The Roadmap to SCRM – Part 5 of 5

Part 1 – Introduction
Part 2.1 – SCRM-E2.0 Pivot Point
Part 2.2 – SCRM Business Functions
Part 3 – SCRM Rules Layer
Part 4 – SCRM Channels Layer

Alas, the last part of this series (and my favorite) communities.

I do believe that communities are going to become the most important part of any social business – even to the point of quasi replacing the customer as the recipient of products, services, and experiences.  I said this in my first long post on SCRM (A Brief History of SCRM), and I still maintain it.  It is one of the two pillars of my research into 2010 and beyond.  There are three things I want to cover at this high level:

First, why communities and not clients.

A very common assumption from organizations is that communities are nothing more than groups of customers.  I defined communities before as

a like-minded group of individuals that favors two-way communication as a way to increase their power and knowledge

The critical parts of this definition are the increases in power and knowledge, not the aggregation or grouping of individuals.  Individuals will remain as they are, single entities that purchase products, receive services, and interact with the organization.  That is not going to change, nor is the delivery of experiences to customers going to change.

What must change is the way organizations interact with communities.  Until now the collective thought is that communities are “owned” by organizations and that they are entitled to the knowledge and benefits derived from them.  If the organization provides a support community, the knowledge generated by it is now part of the corporate knowledge-base.  If the organization sponsors a marketing community, it can be used a focus group.  Nothing is further from the true.

There is a lot of value to derived from a community, but none of it comes directly from the community (OK, some of it does probably — a support community will reduce the number of support tickets, a marketing community will provide insights into R&D needs, and a sales community does reduce the cost of sales – but the largest value you can obtain is not from “owning” the community).  The major value an organization can derive from a community is that it knows who the influencers for their customers are.  What better value can you obtain from a group that to know who the influencers to your customers are, and have the ability to influence them, change their mind, an even obtain a referral.

This is similar to outfitting your house’s basement with all the amenities so your high school-age son or daughter brings her or his friends over all the time.  What better piece of mind as the parent of a teenager that having them at home – and with their influencers (sorry, friends).  This is the way you should think of the communities: as the points of influence for your customer, and the people you need to interact with so they, in turn, influence your customer in your favor.

Second, purpose of communities in SCRM.

The best implementation for any community, regardless of the purpose is to provide a platform and let the users define and use their own communities.  Let them self-police and regulate their own communities (preserve the right to close communities that are offensive or otherwise detrimental to your business or society but let the community manage their own users), and you will notice a much richer knowledge and participation.

There are three purposes for communities as part of an SCRM strategy:

Ideation and Innovation – generate ideas related to product, services, features, good and bad.  Either use the information provided to innovate and improve existing components or to create new products.  The organization can participate as a member, but ideation communities are better served by letting them freely express ideas and features, acknowledge them, inform on the progress, and provide news and information about other products – not as marketing, rather as informational channel.  The role members play as active two-way participants and co-creators make them very different from focus groups (which are exclusively one-way offline communities).

Service and Support – these are traditionally forums, but are not the only example.  The idea is to have the community members assist each other, and generate knowledge that can be leveraged by the organization to augment their existing knowledge-base.  Participation from the organization as super-users or admins is necessary to maintain the community active and engaged, although heavy recruitment of super-users is an alternative, as the members don’t care where the answer comes from as long as it is correct.  A reputation system is mandatory for trust in the answers to develop.  A very important part of enlisting the community to create content is to ensure they are also there to assist in the maintenance as it changes.

Feedback – we traditionally see these communities develop as subsets of the other two, when people begin to express their opinions about product or service as a result of a service transaction or ideation implementations.  The main role of these communities is to monitor people’s feedback and respond in teal time to problems or situations that arise. Twitter is probably the best known example of how these communities are used today.  The critical aspect is to capture and act on the feedback, then use it internally to improve the underlying processes.

What’s about Sales communities?

Not part of an SCRM implementation; they tend ot be internally focused, collaborative groups that offer the ability for salespeople to collaborate and improve their jobs – but no measurable direct sales benefits to the organization.  For organizations to be able to create and perceive value from sales the current sales model of one-to-one, privileged relationships between sales people and customers must change.  No one in the organization owns the customer, the customer owns the organization.  Alas, I Don’t see that happening anytime soon, but would love to see it.

Third, what types of communities are we talking about?

Sure, when I say communities you immediately think of the traditional model of forums – but there is so much more than that to consider.  Yes, forums are one part of communities — but not the best or more important one.  They serve a specific purpose and they do have a place in your community sub-strategy, but there is so much more to communities.  Consider these community models:

  • Forums – the traditional, continuation from the old BBS (bulletin board systems) and Compuserve Forums except that these are in an open network (Internet).  The idea is to offer a place to have themed, threaded conversations.  Most often used in service communities since is easy to segment by product and problem-type.
  • Wikis – although not generally thought of as communities, the fact that they can store knowledge and share it among their members makes for good communities where collaboration and content are more important that the conversations.  Yes, they do allow for conversations, but they work much better as content manager framework than as a conversation manager (forums are excellent for that),
  • Blogs – yes, they are communities.  Sure, they tend to be weaker than wikis for content management, after all there is only one author and the content is mostly static after publication, but the serve well as a tools to reach more and more people, and enter into conversations.  The threaded comments section is very similar to a forum, but the need for content before the conversation and the static segmentation by posts makes them not very efficient for lengthy, multi-topic conversation.
  • Newsletter – this is the perfect example of a one-way community used to spread knowledge.  It severely lacks on real communities options for two-way conversations and the spreading of knowledge from all members to all members, but it works very well for passive communities of people that tend to not get engaged and mostly read (you did hear about the 90-9-1 rules – right? newsletter cater to the 99-1-0 rule)
  • Offline – I know, incredible that I would mention a community that has no bearing on technology-driven implementations.  But that is because SCRM is NOT a technology-driven implementation, and if you follow the basic definition for communities I used, and the fact that organizations are trying to reach all the communities that influence their customers, offline are the ones that deserve more attention than online, since most people spend far more time in offline communities than they do in online communities.

After you select a purpose for the community and a model that caters to that purpose, you need to define the model of community you want to leverage.  There are three types of communities to choose from:

  • Task-Driven – short-term communities created and used for a specific purpose. Also called ad-hoc communities, they focus the interactions in a specific event or situation.  An example is a feedback community prepared for the launch of a product.  When the product is launched, the task is completed that the community disappears (although, sometimes it changes into a support community – but the conversion rates are not as good as recruiting rates for new support communities).
  • Objective-Driven – long-term, established communities with a specific objective (e.g. collect ongoing feedback, provide support).  They don’t have specific end-dates (e.g. an event occurring), and they have large quantities of active members participating in them.  Good example of this is a service and support community, where new members join periodically and even though the product may change versions or features, the community continues to provide support.  Over time it becomes a recognized element in the experience of owning that specific product.
  • Impromptu – these are the ones that show the most promise.  They come together without notice, for a specific event or task, and they are created by their members without prodding or help, there is not maintenance or rules to abide by, and the organization is not aware of their existence immediately.  The promise for these communities is for organizations to be able to capture real-time actionable insights that would change the way they act in light of those insights.  A sports game community built up and discarded shortly after the game, providing wisdom-of-the-crowds to coaches and analysts?  The feedback affected people can provide back to the company during a PR crisis?  The use of twitter during the recent Iranian elections?  All examples of impromptu communities with great value.  The best way to sponsor them is to provide the platform for communities to come together without notice, carry out their short-lived purpose, and then move on.

The community is the basis for Social CRM to exist and for Social Businesses to grow.  There is no social without the communities.

I know, you are going to tell me how social is all about the customer, not the community.  However, show me a customer that functions without a community and I will agree with you.  Would you rather aim for managing a relationship with a single customer at a high cost? Or would it be better to engage with multiple communities and affect the same customer via them in an organic form at far lower cost?

What do you think of this post? the entire series? is there anything I am missing in the series or here? are you working on your roadmap to SCRM? would love to know more about it…

11 Replies to “The Roadmap to SCRM – Part 5 of 5”

  1. Esteban – Great post, and thank you for bringing up the point that there are other communities besides “objective-driven”.

    I totally concur with your statement that there are three purposes of communities as part of a SCRM strategy – ideation and innovation, service and support, and feedback. I, too, see these as the real purpose and power of SCRM.

    I view feedback as the crawling before walking phase – just getting your feet wet. I also think the difference, from a strategic need/priorization standpoint, between ideation/innovation and service/support, is dependent upon the organizations current health, in terms of customer centricity. Although I dislike NPS (as being overly simplistic), I will use it to illustrate my point. If you are like Apple or Costco, and have an incredibly high NPS number, then chances are, from listening to feedback, that service / support of current customers are not a big issue. In that case, focuing more on indeation/innovation as a strategy is appropriate (while still pursuing service/support). If, however, service/support/customer experience are current issues, then, chances are the rise in social networking and customer engaging with other customers, has only exacerbated that. In that instance, service/support, as a strategy, should be priority one – mission critical, (not that the organization cannot and should not necessarily pursue a strategy of ideation/innovation to cement a future), but fixing current issues should be paramount for survival.

    I think it’s critical for an organziation to understand their customers, to listen and be openly honest to itself about the which strategies are in the best interest of the customer (and the organization) before jumping in.

    Love the series!



    1. Scott,

      Thanks for your comment. I would agree with you that feedback should be the first step for most companies. I agree with focusing on the current or larger pain, but I am going to have to disagree a little bit here.

      Just because you have a high NPS score does not mean you have no problems. NPS does not measure satisfaction or lack of problems, it measures propensity to recommend. That is a very complicated measurement that involves product quality, loyalty, satisfaction, experiences, and influence in your networks (yes, even influence from my perspective — else, why recommend if the people who listen to you won’t act on it). It does not show whether or no there are delivery of processing problems. That is better done in a different model for feedback (I did cover this way early in the year in my blog, am getting ready to launch it as an ebook).

      I agree with your statements, I just don’t want to see NPS as something that is not – and want to make sure that organizations understand the limitations of NPS and how to act outside of it to improve their customers’ experiences.

      Thanks for the read!


  2. Hi Esteban,

    Good ending to your series – good guidelines, but I am still wondering about the implementation steps.

    Whilst the idea of Social Customer has made its inroad into accepted thinking around scrm and smm, I believe it also leads to a certain myopia concerning the necessity to meet the ‘objectives’ of the community as a whole, such as acknowledgement that members demand from the organisation (that they should be respected as a group).

    Whilst it was easy to diss or even ignore individuals, with intra-communal communication, its members have now got more power to flame such bad behaviour. I think we can actually move to communities that organise themselves in a similar manner in what we see in politics (but on a smaller scale..?), with socio-demographic groups putting ‘pressure’ on the organisation to meet their needs, lobbying and the likes. Politics may give us an idea where communities will take us.

    One other type of community, namely ‘Social Object Communities’ seems to be missing in my opinion when I read through your descriptions. Hosting a place for people to hang out in and socialize around ‘Objects’ can be a great way to create positive Word-of-Mouth and may even lead to higher average spend and generate sales. Stoking the fire by engaging and providing adequate content and inputs should be part of an SCRM Strategy as well (and furthermore can give you a unique opportunity what make a community passionate enough about what you provide to actually start one).

    My 2 cents (Euro cents, the exchange rate is better:)

    .-= Mark Tamis´s last blog ..On Social CRM Options =-.


    1. Mark,

      Thanks for a very thoughtful comment.

      Implementation steps is something that is coming in the future. If you follow my convoluted reasoning, first comes definitions, then the strategy, then the implementation. I am not sure I want to tackle that as a series, but I probably will do something similar… if you go back in time, I did a series on a methodology for experience management, so it may just be something akin to updating that to incorporate some of these new concepts. Alas, not much changes from CRM to CEM to SCRM…

      I agree with your comments on individuals and their power, but am not sure I missed the social object communities. We may not call it the same, but somewhere in between an impromptu community and an ideation community is covered. Although, I will give you this, I think it is a cool idea and a good way for a company to earn trust from customers – allow them to create communities (my impromptu style, your SOC) and interact with them that way.

      There was a time – oh, like 3-4 months ago – when I would have even made the case that those were the only community interactions an organization needed to worry about… I am beginning to see two layers or two types of interactions to worry about: individual and community. more on that coming up soon.

      I appreciate your 2 cents and will certainly continue to think of the SOC you mention, may just bring it into the fold in future installments.

      Thanks for the read!


  3. Greetings Esteban:

    Thanks for putting together this informative and insightful series of articles.

    I was wondering why you left Knowledge Bases off your breakdown of community models?

    We believe that knowledge bases can serve a vital role in customer support and internal operations, but they can only realistically provide sustainable value if they are continually evolved using community insights. More here: The community has to be placed IN the KB, if you will.

    My recent post on John Moore’s blog around this topic may also be some interest:

    Chuck Van Court
    Founder of Fuze Digital Solutions


    1. Chuck,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I did not leave the knowledgebase out of the community models, actually I did mention it several times and even emphasize that the community is about power and knowledge at the beginning of the post.

      I don’t want to integrate it all together because it would turn some people away. If they already have a KB deployed, I want them to think that the power of the community will make their KB stronger (as you well point out and know), but not for them to think that the KB must be a part of the community.

      I want to keep the model as open and flexible as possible to attract as many people into this evolution (not revolution, not forklift deployment) as possible.

      Thanks for helping me clarify that


  4. Esteban – Totally agree. Sorry for using NPS as a surrogate to discriminate between those that need to address service/support (and the underlying business model that is creating the need to address service/support first, and those that do not have any current issues with service/support. I agree completely with you about the use and applicability of NPS.

    I was attempting to point out the need for differentiating priortizations based on customers perception of the organization. For example, Best Buy’s twelpforce gets a lost of accolades, but the company is aware that, despite their vision to differentiate on service (to justify price differential with WalMart, etc), their service is less than stellar in-store. Launching twelpforce without addressing the underlying reason is not a good strategy, and certainly launching twelpforce without an awareness of the underlying reason (ie; in-store service) is disasterous.

    Thanks for putting me straight.


    1. Scott,

      I was not trying to correct you, just making the point that NPS cannot be truly trusted as a metric. I totally agree with your point though – putting band-aids to a problem does not create a solution. The problem is when companies use NPS as a way to report on the problem (or any other single metric, for that matter) without really thinking about the relationship that specific metric has to the way the business is or should be run.

      You made a great point though….



  5. Esteban,

    Great post, I like how you’ve structured the content to flow from Purpose > Model > Type.

    Couple of comments:

    1)Like @MarkTamis, I was also struck by the absence of “Social Object Communities” in your descriptions (“a place for people to hang out in and socialize around ‘Objects’”). I believe the facebook community for Nutella was likely formed through an impromptu event, but I suspect the community will be around for a while, operating without a specific objective (i.e. product support). Perhaps I’m splitting hairs, so you’re earlier response that SOCs fit somewhere between Impromptu and Ideation would make sense.
    2)I definitely see your point regarding individuals and communities (“show me a [social] customer that functions without a community”), but I was curious about your thoughts regarding individual “connectors” (Rosabeth Ross Kanter’s post today on Harvard Business Review is an interesting read). At what point is the high cost of individual engagement justified?

    Thank you for the opportunity to comment. I’m working my way through the rest of your chapters again – good stuff.



    1. Oh, Ganging up on me – huh?

      Just kidding… I agree with both you and him on the SOC, and I guess I am adopting the term going forward… but the concept is the same as my impromptu communities — even a little further on my side as I am not relying on the community being created by anyone in particular – or for any purpose. To me something like the Coca Cola Fan Page in FB would also be a SCO or impromptu — a fan made it, got the people, supported and maintained it. Never expected Coke to come in a endorse it, nor did they expect to get anything out of it. Coke just asked them to continue with it, gave them support with products and resources, and never expected anything in return. True that FB is not run by Coke (so it may not technically qualify for my impromptu semi-definition) but the concept is close to what you two are talking about — and what is the beginning of an impromptu community. Not being official to Coke leads the members to feel freer to comment and provide ideas and feedback without fear of retribution, being blocked, or mocked.

      I would hope Coke were to take advantage of that and listen in and do something with the feedback – that would nicely complete the look without being intrusive.

      I am not sure of the second question, if you could give me some more details – be happy to take on it. (I am probably being a little too obtuse about it)

      UPDATED: Merlyn, I posted my thoughts on connectors in Wim Rampen’s posterous. In the interest of creating some more connections (yes, bad pun intended), here is the link to my thoughts on connectors…



Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: