Forget Social CRM, Just Add Social to Your CRM

There is no such thing as Social CRM.

Back in the early 1990s we saw the first deployments of CRM emerge.  Aided by the very fast rise of the Internet as a network to connect distant and disparate machines, we also began to see the adoption of email as a communication channel, and slowly saw the rise of chat as well.

Vendors realized that these communication channels could be used to enhance and differentiate newly minted CRM solutions, giving birth to e-CRM.  Gartner debated whether to cal it e-CRM or to just add them as new communications channels.  The prospects of having a “new” hot technology skewed the decision to launch e-CRM.

Gartner prepared especial reports, notes, presentations, even allocated space in the CRM Summit.  The term was advertised, used, and disseminated around the world.  e-CRM had arrived and how it was going to revolutionize the world and the way to do  business.  Vendors adopted the concept into marketing and new products, companies struggled to catch-up and named their VP of e-CRM.  I was leading the charge for eService.  We were making history, changing the world, leading a revolution of instant, perfect, integrated relationships that led to more business, less cost, and better way to do business.

Sounds Familiar?

CEO after CEO began to wonder why they had spent millions of dollars, time and resources to implement CRM if it was outdated already.  One of my clients called me back about 2 months after they had made the decision to go for a CRM system almost yelling at me for telling them to go with CRM – they were now behind and they had not yet launched a single module.  They could not understand what this new e-CRM provided that was so different.

And then we explained.

There is nothing in e-CRM that you cannot do with CRM.  Actually, it is just an extension of your CRM setup where we add more channels and make it more powerful.  It is not mandatory per se – but all the cool kids are doing it and it brings great new abilities to your implementation.  You don’t have to change what you have, just add to your existing implementation and you are ready to go.  It was an easy explanation.

Their answer? Why call it something new if it is just an addition to what I have?

Good question.

Care to try your luck at explaining that for Social-CRM?

(note: we tried to do the same with m-crm for mobile crm, and rt-crm for real-time crm with similar results)

17 Replies to “Forget Social CRM, Just Add Social to Your CRM”

  1. Esteban,

    The debate itself is half the fun – the other half is explaining to our clients, partners and customers. Borrowing from Yogi Berra – “CRM is 90% perception, the other half implementation”.

    Along with you, I lived through the 90s and early 2000s CRM, eCRM, mobileCRM, CTI, Chat, Email – all simply represented a slightly different way for a company to communicate with their customers and prospects. More efficient, maybe – faster, possibly – better, not so sure. These are 1 to 1, 1 to Many – Many to Many, not really. The company more often than not, in control of the conversation.

    The current discussion, from where I sit, is about something new – not because it did not happen before – customers talking to customers, prospects talking to prospects with a velocity that we have not seen. Social CRM or CRM2.0 or CRM Using Social has changed the rules – again, not because people talking to people is new, but the efficiency, velocity and lack of control make it new – a new challenge.

    I applaud your posts, and seeding the discussions. Often I think we are all far more in agreement, than not, a healthy debate which I am learning from, by participating.




  2. I too debated if social CRM is just another channel for CRM. But MAYBE this time is a little different. Now the balance of power is shifted toward customers. Customer are talking with each other armed with tools not available before. Social CRM is what’s happening outside company. Of course, current CRM vendors could also add new module and change existing functions.New startup maybe able to do it faster and willing to take more risk to try new features.


  3. Esteban, first of all please accept my heart felt gratitude to grant me my silly wish & take pains to post it after a long & hard day! 🙂

    Now to the post.

    Esteban, I did not live it through in the 90s, so this gives me a lot of perspective & lessons from history. I am thankful again for the lessons!

    I however witnessed the push behind e-CRM & all the other stuff then onwards.
    I started at the turn of the Millenium, in 2000.

    I agree that all these stuffs were just the marketing mill running overtime & did not really need any vastly different mindset/philosophy when the addons were sold/implemented.

    Same with the “social” thingamajig too. The same mindset that was propounded for investing in CRM & then incorporating the new channels is still bandied about for “social” too.

    However, there is a key difference this time.

    Implementing “Social” is not the prerogative of the business & something they can ignore like the other channels (I am currently working on a proposal where we are to implement the “e” channels for the investment in CRM).

    Customers liked to get “social” with the businesses right from the day enterprises came into existence & people could no longer talk to the owner. However businesses forced the customers to talk to their palm … oops, phones/fax/email/IM/chat/etc.

    Now that there is a “social” platform built all over again on the digital infrastructure & one that removes even the physical distances from the equation, people are beginning to blur the barriers b/w their physical & virtual communities.

    It is not only becoming imperative for the businesses to join this channel but they are being forced to join a platform in which they have no control over the conversations! One where the velocity of change in perceptions is far too high to even begin comprehension. (Well, that nears a FUD but thats how it seems to me)

    Business is only becoming social all over again. 🙂

    So yes, this is CRM too, but we are mostly discussing whats making it different this time with the introduction of “social” to the equation on the #scrm hashtag on twitter.


  4. Great post Esteban. I follow the #scrm hashtag on Twitter and throughout a few thoughts the other night, thoughts I wanted to take a moment to expand upon.

    scrm (or Social CRM) = hype
    crmus (CRM Using Social Extensions) = clarity

    Social CRM, like e-CRM and m-CRM, is an unfortunate term, one that leads to confusion and an endless hype cycle. As with your example for e-CRM, to many people ask what this new Social CRM is, when it will be available, and what exactly is it.

    CRM Using Social Extensions is a much clearer term, one that is less confusing for executives and consumers alike. It is available today in some applications, and can easily be added to CRMs that are not yet investing their internal resources to build it. As examples:

    – Leveraging the power of LinkedIn to map relationships is something that has been available in some CRM system (such as Lexis Nexis InterAction) for a while now.
    – Including RSS feeds from Twitter to monitor the buzz around certain companies is already leveraged in other CRM systems.

    For CRM using Social Extensions to move past the early marketing hype to a concept that is well understood and widely deployed we must force ourselves to speak about it in clear terms. We must also agree amongst ourselves on one term, with one clear definition. If we cannot do that amongst ourselves we will never see the full potential be achieved.

    John Moore


  5. So here’s the issue- yep you are right. You could theoretically do everything you can now do with social CRM, with the old dog chow CRM. But why didn’t that happen?

    Because old CRM lacked the transparency of a witness. The data about customers was all there… but it was/is stored in databases that no one can see.

    Social CRM- is on the internet, is there right before the public, for every CEO to see the dirty laundry exposed. When the dirty laundray stays in the database, its not actionable.

    If Old CRM wants to catch up, it needs to figure out how to be transparent and witnessable…

    otherwise it’s just a bunch of bits and bytes that will forever stay stored in a relational database that has little ability to change customer relationships.


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