennial winners of the SCRM MQ weren’t actually CRM vendors at all and lacked the basic functionality that still defines what CRM technology is; everyone else was a niche player, indicating a market fragmentation that was unseemly at best.

They had to violate their own criteria for Magic Quadrants to get enough candidates to fill even that. There was no real SCRM market – only a CRM market.  Interestingly, (and conversely) Gartner is projecting a major boom in CRM with the market doubling from the 2012 number of $18 billion to an anticipated $36 billion in 2017. That number is staggering and actually kind of hard to believe but as always it depends on what Gartner includes. I would venture a guess (and that’s what this is) that this number includes all customer-facing technologies and services including the now-no-longer-usefully-named-CRM products and related services.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s going to be a long time until the distinction of SCRM and CRM is wiped from the books. RnR Market Research forecasts a $9.08 billion market for Social CRM in 2018 but even as they forecast this, they recognize that this is part of CRM as a market and everything else it purports to be (see red highlight):

“Rising focus on customer engagement, emerging SMEs, social platforms and the recognition of sharing ideas on a real time basis are driving the global customer relationship management (CRM) market. Enterprises are coming up with solutions for social monitoring, social listening, social middleware, social management and social measurement for providing the best in class customer experience to the customers. Today, CRM is not limited only for increasing sales and improving marketing activities, but to bring in more customer engagement with the enterprises.” (Emphasis mine)

I’m sure I’ll use the designation from time to time, but we need to recognize that this phase of the evolution is over and social is just something that you need to include in your thinking, and possibly in your programs and practices. Stop treating it as a savior of anything. Social channels, like all channels, are just dumb channels. Just as all software is dumb – meaning, human beings determine how much or little value they are going to get from them by deciding what they are going to do with them.

Now what? In part two, I address the specifics of the customer experience issue.

Photo credit: Michael Krigsman
Featured image credit: © S.John -

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