The social CRM questions you should be answering

1st Mar 2012
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As part of his ongoing series of roundtable interviews, Brent Leary talks to leading experts from the world of CRM and social CRM about topical issues. This month, in the second of a two-part roundtable, his panel debates social CRM's evolution and whether we have reached the end of the beginning.

This roundtable session's panel consists of...
  • Brent Leary: Brent Leary is a crm industry analyst, advisor, author, speaker and award winning blogger. He is co-founder and Partner of CRM Essentials LLC, an Atlanta based CRM advisory firm covering tools and strategies for improving business relationships. In 2009 he co-authored Barack 2.0: Social Media Lessons for Small Business. Recognised by InsideCRM as one of the 25 most influential industry leaders, Leary also is a past recipient of CRM Magazine's Most Influential Leader Award. He serves on the national board of the CRM Association, on the advisory board of the University of Toronto's CRM Center of Excellence, and on the editorial advisory board for The Atlanta Tribune. Leary writes a regular online column for Inc. magazine, and blogs at He can be found on Twitter at
  • Paul Greenberg: Paul Greenberg is author of CRM at the Speed of Light and president of The 56 Group. He is also managing partner/CCO of BPT Partners, executive vice president of the National CRM Association and co-chair of the Rutgers CRM Research Center.
  • Esteban Kolsky: Esteban Kolsky is the principal and founder of ThinkJar, an advisory and research think-tank focused on Customer Strategies. He has over 22 years of experience in customer service and CRM consulting, research, and advisory services. Most recently he spent eight years at Gartner, focused on customer service and CRM research.



Brent Leary: What it is going to take to move [social CRM] forward from here? It looks like the technologies are getting the companies are getting bought, they are starting to get integrate these pieces together, what is it going to take to move the ball forward?
Esteban Kolsky: I actually wrote this blog saying ‘the best is yet to come in social‘, or something like that, using the Gartner Hype Cycle and the market adoption curve to highlight the point that we are just getting started. To answer the question, you see a little bit of everything. 
You see companies trying to wrap their head around what to do with this. You see companies that were extremely successful in the last couple of years in early implementations and they are looking to programatically make this part of the infrastructure, and you assume that there are companies that are in between. There is no specific term, I would say adoption level for social media, the global level, is somewhere in the 30% to 40% range. Adoptions for social CRM, somewhere in the 5% to 10% maybe 12% range.
Then social business is no more than a glimmer in the eye at this point, as with anything it requires maturity and evolution over time. We are seeing great implementations of early stage implementations that need maturity, and we are seeing really, really badly done test cases or project pilots or proof of concepts that prove that the company was not ready to go there yet.
Paul Greenberg: I have one really bad example of gamification, which goes to the point of what we're talking about. I won something based on an action that I took that was something that I actually hated, I did not want to win it, if you gave me any choice of 50 things to choose from it would have been 51, but it is because they had not known anything about me other than I had participated in this thing. 
This was a significant social player who did that. So again it is always up to what kind of strategy does a company have to provide a customer who needs to sculpt their own engagement with you. I mean look at the other side, just on the issue of engagement, engagement is very simple, it is not this big thing that I have constantly seen as a gigantic issue. Engagement to me is simple it is an ongoing inter-relationship between a customer and a company, that is it. It is at a level of engagement that varies from casual and occasional to intense and continual, or constantly, I guess is a better word. You know what, at different times it varies between those areas from the same person. 
The idea is what you do in effect to keep the customer, and because we are now moving into, at some point in the near future or mid future anyway, into a more collaborative world, the kind of systems of engagements that you are using to do that are important to you, and the plans that you have for that are important to you, and you are going to get value out of it and so is the customer. It will be different kinds of value, but I do not place any massive issue as to what an engagement is, the interesting thing to me is what kind of avenues are available for customers to sculpt their own experience, and on what channels are made available for them to do it in.
Esteban Kolsky: Those are the questions that companies need to start answering - not whether Twitter is better than Facebook or what is the value or what is the value of Facebook vs Twitter vs integration. The questions that companies need to ask first and foremost before they get into this is what is my engagement? What am I looking to get out of dealing with a customer, on a new channel, and new format with new information? What is the value that I can bring to them and to myself. If we can answer the questions that is going define the path at least for the next year or two going down into the social CRM and the business world.
Brent Leary: I guess people are always looking for that silver bullet because you see a lot of interest in Pinterest right now, and people are flocking to it without really understanding what exactly is this thing. What does it do other than seem to drive a lot of traffic? Is it going to be mostly this silver bullet approach keeping people from doing the deeper drive and only companies that are willing to invest and actually being able to see the benefit from most of the activity or implementing the social strategy using the social technology as opposed to just looking at that silver bullet technology and throwing the ‘Hail Mary’ pass.
People are always looking for that silver bullet because you see a lot of interest in Pinterest right now, and people are flocking to it without really understanding what exactly is this thing.
Paul Greenberg: Pinterest is the new Quora,
Esteban Kolsky: How about if I say yes again and just plus one…will that work?
Brent Leary: Is this the mentality that most companies have - is it the ‘Hail Mary’ mentality and only a few companies will get beyond that?
Esteban Kolsky: You see the ‘Hail Mary’ from the outside; what they see from the inside is like what is the simple solution to the problem so that I can actually move slightly into the short term. Very few of the companies look beyond one year term and this is why we have the discussion about return from the investment and the metrics that change year after year and trending metrics and things like that, and no one takes the perspective within the company or actually, I should say, very, very few people inside companies take the perspective that this is a long term engagement with a client, like Paul would say.  
Most people think they take the initiative of what do I need to do to A) keeps my job, B) be successfully, and C) get my bonus. Then it becomes Maslow's pyramid of needs approach to solutions in which technology is the lowest common denominator. I mean you can always implement any technology and move the needle unfortunately in both directions at least slightly, and that is what we are looking for is a slight movement of the needle.
Paul Greenberg: There is no question that is the approach. The thing that is pretty obvious, and you can show this statistically if you want you can make this statement and be right about it, is very few companies are willing to sacrifice anything in the short term for the long term, very few. Even progressive companies, as smart as they may be there are short term objectives are still their primary objectives, they do not have the keiretsu kind of approaches to the 300 years of the future. Their approach is what do we get now and yeah I know in the long term this is probably not the right thing, but when push comes to shove my bonuses this year depends on this. They will do that, and I also see so many of these little start ups that are constantly coming into existence and then failing because all they have is the short term perspective. This is hot now and let us do this, instead of being... those that are good, the ones that last tend to be those that are thought out where they are going over the next few years and where things are going like Get Satisfaction on those kind of things are figured out the peer to peer customer service stuff early on.
Have you seen that video 'shit Silicon Valley says'? They are perfect examples of the kind of short term thinking you get all the time in the Valley and elsewhere. The real breakthrough point for a company from my standpoint is when they can look 24 months out, when they can look that way and start realising there might be some short term costs they have to incur in order to do this and still do it, that would be a huge breakthrough for an incredible number of companies.
Brent Leary: Ok the last question. If you are looking for one thing, a big sign for this year to show that we are heading in the right direction - some kind of development or a shift in thinking that you can see - what it would be in the next by the year 2013, before the Mayan calendar runs out.
Esteban Kolsky: I have been asking this for the last couple of years, and I hope that it can stop asking it this year, but I doubt it. I would like people to stop using social solutions for everything, and start focusing on the problems that they have and actually help to solve them, including using social and not limited to social.
Brent Leary: Plus two, plus three, yeah that is a hat trick. I think you will be asking that same question next year, I hate to say…
Paul Greenberg: I cannot think of anything that I would identify as a portent of good, it is so uneven. If companies start talking about social as part of the multichannel strategy and not all channel strategy from a multichannel strategy meaning ‘hey we are going to use these channels because that is the one that our customers use to talk with us, and talk about us. So let us figure out how those channels identification used by us to involve or interact with our customers' as opposed to 'let us go social', I would see that as being a big positive.
Esteban Kolsky: Your answer is a lot more realistic than mine is.
Brent Leary: This year is going to be wide open I think. I think we are coming to the end of the beginning. The wild, wild west we are in now, maybe we are getting to the point where people are starting to figure out a little bit more how they can use this stuff for other things than just asking people to like them or friend them, so maybe we are getting to the point where companies are more comfortable about seeing what else can be done. 
In addition to what you said Esteban about looking beyond social, I think maybe we are getting to a point where they are looking at how they can integrate social into some of the things they have been doing, and maybe start seeing a better trajectory other than 'can we get on Pinterest now' because it is the hot thing right now.
Paul Greenberg: I am on it...
Esteban Kolsky: I think that is the end of the beginning

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