Brent Leary's social CRM roundtable

17th Mar 2011

As part of a new series of roundtable interviews, social CRM guru Brent Leary talks to leading experts from the world of CRM and social CRM about topical issues relating to customer relationship management and social CRM.

This roundtable session's panel consists of...

  • Brent Leary: Architect and chair of the social CRM roundtable sessions, Brent Leary is co-founder and partner of CRM Essentials LLC, a CRM consulting/advisory firm focused on small and mid-size enterprises. Leary has over 15 years of IT and management consulting experience working on projects for PricewaterhouseCoopers, BellSouth, Compaq, the IMF and World Bank.
  • R 'Ray' Wang: R 'Ray' Wang currently is a Principal Analyst and CEO at Constellation Research Group. He previously was a founding partner and research analyst for enterprise strategy at Altimeter Group and the author of the popular enterprise software blog A Software Insider’s Point of View.
  • 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: Hello, this is Brent Leary and this is the very first CRM roundtable discussion for Every month we are going to do a series with three outstanding experts in the space. To kick this one off, the very first one, we had to do it right -  so with me today for the very first CRM Roundtable conversation is Paul Greenberg founder of the 56 Group and author of the best selling CRM at the speed of light book series. Paul, thanks for joining me today.

Paul Greenberg:  It's awesome.
Brent Leary: Esteban Kolsky is the principle and founder of ThinkJar an advisory and research think tank focused on customers strategies. Esteban, thank you for joining me today as well.
Esteban Kolsky:  My pleasure.
Brent Leary: Last, but certainly not least is Ray Wang, principle analyst and CEO at Constellation Research Group. Ray, thank you for joining me.
Ray Wang:  Hello, thanks.
Brent Leary: What is the current state of this CRM industry, right now as you see it?
Paul Greenberg:  Well, social CRM as a discussion is now mainstream, meaning, everyone is talking about it. social CRM execution is not too many places to be found. In fact, what you are seeing instead of pieces of what goes under the umbrella of social CRM in lots of places. You will see a customer service community at a company. You will see integration going on between collaborative sales capability and CRM data systems. You will see social marketing that is carrying user generated content or is using share buttons and beginning to extend out to the customers.
You are seeing transformation in some of the ways marketing is being done. For example, the thinking has become much more about not what features and functions can we offer you, as much as what are the things on a B2B side that will help you do your job that we can offer. On the B2C side - what products, services or experiences and tools can we offer you that can actually sculpt your experience with me.  We are seeing all of these pieces under the umbrella of social CRM. You are seeing social CRM as a concept being discussed everywhere, but you are only seeing the pieces executed.
Esteban Kolsky: I would like to add to that CRM hasn't disappeared. Social media in the mainstream occupies a very large part of our attention through the next two to three years. The boring traditional CRM is still pretty much going on, especially in customer service, where I spend most of my time. I want to make sure that we don't forget that that boring still exists even though social is there to enhance it.
Social media in the mainstream occupies a very large part of our attention through the next two to three years.
Ray Wang:  I would say that there is a transformation going on that both Paul and Esteban are talking about. People are experimenting, people are questioning what's happening and I think there is just a general trend to figure out how to take co many of these disruptive technologies, like social, and even mobile and put them into the industry. This is one of the things that is driving everybody bonkers as they are trying to figure out what's practical, verses what's fluff.
Brent Leary: What has been the biggest development so far this year in the industry?
Ray Wang: I think there is a piece that I know both Paul and Esteban as well, is this hot spot in analytics, monitoring. Some people are calling it socialytics. I think that is a big piece because one of the crucial steps required to prove the value of some of these social activities and I also think it is another way to tie these things back into the market.
The other one is gamification, which I am looking at. It's really about trying to figure out the incentive models, both monetary and not monetary as they come into the market. I'll lead with those.
Paul Greenberg:  I agree with Ray, especially on the analytics side, actually on the gamification too. Analytics are huge right now. From an event standpoint, meaning the single biggest event I've seen this year, I think is what I think is IBM transformation of the company to a social business. When I say that, I don't mean IBM the technology vendor who sells services and products to the enterprise. I am talking about IBM, the Fortune 500 Company that is actually transforming itself from what has been a traditional business, a 100 year old business, to a social business that is taking into account like the culture of the company, compensation structure and the incentive structures internally for their 400K employees. They expect the empowerment of those employees, with the way that they deal with other companies, individuals, influences, the way they deal with everything. It's a dramatic transformation, again there are a $100B business, it's going to take time and they are going to make a lot of mistakes, but the very fact that a company of that magnitude and that size is doing this, is phenomenal and actually also to me, is something that basically says that this social business stuff is here to stay too.
Esteban Kolsky: Again, I hate to be the one bring it back but from my perspective, while I agree with both of you, I think that analytics is something that is going to be hyper-big in the next few years. I would also add that fact that Tibco - which is an infrastructure company that traditionally doesn't get into this stuff - got into social business, virtually every vendor is having some social strategy put together. Even going one step further, realising how social fits into the business as opposed to saying social business is something new.  Realising how the feedback and all of the information that we collect from social can be used - which is why it is getting big. How it integrates with existing feedback and strategies, that to me is so far the biggest push of the year. That is where I am getting most conversation with my customers. Truth be told, I may have my own focus on that because that is where I come from, but I think that this is becoming really interesting when people realise that there is more to social then engaging and listening and whatever all those people used to say we have to do.
Brent Leary: What is the biggest thing you would like to see happen in the industry?
Esteban Kolsky: What I would like to see in the industry is a solid understanding that social is an enhancement to CRM, it doesn't replace it. There is not going to be a social CRM vendor that is going to show up out of nowhere and change the world. The way we do things works and then we just need to add social to it. That is what I would like to see happen.
What I would like to see in the industry is a solid understanding that social is an enhancement to CRM, it doesn't replace it.
Paul Greenberg:  I have two things, one would be exactly what Esteban said. I couldn't even think of disagreeing with that because there's still that disconnect that is going on out there and a lot of it comes from the people who are coming in from the pure social media side of it, which is that CRM is going to be replaced by that. Reality is this, we have a social customer and that is an established fact at this point. We have different ways that people trust and different ways that they communicate. Their ability to communicate is different and enhanced extensively so that they can communicate twenty-four seven with multiple channels in multiple ways. Those things have changed the way businesses need to respond to customers now.  All institutions need to respond to individuals or associates dealing with them in some way. So, the realisation that you still have to run the business, that the operational things that businesses have to do still have to occur. The businesses objectives are not identical to the customers to the fact, its mutual value and that each value and proposition is going to be somewhat different. All of those things, if we had that happen, we would have a year with a lot less difficulty and a lot more just forward progress.
The other thing is very simple. Yankees win the series in 2011.
Ray Wang: Hard to top that with the Yankee's. What I'll see is the things that I would like to see happen this year. I think there is such a disconnect - and I agree with Paul and Esteban - but I think there is such a disconnect between the business and the IT and what I would like to see is people get smarter about coordinating between tech teams, marketing teams and sales teams and service and support teams so that real work can get done.  We just finished a report on the four personas of a CIO and we see Chief Infrastructure Officers, Chief Intelligence Officers, Chief Innovation Officers and Chief Integration Officers and they come from a background of business savvy and tech savvy and external facing and external facing. Just trying to understand how an organisation works and how people take social CRM or any CRM innovations into the environment and tie that back to business strategy and business value. That is going to be the big thing to happen this year. I would love to see people talking about business value and stop talking about the hype. Or stop talking about the latest marketing fad that is going on. I think that will help all of us.
Paul Greenberg:  That is sort of on the order of world peace.
Esteban Kolsky: I think what Ray and Paul said, if I could summarise, they both said the two most important aspects of what we should have in order to make this work. Ray said, let's make it work inside their organisation and Paul said somebody needs to understand that the customer and the company want different things and reconcile that into a common strategy. If we can have both of those and world peace, then that would be fantastic and if the Yankee's win, even better.
Brent Leary: What would be some indicators to let you know that these things are happening and they are going to have the kind of impact you would like them to have sometime this year?
Paul Greenberg:  Actually, from my standpoint, the indicators are kind of the things that I was already talking about in the very beginning. Some of the things are actually happening are indicators of the transformation I am looking for. There is a couple of things, one is, from the side of the practionaires out there, the integration or the use of the data that they are getting from the unstructured side with the structured data that they are getting from transactional data from CRM records. The use of the data for more than just storing it inside a customer record and starting to see companies that are actually utilising customer insights to actually benefit themselves and the customer would be an indicator that the industry is maturing in a direction I would like to see it go in.
I am not looking for massive amounts of this, I am just looking for it to start in places where you get a genuine sense that we are seeing on some level, substantiation customer insights being applied in ways that actually benefit the customer and the company. That would be indicated by, rather then what you would just normally see if you talk to a lot of people that are talking about integrating the social systems in CRM right now what you get is people who basically saying we are going to take all of the structured data that we've captured and we are going to stick it in the customer record. That is pretty much it. They are seeing CRM as the system of record, but nothing much more than that.  With analytics and everything else coming into the front and the increasing sophisticated capability for that to start seeing people actually use this for genuine customer insights, and then applying it in ways that do benefit both, just looking for indicators like that at different companies like Procter & Gamble, who does things like that for example. Seeing that on a larger scale would just mean repeating Proctor & Gamble 800 thousand times would be the kind of thing that I would be looking for.
Esteban Kolsky: I think that Paul said it extremely well, but the problem is how to distribute those results so that people understand them. I would say that what I am looking for is case studies being published, distributed and being well know. You can conference this, in articles, whatever but a case study that says; "look what I did. Look how I put together all of these different things that are happening right now. Document the basic social model. Look how I took the social location model - the control model and how did I incorporate that into my CRM. Look what I did. These are the results and this is what I am going to do next." If I start seeing those case studies, that is when I am going to know we are moving in the right direction.
Ray Wang: I think for me, I am actually looking to follow the money on one aspect. I want to see which vendors buy which pieces. I think there is some consolidation of some of the people who were lagging in the industry are trying to catch up and see which vendors are buying which pieces and what that means to the marketplace.
I think the second piece is really this shift to social business and what it means. I think we agree that we need some good case studies as Esteban was talking about, about how people are doing it. But I think more importantly, I am looking to see how business strategy gets changed by social, mobile and location and really what that drives in terms of the business apps that people are looking for.  
What that means in my mind is; Are people making social a main part of the business? Are people incorporating social, not just because it is a fad, but they realise that they have to adopt this to be differentiated. I think those drivers are going to be ones to see how successful people are with adopting a lot of these capabilities.
Are people incorporating social, not just because it is a fad, but they realise that they have to adopt this to be differentiated.
Esteban Kolsky: I would say that Paul mentioned the social customer before - understanding the adoption of the concept of the social customer, that will be another marker for me that we are moving in the right direction.
Brent Leary: I have one, kind of, question I am going to throw out there because it just came to my mind as Ray was talking. I want each of you to peer throw a crystal ball and throw me out a prediction that maybe people wouldn't be looking out for unless they heard it here right now. Give me something, maybe somebody is going to make an acquisition or somebody is going to move into a different space, but just throw out there that you think could possibly happen, even if it is a slim chance. Paul, why don't you start?
Paul Greenberg:  {chuckles}
Brent Leary: Besides somebody throwing a no hitter for the Yankees.
Paul Greenberg:  I would say, this is not from a sense of a possibility, but one of the things that I don't think you are going to hear a whole lot about - well let me rephrase that - you are going to hear about it, but it's going to creep up and I have sort of hinted at it, which is in order to do that customer insight and also the other facet which is knowledge management and the integration of knowledge management with social and CRM, all of those three is something that is essentially on the horizon. We are starting to see companies get interested in it, not that many are actually doing it very well, when they are attempting it. A lot of companies that are interested in it are specialists in the knowledge management space. That integration of all of that on the technology side and then the use of that is going to be mission critical, both because it meets so many different needs.
One is it meets the needs of actually organising the information in ways that are useful for insight. The other one is that it also provides the customer the ability to serve themselves, meaning that you have exposed some of that knowledge to the customer as it is captured from the customer, integrated with existing knowledge bases and then exposed to the customer so that they can get things answered that ordinarily in the past for example, only an agent might have the answer to.  
Those are things from the standpoint of how customers interact with companies can be potentially transformational. I think we will see that and I hope we will see that and I'm starting to see signs of it.
Esteban Kolsky: My only prediction is toward the end of the year, the marriages of customer service and the leading business function embracing the social world and making the world better. We have sales, take on SFA and CRM and are doing very well. We have seen marketing now take on that social and then do something with it, but I think until we see customer service taking the lead and really take control and embedded in all the operations, we are not going to see a true revolution of the organisation. That is something we are going to see in two or three years. That is definitely something we are going to see.
Ray Wang: I guess I am going to add, you can see a lot of acquisitions that are happening. I think there are a lot of partnerships and acquisitions that are going to start happening on the social analytics side. People are realising that it is very important to do that and then I think the second thing that we are going to see a lot more of, is this realisation that all business is social, and the social monitor is just going to go away. It's like eBusiness, great. Nobody talks about eBusiness anymore.  It's a channel and I think as smart companies go out and integrate, they are going to do it in secret. They are going to have all of these special projects out there and then they all think that we are going to hear about it and try to emulate very quickly. I think that is the big thing that will happen next year.

Replies (3)

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By krcraft
17th Mar 2011 05:45

Nicely done, Gents.  Much here to appreciate in the first of this series - even if you aren't a baseball fan.

I'll quote Esteban as starting point for the cental takeaway, "There is not going to be a social CRM vendor that is going to show up out of nowhere and change the world. The way we do things works and then we just need to add social to it."

As each of you noted well, the strategies for adding social to business will evolve as we create more case studies, gain a better understanding of the analytics possible with less structed data, and note the trends in which pieces customers and vendors do purchase.  But, we're not nearly there yet, and are still filtering through much 'social for the sake of social' buzz from vendors and customers alike.

It's refreshing to hear consistency even within your different perspectives: social tools need to solve real business issues and enhance specific business goals.

Looking forward to more in the rest of the series.

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By Ric.Pratte
17th Mar 2011 10:56

If we didn't think we could change the world we wouldn't try! :)

Gentleman thank you for a very insightful dialog. Sometime the established players need those mavericks to shake it up a little. That's how we innovate and move forward. We tend to think that building a social business through new solutions rather than bandaided old solutions will bring the quickest path to success.

Ric Pratte (dreamer)

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By rustynail
18th Mar 2011 09:27

This is a good appetiser. Good context. I agree that the vendor space in scrm is going to be one to watch this year. I think there will be plenty of acquisitions on the horizon and fully expect Orace, Microsoft, SAP et al to start buying up boutique players to create suites. I look forward to the next podcast.

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