Forget all this talk about "Social Business", "Social Enterprise", "Social Organization", "Social XYZ" - your business already is "Social" because by its very nature it consists of people interacting with each to get work done. Collaboration is already happening within your ecosystem - between employees, different departments, suppliers, channels, buyers, customers without the need to add the "Social" prefix. Adding the word by itself does bring attention to the idea that we need to change, but it is overly used (and has been hijacked) by certain vendors to mean the toolset rather than the mindset and thus risks diluting the message.
Being Social is human nature, even though decades of Taylorism and Business School Teaching would have us believe there is little place for this in our organizations... but we are reaching its limits because in the pursuit of efficiency we are losing in effectiveness in understanding and helping customers in their jobs-to-be-done.
We are experiencing a Communications Revolution - what has changed is the way technology is used to communicate, to find and connect with likeminded individuals and groups regardless of distance, together with an evolution of expectations on how, when, where and why and with whom we choose to do so. As the "Social Customer" wakes up and becomes aware of the pressure he can bring to bear individually or through collective action, companies need to adapt their approach to ensure the sustainability of their business.
Customers are voicing their opinions and ideas hrough Social Media and turning to their peers for information, feedback and support - and are also starting to expect that companies treat them as business partners rather than the subjects of a sale who are pushed through a funnel to the close of the deal. You know - like they're human beings whose opinions and expectations are taken into consideration.
When I first started looking at social CRM a couple of years ago, I stated in my Twitter Bio that I was excited the potential of Social CRM as an organizational change agent. My level of excitement has grown ever since (although the dark cloud on the horizon is that many believe it is limited to Social Media + CRM).
Why do I believe it is exciting? Because it will generate many new data points that we can use to motivate and pilot our organizations. These data points need to be converted into actionable insights for that to happen - not onlyabout what groups of customers and prospective buyers expect in order to do business with us, but also what they expect from the whole ecosystem, including competitors. This will require altered or new capabilities to make the organization more agile and pro-active towards their customers. And that means moving from Fear of Change to creating Value with Customers.
Various frameworks and guidelines exist to help deal with change and which identify the success factors (such as this one by Dr Graham Hill) but here I'd like to refer to this HBR article from1995 by John P. Kotter in which he identified eight stages in the transformation process:
- Establish a sense of urgency
- Form a powerful guiding coalition
- Create a vision
- Communicate the vision
- Empower others to act on the vision
- Plan for and create short-term wins
- Consolidate improvements and produce more change
- Institutionalize new approaches
Without going into the details of each step, I believe that social CRM is ideally suited for kick-starting the first step, which is the sense of urgency by creating awareness about customer needs and expectations - and givedata the organization straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak. This, together with an understanding of how competitors are faring with their customers can be used to motivate and really drive the organization down the path of change. It starts by creating better customer listening capabilities, which can be thru Social Media because the reach is just incredible, but more more traditional methods such as surveys and focus groups should not be neglected. And following that a move to deeper interactions which are opportunities to learn more about the expectations of your customer segments as well as individuals in increasing detail, so that you can then better identify the capabilities you need to perform better.
In the same way as technology is giving customers the tools to make themselves heard, not only by the company but also by their peers, employees are bringing their own devices to the workplace to connect with others inside and outside of the company in order to get their work done.Whereas before the company vision would be communicated top-down through email or newsletters, the tools and methods from Enterprise 2.0 can be put to good use to promote the appropriation of the vision by employees and keep it vivid between them (and at the same give it with an extra layer of purpose for it to gain more traction...).
As a last item in this post, I'd like to mention Adaptive Case Management. The relationships with the Social Customer is putting strain on established processes and procedures as more scenari arise in which the nature of work is becoming less predictable and wherein more agility is required within the context and experience expectation of the customer. Such flexibility and agility can be achieved by empowering Knowledge Workers to decide on and carry out tasks in line with the desired outcomes of both the customer and the company, and ACM has the potential to support this. These decisions are supported with access to other employee expertise,and data and insights that we have gathered through digital capabilties (from our CRM systems, ERP, BI etc. which I won't elaborate on here).
To conclude - changes in market conditions, especially concerning how new forms of communications and interaction habits are reshaping customer expectations on how they want do business with you, are putting pressure on companies to align closely with these expectations. Dissociated efforts can lead to departmental gains, but without a coordination effort the results will be sub-optimal. To fully realize the potential the organisation will have identify and work on the capabilities it needs and procede through a transformation process to meet the challenges of doing business with the Social Customer.The digital capabilities that are now available are a crucial impetus and then a support tool to drive a business transformation that aligns the company with the various jobs-to-be-done and making it a more attractive business partner to customers.
Photo credit: Salvatore Vuono