Couple of days back I was presenting (in a teleconference) about Social CRM to a group of business analysts & developers working in the consumer goods industry.

PeopleBrowsr's Campaign Builder for Twitter.

I was introducing them to the concept of Social Media, Social Networks, some statistics as to why businesses should heed them & how the "consumer generated media" (CGM) affects the CRM functions of Sales, Marketing & Customer Service. The presentation was midway when I was interrupted by someone in the audience & was thanked for introducing the concepts. I was informed that there was nothing new in my presentation & that they already knew all about Social Media & had already built a tool for generating reports from the data that their tool grabs from the various social sites.

The group wanted to know if I had any better technology to showcase which could automate the text analytics even more & provide better insights. One another person was also interested in knowing how can social media marketing help him in sending coupons as part of his marketing campaigns. He started to explain about some successful mobile coupon technology value chain they had worked out between the business, the mobile service provider, the coupon distributor and whoever else. He was interested to know if we had any such value chain worked out for disbursing coupons on the social media.

The technologies that these folks were asking for was about more automated & targeted shouting so that their marketing campaigns could generate better hit rates & ROI.

I was dumb founded. Aghast. I did not have any such technology to showcase. Nor did I intend to showcase the technologies, piecemeal, during this session.

I tried to explain to them that they were trying to repeat the same mistake that the businesses have been doing with all the other kinds of media. I tried to explain that social media was not about pushing messages but about listening. I tried to explain that the customers are empowered now & they are baying for revenge, clamoring for blood, for all the marketing they had to endure over the years since industrialization. I wanted to explain that Social CRM is all about building relationships, to build trust & loyalty, to provide better customer experience, to co-create value.

I had to close the call saying that I would like to listen more in detail about their social media monitoring tool & see if I could integrate it with traditional CRM or BI systems.

I do know they have put in great technical knowledge into their tool. However, I doubt the intentions behind such a tool. They got the listening part of Social CRM right but not in the correct context. They wanted to eavesdrop & stalk on their customers talking in the social media and then bury them with more targeted messages, based on inferred knowledge about their customers.

I agree to the better targeting aspect. Businesses can now listen to the voice of each & every individual customer on social media. And thus provide more tailored solutions. But automating & targeting the marketing campaigns to these customers still does not make your business "social". It still does not help you build a "social" relationship with your customer.

The relationship between a business & a customer so far has been one of transactions. The interactions have been skewed to business triggered communications. The predominant case where customers initiate the communication has been to lodge complaints/issues, which should not have happened in the first place if the business is to provide a better customer experience.

But with Social Media & Social Networks its now possible for the businesses to build a relationship slowly over a period of time. Make small talk (no not the computer language) with the customers. Build a "social" relationship. With the permission of the customer, not by stalking them.

I fear that the term Social CRM might get disfigured to mean a set of tools that help businesses to eavesdrop & stalk on their leads, prospects & customers on the social web and thus push more targeted messages to them to lure them into buying more from the business, all the while reducing service costs by crowdsourcing it to the customer communities. The tools would still be the ones we envision, the purpose would be transmogrified. See how easy it would be fake a customer centric culture?

How do you want me to help convert the mindset of such people? What can convince them to see the futility of their pursuit? Or am I the one futilely pursuing utopia?

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