Paul Greenberg at CRMe09: It’s About The Social-Emotional Customer

I attended the opening Keynote this morning with Paul Greenberg at CRM Evolution 2009.  There were some very interesting things that Paul discussed that I want to share with you and elaborate on.

First the summary of what he covered.

Started by ensuring we all understood that the Social Revolution is not new (remember when yelp first emerged? early examples of customers becoming social), and that what we are dealing with is not a business revolution; it’s a societal revolution that business needs to adapt to.  He described Social Customer as not something new and different, rather we are them.

This is a key message that he remarked time and again: knowing the Social Customer is all about knowing how we act and how we interact with organizations.

He proceeded to talk about what he calls Generation C (I love the concept) for “connected”.  This generation is not about demographics, years of birth, or age ranges but is about becoming connected with organizations.  People in Generation C are the 74% (Pew Internet) of US Adults that are connected to the Internet, and the more than 66% (Nielsen) that belong to Member Community sites.  It is about the people who are vocal and are influencers by their active participation in the Social world.

These are the people that organizations must target to convert into advocates.

He spent some time talking about converting customers to advocates, and how to manage their influence and position within social networks to the advantage of the business.  He said that organizations must make it a plan to convert bad experiences into customer advocates (great point), and talked about how the economic value of a customer should not be as significant to the organization as the Referral Value of the customer (another great concept).

He then switched from Social Customers to Emotional Customers.  Talked about sentiments and emotions analysis and how it applies equally to communities and individuals, and to all conversations  (over 70% of transactions for Generation Y – the digital citizens – still happen via phone or in person according to Forrester).

He concluded by saying that idea of going social is to create valuable insights from what we learn about customers at the social and emotional level and applying them to the business.  The social and emotional label just denote new ways to do it.  His parting words were that organizations need to create strategies on how to become social, not just do it.

My Impressions

Paul got all his messages across well and I agree with the concepts. I think it is a great way to remove the existing fear to tell the companies why Social matters (because we are all social), and how it is going to continue to become more important.  I like the approach of saying that businesses did not change, what changed was society – it brings the problem to every company dealing with customers.

I admire that he aligned (finally) with my message that feedback management and insights is what drives the revolution for the companies (ok, he did not align – but I have to make myself feel better somehow — I have been saying that since 2005).

There are two things I would have emphasized more.

First, Paul rightly mentioned how each of us want to personalize the experiences, and expect the organization to deliver that. The solution is not to personalize on a one-by-one basis but rather to use segmentation wisely.  And that segmentation should not be done on financial value, but rather on the concept of Referral Value.  I would have spent more time talking about segmentation as critical to the success (which I think it is).

Second, I think that sentiment or emotional analysis is not quite ready for adoption,  most of the times the error rate is higher than the accuracy it yields. I agree that sentiments and emotions are the next frontier, but emphasizing too much how businesses can understand them when the technology is not quite there will backfire when the expected results are not reached.  Since the main source of nature is human nature, not technology, it may not be the best recommendation to make.  I saw some interesting demos at SpeechTek showcasing this – but we are not that close yet.  Think early days of NLP (Natural Language Process) for web self-service.

What do you think? Is sentiments analysis ready to take the mainstream? Is the social customer becoming the social-emotional customer?

How are organizations going to cope with this new customers?

11 Replies to “Paul Greenberg at CRMe09: It’s About The Social-Emotional Customer”

  1. I surely agree that a social customer is not a new phenomena, but the numbers are started to swell in the last couple of years, and the rise is accelerating.

    When we started our AAI project about 19 months ago, the biggest concern was a number of customer reviews per product to make it statistically representative for sentiment analysis. These concerns are no more as we see thousands of new reviews published on popular websites. The challenge now is to make most sense and utility out of this flood, learn how to interpret customers reviews to design better product and provide better service – better by customer definition not solely on the cost optimization basis.


    1. I think you present an interesting dilemma – not the too few, but the too many and how to distinguish between them. Of course, reputation and raking are critical – but we are not doing that.

      I think that the next killer app for social networking is going to have to be surrounding reputations and rankings.

      what do you think?


  2. Thanks a lot for sharing Paul’s keynote Esteban! Between the blogs & the #CRMe09 twitter stream, am glad you guys did not have to resort to the Ouija board as originally planned! 😐

    I have been shouting myself hoarse citing PEW stats for quite some time now (not on twitter or my blog, the other traditional channels like face to face, email, phone, powerpoint, etc.). Glad to see Paul take it up too.

    Regarding Paul’s Edelman Trust Barometer citings, I do not want to be pessimistic, just want to understand the dynamics – 2009 mid year report states that the trust in businesses has gone up & pips the peers category. How did this happen? What does this mean? Of course, the numbers do not say that people have lost trust in their peers, only that the businesses have managed to garner back.

    I like the social revolution & emotional connect aspects of Paul’s way of looking at customers.

    However, emotions do not scale yet. I agree with you on that. Though we need to address the emotional aspects, we cannot promise the whole shebang from a technology perspective. The false positives alone add on to the otherwise humongous task!


    1. I left the Trust barometer citings out of my report because, as you, I am still trying to figure whether they do play a role or not. I am not sure that trusting other people like you makes a difference between becoming social or not.

      I am glad you enjoyed the blog, I prefer this method (with analysis and time to present it well) over simply just twittering what is being said. You can also always refer to this blog for more details or a refresher – whereas twitter is probably vanished if you want to look at it.

      I think you and I already discussed sentiments, so I am not going to add more than just saying you are right there.

      Thanks for the read.


  3. Thanks for a great compilation and analysis Esteban. Completely agree to your comment above that Tweets get lost and these ‘Thought Pearls’ ought to be captured and secured. I compiled some great tweets of Paul’s presentation, as they were tweeted by @drnatalie and @rwang0 on my blog ( for my own read and refresher, if on one else 🙂

    Also agree with you on the current limited ability for tools to capture ‘Socio-Emotional Quotient'(SEQ); if I can call it that; of the customer. To some extent I guess tools like, used for bubbling up opinions/views in a social community might be considered as assisting this. But before jumping right into the tools, a strategy to identify and categorize relevance (SEQ can run across vast categories), means to utilize them etc. have to be laid out in detail I think. So Sentiment analysis is of great importance and will gain further ground as social communities grow, but there is still some time before it hits mainstream.




    1. Sid,

      Thanks for reading. Sorry for the time it took to answer, been busy over here.

      I like the SEQ and agree on having a strategy. But agree more than anything that tools are not there yet. I don’t think it will hit mainstream anytime soon, I have been wrong before, but it is quite interesting to see interest and (hopefully) progress in the market.

      Thanks for reading!


  4. I see social media capturing another portion of the old school sales cycle. Google replaced the Yellow Pages, Email has replaced direct mail and now social media will enhance (never replace) the personal connection between the corporation and its customers.

    Google is far more efficient and convenient than Yellow Pages, email is far less expensive than direct mail and social media provides an opportunity for corporations to touch many more customers than could be done in the old school cycle.

    Old school sales people would network through associations, trade groups, charities and golf. Social media allows them to cover far more ground then traditional means and will therefore become a greater part of the overall marketing and sales cycle.

    The best and most profitable customers come from referrals and social media provides a perfect platform to enhance this.


    1. Nathan,

      Sorry it has taken me this long to get to respond, it has been a crazy couple of weeks. I think you are correct in what you are stating – for the most part – and we will see SM become more commonplace within organizations. However, the last sentence you put in there – social customers will become the most profitable ones, is something that may happen — but not for a fairly long time.

      Thanks for reading


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