Want to get started in Social CRM: start a Collaborative Social CRM Laboratory

My Twitterfriend @CRMstrategies posted an interesting question on this insightful post which provides a good overview of opportunities of Social Media in todays business environments.

The question was:

Where should a company start (red: with Social CRM)? Which department should embrace Social CRM first? More specifically, when the dust clears, which functional area do you think will be able to leverage Social Media and Social CRM the most, and provide the greatest impact to the profitability of an organization?

I can imagine companies ask themselves the same, after browsing the web on the topic for some time. Here are my thoughts:

Want to get started in Social CRM: start a Collaborative Social CRM Laboratory

Entering into the Social Media or Social CRM place can be considered an innovation for companies. Maybe it is best to treat it this way. Companies nowadays do quite some trials with new products or services that they are developing, sometimes even multiple at the same time. They do this to collect Market and Customer feedback and to find out which product will have best chances to fly after its introduction.

This could well be a strategy for the implementation of Social Media or Social CRM: why not try it out for as many areas and as many functions as you can imagine? Why not start out with a company cross-functional laboratory with specialists of all trades in it and start exploring, testing and experimenting?

Social Media and Social CRM are new and rapidly developing. Any company can be part of the development and create competitive advantage through learning by doing. This approach has several advantages for all different stakeholders:

  • It’s a controllable environment for senior management: senior management can closely monitor what’s happening, controlling costs, fit with their strategy and results for the company as well as their customers.
  • It does not hurt that much to learn if experiments take place in a small testing environment. You will have impacted only a few customers when something does not work out.
  • You also do not have to start huge campaigns to involve the entire organization and you don’t get the negative spirit internally when you have to withdraw from something you just announced to all your employees as the innovation of the year.
  • It’s cross-functional: putting specialists from all kinds of area’s in your company at the task together will tear down silo-boundaries and generates creativity. Furthermore I believe that this will not only benefit the success of the laboratory, it will also spread to other parts of your company.

Of course a laboratory approach does not mean you don’t have to prepare and that you can just “hit it” and see where the ship sails. It is important to start with forming some kind of hypothesis based on initial research of the functions available and your customer base as well as your customers needs. I also believe it is best to involve your Customers in your laboratory activities. Through focus-groups and/or a separate online laboratory community, you can start the conversation with your customers on your new experiments and tests.

After all, in the end, you should co-create the value of social media or Social CRM with your customers. It is impossible to do that by yourself.

To conclude on my answer to @CRMStrategies: I do not know the answer to the question. It will probably be a different one for each company anyway, because no one company is the same. I do believe a well set-up collaborative laboratory approach will provide a company with the best possible answer.

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7 responses to “Want to get started in Social CRM: start a Collaborative Social CRM Laboratory

  1. I’ll add one more component to the post: should your laboratory be open to all Customers or a “closed shop”?

    The essence of Social Media is about connecting to your Customers (unless you use it solely for internal employee engagement initiatives). Any experiment, pilot or testing that you do should take place on the real market place. Much like the pilot product introductions are.

    I would advice though to limit a pilot to a specific group of customers or start with one specific available platform. To be more precise: When you are considering using Social Media for Customer Services, I suggest to pilot in just one of the possible “channels” (like Twitter) before you open up on all available platforms. Another example would be to start a Customer Services community for limited functions (support for one or just a few products).

    This way you will be able to learn before you take it to the wide audience and you will be able to start more quickly too.

    The essence of the collaborative laboratory concept is to create a small, controllable, quick-learning environment, that will prevent your Company from having numerous initiatives throughout the organizations, that are intersecting without you knowing. Collaboration is not only about internal collaboration, it is also about collaboration with your Customers.

  2. @wimrampen

    I meant to change the paragraphs this way, so that the key words: control and cross-functional, are side by side.

    – It’s a controllable environment for senior management: senior management can closely monitor what’s happening, controlling costs, fit with their strategy and results for the company as well as their customers.

    – It’s cross-functional: putting specialists from all kinds of area’s in your company at the task together will tear down silo-boundaries and generates creativity. Furthermore I believe that this will not only benefit the success of the laboratory, it will also spread to other parts of your company.

    The other two paragraphs seems to me more as additional benefits.

    A new approach to facilitate innovation in organizations, perhaps is born and got a very handy name: Collaborative Social CRM Laboratory.

  3. Win,

    I like your “Collaborative Social CRM Laboratory” Concept. I propose the Laboratory be a “Proof-of-Concept” Laboratory.

    First think first, however, we need to agree on a set of Candidate Concepts to prove.

    Sensible choices abound: Crowdsourcing Customer Service (COO), Open Innovation for Product Development (COO, CMO), Service Co-Design (COO).

    Other POCs could focus on improving key Marketing (CMO) and Sales processes, particularly for Customer Acquisition, Onboarding, Development, Retention, and Winback, or Social-Customer Lifecycle Management (#sclm).

    Also consider, Voice of the Customer and Voice of the Frontline,

    See the Bank of America Case Study for one sensible process for managing such a Laboratory: “R&D Comes to Services: Bank of America’s Pathbreaking Experiments”

    http://tinyurl.com/lxzlp4

    Thanks,

    @ariegoldshlager

  4. Thanks Arie,

    You prove to be ahead of the game (again). Very insightful comment and great suggestion. My take so far:

    The first task of a Cross-functional Collaborative Social CRM Laboratory is to define the Proof-of-Concepts (POC’s) to be experimenting on.

    One step before defining the POC’s could be to define some hypotheses around “most likely area to benefit” and “what that benefit could look like”. These hypotheses would provide good direction on what kind of POC’s to get started with, as well as serve for validation purpose during and after the experiments.

    I would also suggest to start multiple POC’s at the same time for accelerated learning and to prevent too many learnings from the past get into bias on new experiments.

    Thx again for a supportive comment and adding substantial “meet” to the discussion.

  5. Adding one more component to the above:

    Many companies might already have some Social CRM initiatives running, without being fully aware of it. The collaborative laboratory could aid in mapping these kind of initiatives and elevate them for broader benefit and impact analysis as well to benefit from the learnings already achieved.

  6. I would like to share with you too, a comment on the blog of @CRMStrategies, that I’m referring to in the beginning of my post. I think it is the best comment on that blog-post because of its clear understanding how the Customer Experience works. It reads:

    –> start quote by Esteban Kolsky (http://ekolsky.wordpress.com/)

    I am not saying not to start, i am saying change your mentality before you start. forget departments, focus on processes. Customers don’t care about departments, customer-centricity is not about departments, so stop pushing customer service over marketing or sales over pr, or whatever.

    Focus instead on an end-to-end process, customer acquisition through purchase, purchase though support, support through retention, etc. Then you will see things the same way customers see it.

    And then, you can begin to see where scrm adds value because you are changing the tools from one-way (company to customer) to two-way (company and customers as partners in process execution, tools bring their voice into the organization to add value by improving processes, products).

    Using the same model we are using now, just add something on top and expect it to work has never worked before in any function. What makes this different? There is no real innovation in putting something else on top of running processes, there is innovation in changing processes to accommodate customer-centricity and customer-involvement.

    Another note, twitter is just one of the many channels that we can use in social media (think communities, blogs, even expanding out existing channels to work in other ways) – we (and it is not just you) need to change the context of the conversation to include all these other tools if we are going to be successful in scrm — else, when twitter disappears (or evolves, or becomes something else, or whatever happens in 12-24 months to it) we risk scrm disappearing.

    –> end quote by Esteban Kolsky (http://ekolsky.wordpress.com/)

  7. Wim,

    re the Nike co-creation case study and Adidas’ mass customization article, the automobile industry was an early adopter of customer dialogue and customer designed product.

    Henry Ford pioneered mass production in this industry with his ,” any colour as long as its black”, philosophy but the automobile industry has progressed light years from those days.

    In an attempt to deliver what customers wanted, the industry had mass customization production systems, initially Build to Order, and when those proved unfeasible, then Just In Time, to not only reduce manufacturing time and inventory levels, but also to deliver vehicles that could be as customised as possible by customers.

    the extract from this book published in 1993 is interesting, (http://tinyurl.com/pvlg7b)

    “In Japan today, Toyota is reportedly offering customers five day delivery – from the time the customer personally designs his/her own customised car (from modular options) on a CAD system (in a dealer showroom or in the customer’s own home via (a) travelling salesman) , through order processing, scheduling, manufacturing, testing and delivery.”

    my point is while we are talking of SCRM as something new because of the advent of social technologies, the desire for companies to interact and engage with customers, and make them in some form or the other a part of the ‘value creation’ process, has been around for some time now. Not just in the consumer industries but also in traditional ‘clunky’ industries.

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