Time for social CRM to deliver actionable insight?

16th Feb 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 first of a two-part roundtable, his panel debates the development of social CRM - and whether we've lost sight of some of its value.

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: Let me get from each of you where we are today with the CRM industry, social CRM and social business and is it where it should be at this point. 
Esteban Kolsky: We're starting a cycle that is going to be very interesting for the next 24 months. We had a couple of very interesting acquisitions last year with Oracle purchasing RightNow, with Salesforce acquiring Assistly - now called - and then with the different positioning from SAP entering the cloud, with different positioning from Oracle and Salesforce to see who has the real cloud. We are exactly where we need to be to leverage the power of what CRM built over the last 15 years, and now you are really get to start seeing the changes that we need to see. We did a lot of work in operational in CRM and very little in analytical, and almost nothing in the cloud, and now we’re going to see the cloud and analytical become important in CRM. We are going to start to see collaboration becoming interesting, we are going start to see entering into the experiences becoming interesting. It is going to be a great year, man; a lot of changes with all of the new things coming out.
Paul Greenberg: It is interesting to watch the big vendors gear up to fill in the pieces that they need for the ecosystems to make the assault on the world in 2012. In addition to what Esteban mentioned with Oracle acquiring RightNow, Oracle also if you remember acquired Endeca and Inquira to fill in the whole gap around insight knowledge management all of the things that are capturing, surfacing, organizing and presenting knowledge to their customers in kind of as close to a real time mode as possible. I think that Esteban is on the money especially around the cloud and analytics, and to me this is the year for customer insight. 
You know it is interesting, I was positing the idea of these insight solutions, and now I start to see companies start trying to create the category, and I am also seeing other people writing about things like this guy in the Enterprise Irregulars who talks about “insight as a service”, which is a compelling idea if you think about it. He is taking it even beyond the idea of business intelligence, I mean he is looking at the kind of the way of solutions, which is it is actionable insight, meaning the ability to know something about a group of customers, or whatever, and then be able to immediately act on the results and understand that the results are dynamic too, but not perfect in that area; but we are getting there and I think this is the year for that, I really do. 
Brent Leary: Big data leading the big insights, hopefully and one thing that kind of, maybe after we get that transition from big data to big insights maybe we also have that big insights to big empathy. 
There is the translation between knowing something, and then being able to deliver it to the folks who we want do to business with, and sometimes we get to that, we know it and then we basically foul up the delivery of getting that knowledge and that insight into something that is actionable, a response and exchange interaction that will lead to something. And it seems like we always kind of forget that last mile; we collect data; we analyze data; and find insights and then try to go from finding that insights to getting them to buy something from us, and we kind of foul up the “what is the best way to deliver that” when we know this insight in such a way that it will get across and build the kind of relationships we are looking for in customers?
Esteban Kolsky: You know what is interesting in what you are talking about is back in the wee days of social CRM before we called it that, and even in the beginning like three or four years ago,
Brent Leary…before the stake in the ground?
Esteban Kolsky: Yeah, before the stake in the ground… Even before, we had the Paul Greenberg wiki when we had you writing about the social CRM, and then started the conversations. If you guys remember we always talked about social CRM, which was about actionable insights, and then somewhere along the way we lost the compass, and then we stopped talking about that, and went back started talking about engagement, social and things that really do not deliver the value. If you really look at the value of social CRM which it brings it is actionable usage, it is something that makes a difference setting the movement either for the customer or movement for the company based on what you know and want you can find out.
We always talked about social CRM, which was about actionable insights, and then somewhere along the way we lost the compass.
Paul Greenberg: That is always what distinguished social media from social CRM. Social media was just basically getting a report on what people were saying, when push comes to shove that is what it was and is. 
Social CRM is actually defined by the fact that you are not just doing that, but you are, you are actually capturing all of that information. You are trying to figure out what it is and what do to about it, then you are actually doing it theoretically because it is not technology it is a program and it is strategic. You are actually doing something, you are not sitting there saying “um interesting”, “love this”, “awesome customer”, “oh, oh bad news”; you are actually taking action, and you are not reacting either, that is the other side you are proactive because it is easier to react. 
Social media allows for reaction it does not allow that much, but it does allow proactive thinking, it is saying what kind of approach do we take to actually, how do I put it, to change customer behavior in a way that we want to get it changed, and actually how do we partner with our customer to make it happen.
Esteban Kolsky: The thing is, social media brings all these operational and transactional data but without the context and without understanding of who it is talking about what, you can’t generate insight. Me complaining about a company on Twitter does not really provide that company with any insight unless they merge that complaint with my customer data, see whether I’m a valuable customer or somebody who they don’t care about, and then mix that with my Klout and then they decide as to whether they want to talk to me or not.
Paul Greenberg: Yeah think about this, and it is also making an intelligent human decision. I mean giving an example, if I monitor the Yankees hash tag during the season, during the game, I have a million people screaming about the Yankees, and then hating them for something that went bad during the inning. We are all fans they hate the Yankees that moment because Joe Girardi left AJ Burnett an inning too long, and they are screaming and yelling. 
Now, if I am not smart, I am going to be a Yankee, so to speak, I will be a Yankee staff member responding saying ‘no he did the right thing, ‘they should have left him in’. If I am smart I am going to completely ignore it, knowing that these people love the Yankees, screaming about them in the heat of the game, and when the game is over it does not burgeon into the giant swell of attack on the team. 
Again, it is context, it is all contexts, and from that standpoint you decide, ok well just let that run its course, the game is over and everyone will calm down. Now the interesting question is if in fact that all of a sudden you see articles come out of the media about getting rid of Burnett, you see all kinds of things happening - I know you are not a Yankees fan that is why you are choking - you see all kinds of information like this beginning to swell into something, then you may have to respond, but theoretically if you are a smart company or a smart team you have a plan of action to deal with things like that when those things happen. But ordinarily if you take it out of context it is a horrible, horrible negative, and it will show up very bad on sentiment analysis, but the reality is you don’t do a thing about it, you just leave it alone because context is everything in this case.
Esteban Kolsky: You are making the best case out of the three elements of information has of the three characteristic that information has to be valuable. One is content, which we can master through social media anytime. Two, is context which social CRM brings and then the third one is intent, this is where insights elevate when this stuff kicks in and takes the context, and tries to infer an intent and once you have an intent that is when you actually start seeing the move to dramatically for a company that has the limitation to social technology. 
Brent Leary: Time is the other element because it has to be timely, contextual and give the right intent in order to really complete the Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance double play. 
Part two of this roundtable discussion will be posted shortly.

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