Why We Cannot Get CRM (and SCRM) Quite Right

Before you look away, this is not about Social CRM definitions.

Paul Greenberg wrote a Focus brief earlier this week, comparing Social CRM and Traditional CRM.  I want to extend the thought a little bit with a post I have been writing for a couple of weeks now.  Paul’s post gave me the nudge I needed to release it before my thinking became too “outdated”.

CRM is defined, Social CRM is defined — and it keeps getting redefined each time somebody adopts it.  As it turns out each organization is different and CRM and Social CRM (even Social Business) don’t mean the same to everyone.  Want to know what SCRM or CRM is? No one but you can answer that question… but I digress.

A few weeks ago we had an editorial board discussion for TheSocialCustomer.com where we discussed how organizations can get SCRM projects approved, who “owns” them, who is running them and what content we need to  assist organizations in their efforts to become Social Businesses.  Part of the discussion was comparing CRM 1.0 (the original version, 1990-present) and Social CRM (the now version, aiming to focus on the Social Customer, 2007-present).

I kept reflecting on lessons learned the past 20 or so years doing CRM.  It occurred to me that “ownership” of CRM has almost never (with very, very, very few exceptions) been where it belongs: with the business as a whole, focused on the customer.  Instead, there has always been “someone” pushing for adoption based on their own agenda.  And this agenda is what changes the “flavor” of CRM that organizations end up adopting.

CRM 1.0 was a Sales-driven effort.  Sales Force Automation ruled while we worked in getting the other components (Marketing and Service) to work better.  The business support for CRM 1.0 came from Sales organizations and the intent of “managing” the relationships was to sell more.  Other departments and business functions leveraged what was being done (my first CRM implementation was a SFA application, and we “added” call center functions since they were included in the package).  Yes, we did Marketing — but to bring more people in.  Yes, we did Service and Support, but only to solve the problems that would allow us to sell more.  Same can be said for most other functions and deployment models we used back then — it was all about sales; it was a sales tool.

Then CRM 2.0 came along, organizations struggling to respond to the rise of the Social Customer.  Social CRM (called briefly CRM 2.0) emerged as the “company’s response to the customer contol of the conversation” (thanks Paul).  The question quickly came out, what is the purpose of Social CRM? It is to manage customers better? Is it to Sell more to them? To make them happier? To solve their problems? Unfortunately, the business did not understand sufficiently about what the Social Customer wanted or needed, so the rise of CRM 2.0 (sorry, Social CRM) was delegated to the people who are more used to dealing with customers while controlling the message: Marketing.

The Business cannot get behind Social CRM, Marketing and Communications control it as Sales did before for CRM.

If you look at how organizations are doing SCRM you will notice that Marketing, Branding, and Public Relations are the leaders in this movement.  This is why when we talk about it being a business strategy it rings hollow – only marketers are listening, while others are trying to see how they can leverage Marketing’s budget and power.

Why does this matter?  Because it means that CRM is continuing to evolve.  There will be much debate on what Social CRM is, how it works, what it does, and related questions.  There will be claims to own it, and define it, and to make it be something that it is and then something that is not.  We went through this before, and we will go through it again.

The bottom line is that CRM is about companies engaging in relationships with customers.  That has not changed,nor will it change.  Even if the focus changed to marketing and communication functions in version 2.0 (as it will change when we reach version 3.0 and shift to Service, and version 4.0 when we finally understand that it is a business-wide initiative, not driven by a business unit), it remains the same thing: evolving culture, business models, and technology that assist organizations to have better interactions with their customers.

CRM is not the end-game, nor is Social CRM a destination.  They are both stops in the evolving journey to work better with customers.

If we can agree that CRM is continuously evolving, and that it never ends regardless of what business changes we see maybe we can stop these ridiculous arguments about definitions and to see who is right and who is wrong and focus on how we can evolve into the next generation. Or two.

What do you think? Are you really focused on how to have better relationships with your customers — regardless of business function and channels? Would love to hear what you are doing.

20 Replies to “Why We Cannot Get CRM (and SCRM) Quite Right”

  1. Esteban,
    I agree that too much has been made of the definition (I’m guilty of that). The focus must remain on the customer and how to build better relationships with them. If the customer is “social” then we must also move in that direction in order to converse with them and fully understand their perception of us.

    Great post as always.
    .-= Tim Sanchez´s last blog ..Apple iPad – Essential Apps and Accessories =-.


    1. Tim,

      Thanks for the read and the comment. I totally agree with you, and I am actually working that message into the presentation I am doing next week at SugarCon. The only reason the business must become social is to match the customer — not to force the customer to act social. If a customer base is not demanding social, no reason to go social — at least for now. We can talk about ecosystems further into the future. Right?



  2. Esteban,

    An important post, the hour was worth the wait. While I struggle with the ownership piece (meaning I wish it were not the case, and I think the some have moved the philosophy beyond this silo based log-jam), call a spade a spade and this seems to be the case.

    I also agree that the focus has shifted in the current wave from Sales to Marketing. I wonder aloud if this in itself a problem for those companies that did not go through 1.0. Are certain baseline expectations of what CRM should do well understood by all parties? Are businesses who did not endure the struggles of 1.0 ready for 2.0 (or Social) I am not sure this is the case, but I have not spoken to enough businesses to weigh in strongly – it is visceral.

    .-= Mitch Lieberman´s last blog ..mjayliebs: If someone Tweets something which they find humorous, but you do not, is it still funny? =-.


    1. Mitch,

      I will ignore the guilt trip you are trying to lay on me if you ignore how long it took me to respond.

      Interesting question though. Did companies that “missed” the first wave are facing similar problems with marketing that we faced with sales. Top of mind, I would say yes. The issues of discovering what CRM can do for the organization, how it works, what changes are necessary, how it affects the people, process, politics and technology remain the same — and if you never “experienced” them you will have to eventually. Whether Marketing or Sales or Service runs the CRM system, the issues are the same – right?

      Your “visceral” question is aligned with my gut feeling and my experience — the issues don’t disappear just because you missed the first iteration. Right?

      Great comment, thanks for the time and the read!


  3. Hi Esteban,

    Good article. Think what you’re pointing out is that S/CRM initiatives are best driven at the CXO level where a holistic view of the company can be incorporated.


    1. Kathy,

      I don’t want to single out the executive level, although i do believe they need to be involved and fully supportive of the effort, but I want to emphasize that this needs to be enterprise-wide. If you can get the right people to prove the point at a different level, and they get the ear and trust of the executive level — we are still golden. If you only get one level, the executives, to take on it chances are they will still fail unless the rest of the organization falls in line — and not by mandate, but by understanding and adopting the concepts and ideas.

      In other words, either the whole company becomes social (or customer-centric, or customer-driven, or whatever other model you want) or it fails. Not only responsibility of the CEO, but the whole company.

      Thanks for the comment and the read!


  4. Nice Post Esteban. Getting large companies to embrace SCRM in a holistic, strategic way that breaks down corporate operational silos is EXTREMELY difficult. Typically, unit and departmental executives all have their own agendas designed to meet their own rather specific goals and objectives.

    As you note, in the past this hampered many a CRM project. Since this departmental/operational approach to running a business has remained unchanged over the past several decades it’s unlikely that SCRM initiatives will be any different UNLESS some type of internal social change happens within the enterprise.

    A transformation needs to occur where executive leadership at the highest levels take control of the strategic SCRM conversation and drive initiatives from the top down.
    .-= Jim Berkowitz´s last blog ..5 Often Overlooked Ways To Optimize Your Website Content =-.


    1. Jim,

      Darn, I should’ve told Kathy you were going to write my response to her.

      Yes, it is very difficult and yes, technology is not the answer (sorry, personal agenda showing through — digressing). And, as I was saying earlier and will discuss next week at SugarCon — it is all about the company being social, not about the company deploying SCRM. Actually, as I think through it, failures due to tech-only deployments in SCRM will be magnitudes worse than under CRM — there is so many more players and so much more at stake (not to mention the speed of propagation for mistakes in a “social” world is 100x what it was before) that if you fail, you can expect more than just your small world to know about (ask Nestle, Motrin, etc.).

      I would ask you though, is it really the executives needing to drive the conversations from the top-down? Will they garner sufficient trust to be able to do that? or should their goal and ambition be simply to make their people social and change the culture towards it, in the hopes that it will then percolate to the outside world? (I would say with this last question as an answer).

      Thanks for the great question and comment — this is going to get really, really interesting very soon I reckon’.


  5. Esteban, I think you hit on something important that isn’t just confined to S/CRM. In 1992, Tim Berners-Lee envisioned the web as a place where people could connect and collaborate; this vision did not have organizational or departmental boundaries. But the budgets for web were predominantly in marketing departments and therefore subject to marketing objectives. So the “ownership” question/concern is really not new, we just have a new way of expressing it.

    Kathy and Jim make good points that S/CRM initiatives should be driven from the C-Suite, but I would like to add that it is more than a S/CRM initiative. Customer service must be in the DNA of every individual, every department in an organization. Because that’s the point of S/CRM – to be able to drive connection to the customer to the edges of the organization where the most value can be provided to customers. So there is a cultural shift that is needed as well, and behaviors for effectively engaging customers must be identified, promoted and rewarded, across the entire organization not just sales and maarketing.
    .-= Carlo Delumpa´s last blog ..Social Computing In The Nexus =-.


    1. Carlo,

      Welcome to my little world of discussion and struggle to understand this new world. Thanks for the read.

      You actually got me thinking of two things with your comment: 1) this is about more than CRM, it is about business, and 2) the changes brought by the social (r)evolution must be incorporated into the DNA of the organization to matter. Or, to speak in more bio-terms, the business must mutate to become social (actually, nice analogy — will probably use it soon).

      your work with hive consulting, from what i noticed, is about bringing this mutation about, so you know that SCRM is more than about customers (you do mention the web from 1992 — that was way back before it was invented, right? ;)) and more than about business models. this is about how businesses relate to their employees, customers, partners, and between each other. this is about how you become social, and SCRM is one of the leading indicators for that (IMO).

      Very interesting concept, I like the way you bring it about.

      Thanks for the read and comment!


  6. Seems to be that adaptability is becoming the best definition of SCRM. I’m finding this to be the case even as I’m working on my SCRM presentation for New Comm, there is always something to change or modify almost on a daily basis depending on who you talk to. The 100+ types of relationship management terms we’re using “RM” also aren’t helping.

    Thanks for sharing this


    1. Jacob,

      I will ignore the jab to the RM definition, I am not engaging in those debates anymore. But thanks for bringing it up 🙂

      I do agree that adaptability and flexibility are the sine-qua-non elements that businesses need to undertake this movement — then again, as someone else pointed out, this is about business — and it has always been about being flexible, dynamic, and adaptable — right?

      Thanks for the comment and the read!


  7. Good post.

    As a an solution implementer, writer, reader and customer, I think there is too way too much differentiation between CRM & SCRM. To me, the spirit is the same – go engage your customers in a value added way, across the various channels (social channels being one) they prefer. With the evolution of technology that enables better collaboration, businesses are struggling to figure out how to manage the evolving customer preferences and are getting too caught up in the new ‘social’ avatar of CRM.

    I don’t want to trivialize the complexity of dealing with new channels and the new relationship paradigm, but we need to ensure that our eye is squarely on customer relationships not the struggle of how who owns the relationship or what we want to call the initiative – CRM or SCRM.


    1. Vishal,

      As one of the original people to say that SCRM is just CRM with Social Channels, could not agree with you more — the spirit is the same, get customers expectations, over-deliver, earn rewards — repeat.

      There are, as you say, nuances and idiosyncrasies associated with Social that are not reflected elsewhere — but we can deal with them in a strategic manner and end up with a better result, even if we don’t get “… caught up in the new “social” …”.

      Thanks for the read and the comment!


  8. Interesting conversation on SCRM. Having been a marketer for a long time, I always evaluate new marketing initiatives from the perspective of the stakeholders, using the “what’s in it for them?” benchmark for potential adoption. It seems that SCRM at it’s most visionary, is a rethink on how organization sell and marketing to their customers. A foundational notion behind SCRM, at least for me, is that social media is now a primary forum for many customer communities, being more informative and trustworthy than the vendor(s) to that community. If that’s the case, then perhaps to fully embrace SCRM, organizations will need to rethink their sales/marketing organizational objectives, charters and compensation packages. Otherwise, a SCRM initiative may be relegated to being ‘a bag on the side of the box.’ (That phrase dates me.) Of course, there’s always the notion of phased adoption, using early wins as adoption accelerators. But, even with that, the unwillingness of sales/marketing employees and organizations to give up long standing work conventions may be significant. While perhaps sounding like a truism, the trick will be to tie SCRM initiatives to key challenges with quantifiable, relevant benefits.


  9. Esteban,

    Great post. I agree (and as Mitch said, sadly so) that it appears as if the majority of early adopters are Marketing folks. Seems to me, considering the 18 Use Cases, that proving an ROI is easiest for Sales and Marketing, and this may be part of the reason.

    In any case, I like to think of the difference between 1.0 and 2.0 as the difference between efficiences and effectiveness. Silo’s can focus on efficiences in processes/systems, etc within their specific domain, but to be truly effective requires a mind-set that considers your customer in the decision-making (leading to all that it implies, breaking down of silos, customer-centric cultures, evolving business models, etc).


  10. Good post.

    As a an solution implementer, writer, reader and customer, I think there is too way too much differentiation between CRM & SCRM. To me, the spirit is the same – go engage your customers in a value added way, across the various channels (social channels being one) they prefer. With the evolution of technology that enables better collaboration, businesses are struggling to figure out how to manage the evolving customer preferences and are getting too caught up in the new ‘social’ avatar of CRM.

    I don’t want to trivialize the complexity of dealing with new channels and the new relationship paradigm, but we need to ensure that our eye is squarely on customer relationships not the struggle of how who owns the relationship or what we want to call the initiative – CRM or SCRM.


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