How Social CRM Disrupts Corporate Silos
In the eminently fluid and changing universe of social media, social CRM is not just the latest “trendy” marketing concept picked up by BusinessWeek, or a mere facelift of traditional CRM paired with a fashionable adjective. It represents the next stage in the gradual adaptation of corporate communications, organizations and brands to adapt to a new era of managing their relationships with consumers.
The implications are so broad that the very concept of Social CRM means different things to different
people. Social CRM is very much like the elephant in the “Elephant and the Three Blind Men” tale: every one who approaches it from a different perspective has a different perception of it:
- “This is an IT issue”: the very thought of anything CRM-related naturally conjures up thoughts of complex IT systems and procedures to wire up the innards of a company, from each customer touchpoint all the way through the supply chain, and back. Fortunately, Social CRM consists more of an evolution of current systems than a complete overhaul. From a technical standpoint, upgrading the CRM system to take into account a few new channels and processes of interactions with customers is not as big a deal as it is purported to be. The real challenges are elsewhere.
- “Leave it to Marcomm” : anything with the prefix “social” attached to it these days naturally leads to questions about brand and corporate communications. Attitudes towards social media often range from concerns over PR issues, to waxing poetic about the promised land of marketing. Indeed, any process involving interacting with customers over social media implies that what used to be a one-to-one transaction has become a one-to-one-to many act of public communication. Interacting with a customer over the phone or over Twitter can make a world of difference nowadays.
- “Consumers affairs knows best”: arguably, consumers affairs professionals are the most experienced at handling the whole gamut of questions from customers, be it over the phone, email and now social media. Just like people in sales, they are already on the frontline of customer interactions. It is no surprise therefore that Best Buy for instance, which is often cited as one of the leading company when it comes to Social CRM, chose to integrate its “Twelpforce” team of social media helpers squarely within its consumer affairs workspace.
Thus, as in the tale of the elephant and the blind men, it seems each perspective, viewed through the prism of corporate silos, fails to see the overall picture. Social CRM is a combination of all of the above. The tools are there, the skills are there, but putting the pieces together requires a fundamental push from the top and integration across the various functions of the business. Customer Relationship management in a social media world requires frictionless communication within the company, to better communicate externally.
Therefore, social media is no longer “just” a matter of communications. It has become an organizational challenge for any business claiming to be “customer-centric”. In a certain way, Social CRM is essentially community management coming of age : it is about graduating from having a couple of community managers playing "human routers" between online consumers and representatives of Consumer affairs, Marketing, PR, etc. to setting up scalable systems across corporate silos.
For those businesses who have already started to experiment, usually through initial forays into social media marketing, the need to upgrade their processes becomes quickly perceptible. As recently pointed out in research from McKinsey, “once a company designs how it will engage with customers, it needs the organizational capabilities to deliver: adding staff, building a social-media network infrastructure, retooling customer care operations, or altering reporting structures”.
At the end of the day, social CRM, which is expected to surpass $1bn in revenues by end-2012 according to Gartner, has become the very big elephant in the room. That much, everyone can agree on.
Social Media Today