Brands are making progress - but are we heading in the wrong direction? Dr Graham Hill discusses.
18 months ago, customer-centric innovator Dr Graham Hill, authored Social CRM at a crossroads: Where to next?, an examination of the state of play in SCRM circa Spring 2011. A year-and-a-half later, when Graham is picking over the progress that has been made with MyCustomer.com, it seems that many brands have taken a wrong turn.
But before we get to some harsh truths, it’s worth emphasising the positives – because there has still been plenty of good work done in the interim.
Brands are listening to customers more; businesses are embracing social media as a communication channel; and vendors are developing a strong portfolio of social CRM technology. All laudable achievements.
However, Graham says, when he looks at how the social CRM movement has progressed in the past 18 months, ultimately he gets a feeling of “déjà vu – all over again!” Similarities to the early days of CRM, and the mistakes that were made, are all too evident he believes. And to get us back on track, he suggests we address the following misconceptions that threaten to undermine social CRM.
Misconception 1: Businesses are dealing with a ‘new’ customer
“A lot of analysts talk about ‘the new customer’,” says Hill. “But if I go down to my local shop and look around, it is the same old people shopping in the same old way – not using smartphones, not using devices to check prices. The much-vaunted social-local-mobile might be changing the world in Silicon Valley or the homes of the analysts, but for the average Joe, it is not really changing their behaviour.”
He continues: “People started using social tools to help them do jobs. They use combinations of Facebook and Twitter and what have you in order to do things that would be more difficult through physical media or email, such as keep in contact with friends and family who are dispersed around the world. And the issue is that companies have concluded this must mean that there is a new customer. But it is not a new customer and their behaviours haven’t really changed that much – they are just using new tools to do old jobs.”
Misconception 2: Marketing on social media equals marketing 2.0
“Marketers have decided they are dealing with a new customer, who they can potentially influence through Facebook. So there has been a big push to do things on Facebook and Pinterest and those channels. But it has been a marketing 1.0 model, where they push the message out to customers, rather than a marketing 2.0 model where businesses start to engage in dialogue with customers and then understand more about what they want and the context in which they talk,” says Hill.
“There are changes happening – changes driven by old customer jobs hiring new social tools. But marketers are responding with an old model of how we go to market, rather than a new model of cooperation and giving customers what they need.”
He adds: “People are on social networks, so why wouldn’t business want to use it as a channel? But it is still marketing 1.0. It is not dialogue and not engagement.”
Misconception 3: Social media has allowed brands to understand customers
“It is good that brands are listening to customers more. But conversations on social media are only a tiny percentage of the total social conversations taking place. 90% take place over the garden fence, at the dinner table and over the telephone. Another 7% take place on ‘dark social media’, like email, direct to eachother. Only a small percentage take place on traceable social networks where you can identify the origin of where somebody comes from, if you are looking at it as an advertiser. Businesses then say they understand their customers – but they don’t: they understand a small proportion who express their thoughts and desires on social networks that you can reference very easily. All the other conversations you are not involved in and you cannot find them out either.”
Hill adds: “If you never get out the door to meet real customers, you can very easily be lured into a false sense of security by market research and analyst reports - and you lose touch with what is going on in the real world when you start to believe other people’s hype about social.”
Misconception 4: Customer interaction equals customer engagement
“We talk about building relationships with customers, but they don’t want them, so we should stop trying. If you can’t build relationships, we can’t build involvement. If you can’t build involvement, why are we talking about engagement? Because in order to have engagement, which has a strong emotional component, you need to have involvement, a working relationship. But all the evidence suggests that businesses don’t form working relationships with the customer because they aren’t interested,” says Hill.
He continues: “We know why people like brands on Facebook – firstly, to get offers and stuff for free, and secondly to find out more about a product or service. It is not like liking a friend. It is much more of a market-based relationship than a social one: if I like you, you give me stuff for free.
“My local cinema ran a competition on Facebook and said if it got to 10,000 followers then all those who registered up to a certain point would get a free cinema ticket. So I registered and liked them and got my free cinema ticket and went. But I was going to go anyway. And then as soon as I got my ticket I unfriended the cinema ready for the next promotion. So you can see if you are not focusing on the real relationship part, building them on customers’ terms, then you can’t hope to leverage social to build engagement because it is not really engagement. Interaction is not engagement.”
Misconception 5: Social CRM technology makes you more customer-centric
“Social came about because customers identified that social tools could be used to reach out to other people, because we are a social species. Customers have jobs to be done – and the jobs haven’t really changed all that much – so they hire new social tools that are better than the old tools they had to do things. So they now use social tools like Twitter, for instance, to complain about poor customer service. That has resulted in companies seeking to implement customer service through Twitter – but not fixing the underlying problem that caused customers to tweet in the first place about the poor service!”
Hill continues: “The customer, who started this whole thing off, has to some extent been left behind. Customers are crying out for support now and this should change your business. It should be social business not social CRM – more collaborative inside the organisation, more collaborative with customers and partners, and enabling customers to be more collaborative with eachother using a multi-platform type model. But at the moment it is just new technology in the old guise, so you get back to the old equation: old organisation + new social technology = expensive old organisation.”
Misconception 6: Big brands are all rolling out large social CRM initiatives
“We’re potentially at the beginning of a new phase,” says Hill. “And just like in nature, there are lots of developments and extinctions going on until a dominant model starts to emerge – which I don’t think has done so yet. There is a lot of heat, but not a lot of light.
“I work with the person responsible for social at a client in Edinburgh, and there are 100 people in the marketing department, and only the one responsible for social. He isn’t strategic. He isn’t operational. He is experimental. And that is how a lot of social stuff today is being done.
“Big banks, big insurance companies, big telcos... they are all involved in it, but it is an experiment. They learn what they need to know to make a decision at a point in time. It is one of hundreds of experiments they are doing. 100 staff in marketing, one person looking after social – that is what you find in most companies.”