Who leads Social CRM – let’s draw the line ;-)

In recent past innovations came from technology resulting in better products, produced at lower costs with more features. The best companies used market research as a bases for their understanding of the new features (they have thought of themselves) that should be added to the products. Traditional marketing and distribution methodologies were used to push (in a mass-communicative way) the products onto the marketplace. For a long time this worked well, until..

Companies came along that developed a methodology to understand what jobs customers where trying to do and how their products failed to fulfill all desired customer outcomes. These companies focused innovations at meeting the unmet desired outcomes (that matter most to customers), instead of pushing features they thought were cool. Around the same time CRM came into play, and mass-marketing switched to direct marketing. Some started a loyalty program for their customers and others for distributors.  CRM made it possible to better understand who our customers are, but

CRM did not help us better understand what customer desired outcomes where left unmet: CRM did not help us understand better what our customers need to be successfull at the jobs they are trying to achieve.

Nowadays, companies that understand products are there to fulfill a service (from the Customers perspective), focus on innovations that meet the unmet needs of Customers better, through a better understanding of the jobs customers want to achieve. And

Whilst the entire (operational and CRM parts of the) company is still focusing on understanding CRM and BPM, the innovation teams focus on understanding customer jobs and ways to fulfill them through so-called “open-innovation” projects.

“Open innovation” is all about engagement of partners and customers in the process of innovation.

When I take a step back, taking the above into consideration, I believe it have been Customers and the Innovation teams that are, by far, ahead of any other “traditional” departments in general and traditional CRM departments in specific. Ahead, when it comes to engaging in conversations aimed to co-create more value on the desired (yet unmet) Customer outcomes. Why? That is the destination of Innovation, it is their quest for the holy grail. Engagement is part of their Customer Centric DNA. The most successful innovation teams engage and innovate where it matters most: the customer experience at the use/consumption of the product or service.

Do you, reading all the above, think that Social CRM or Social Media should be owned by the Innovation department? Do you believe that they should lead the Social CRM troops in developing new and innovative ways to engage with customers aimed at improving the customer experience?

I think I built quite a good and plausible case for it, like others have built cases for customer services as leading Social CRM department. Some did not make a choice and make plausible cases for it to be the department that has the best fit or position from an engagement perspective or the department that is best able to use it. Others defend it should be a more holistic or strategics approach, since it is about the customer experience across multiple touchpoints, all of which are managed by a different department. Some even dare to look ahead and think about who will lead in the future.

My take: All plausible cases, with lots of good arguments, but what is the value added to Social CRM?

The great part of Social CRM is that it now enables the CRM part of the company not only to understand WHO their customers are, but also understand better WHAT they need (to achieve the desired outcomes at the jobs they are trying to do) through listening, interacting and engaging with Customers. A great opportunity (with some threats attached as always) that we are bound to miss out on if we continue to discuss who might lead, or who will lead / benefit most in the future, for a long time. This discussion has the potential of the “definition” discussion all over again. Let’s bring all our energy together to focus on increasing our understanding of how Social CRM can add more value to the co-creation of value with our Customers. We need it and we need it fast. We’re in a crisis. The sooner we know how to use it to the mutual benefit of customers and companies, the earlier we will be implementing it.

I won’t say “let’s put a stake in the ground”, but I hope you agree that we should draw the line of the “lead Social CRM” discussion here..

What do you think?

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11 thoughts on “Who leads Social CRM – let’s draw the line ;-)

  1. Let me note, in this discussion i have taken part of I am not a crm’er, a cem’er nor a scrm’er, i take no side and make no effort to do so, i’ve been solely an observer with an opinion.

    Why? because I am the missing element in this puzzle, i am the customer feedback, and how i look at what i am observing, i am looking at it from the eyes of a customer, not from a crm’er looking out to the customer, but a customer looking out to you and observing what is going on.

    Thus, i have come to my conclusion that it’s a new mindset who owns scrm.

    The person who is willing to adapt to the scrm enviornment, to be open to the changes that must take place, to the unbias participation of taking on new thoughts, and the person who can take and leverage their knowledge in crm, cem and scrm to new heights.

    Marketing, sales, innovation, and cem platforms, are only successful if they accept a scrm mindset.

    What’s a scrm mindset? From a customer perspective as i’ve been taking.

    Willingness to participate once i know how, when i’ve been educated for what to look for, thus if customers own scrm, how can they lead their part if the companies haven’t still chosen who leads.

    Accept the mindset first, then leading won’t be so much an issue. You’ll be too busy, scrm’ing.


  2. Wim,

    Insightful post and thanks for the reference.

    I think you make a compelling case for the “innovation department” as a potential leader of a foray into Social CRM.

    One small challenge is that most companies don’t have an innovation department. They are simply too small. Innovation is typically spearheaded by executive leadership, or product managers.

    The conclusion I am drawing, and it dovetails off of your thoughts here and our previous discussions, is that it likely makes the most sense to start a Social CRM initiative with those individuals within an organization that ALREADY are having those types of conversations and interactions. The technology just becomes a better tool to enable them to do what they are already attempting to do.

    Any of the above –> Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, Innovation, or other might be the logical starting point depending upon existing company culture AND an individual or small group of individuals who are willing to champion the endeavor.

    Best regards,
    Brian (@CRMStrategies)


  3. I am right and no one else. :-) Just kidding, of course. I too am going to move on from this conversation, for now, and get back to focusing more on what it is an is not and trying to make it a reality (both in my own companies products and in changing customer mindsets).

    Let’s make it real and then we can continue fighting.



  4. Wim, you are right!
    John, you are right!
    Esteban, you are right!
    Graham, you are right!
    Prem, you are right! … oops … I am right!


    This is a great discussion where it is inevitable that we all don’t see the same route to the end point, especially since we are not yet completely sure whats the extreme boundary, frontier for social CRM!

    But then, the paths to success are always myriad! And we only make a better map by sharing our views/observations/perspectives! As I said, please do continue to add your views, but this is not a debate for me. This is just learning newer ways of looking at the same stuff. So I am all the more grateful to you all!

    [Folks, you know English is not my native language, so pls help me a bit … some stuff always nag me … how can ‘grate’ful be the opposite of ‘grate’? I always keep writing the wrong spelling … greatful! Only firefox spellcheck comes to my rescue!]

    BTW, I have put up my dirty list of business benefits of social CRM I have collated from you all over the months! Do pour in your entries if I have missed any! :)


  5. Wim, I agree, and disagree.

    – We cannot afford to lose precious cycles on the less important points of who leads. There are bigger problems to solve.
    – However, this is an issue that must be addressed and understood (but not agreed upon). Esteban and I view this differently in terms of the series of steps but I think we both agree on the endpoint.

    I think it is okay to disagree amongst ourselves on this point. While it is important, I feel that there are multiple right answers that will lead to the promised land.



    • Hi John,

      Thx for sharing your view. It is highly appreciated.

      I’m with you that it is important that we need to have this discussion. I Think @CRMStrategies did a great job unleashing it. The value for me out of the discussion is that it helped me better understand where we actually stand with a rounded view of HOW Social CRM will contribute to business success. My conclusion from that thinking is that we do have a good definition, and some great views on its potential, but we still fail to understand the true value.

      I’m also not against any department or business cell taking the lead in any company. Whatever works best for that Company in that point in time.

      I’m more on the side of Esteban here: we need to see some (more than 2, less than 100) great successes from which we can learn (also the who leads question), before we dive into, or become conclusive on the leading question.

      And I most certainly agree with you that it is ok to agree to disagree ;-) Thx again!


  6. I think you are making a good point, it is not about leading — it is about value.

    But, that only changes the conversation from “who leads?” to “what’s value?”.

    I think that we are rushing to adopt something that it not understood, and as always we will have 100 failures for each success. It is expected, and the way the world works.

    I won’t have the first success, nor will (probably) anyone I know. The first successful setup of SCRM is going to happen when someone with sufficient passion and the necessary resources will change the business model for their organization to make it happen.

    Once that happens a few times, more than 2 less than 100 as my mentor used to say, then we can start deducing some best practices, lessons learned, what to do and not to do, etc. Once we get to that point, then we can have all the discussion about who leads, who follows, and what and how to do things well.

    All these conversations are useful for us to figure out how to introduce SCRM better, how to get started. Alas, let’s face it — without that W somewhere in our arsenal, we are just either talking in academic terms – or just for the fun of it. We cannot answer any of the necessary questions until we see some (more than 2, less than 100) successes first.

    Don’t you think?


  7. Well said, actually very well said, the perspective has been drawn and the solidity in your words has been delivered.

    Who leads? You do, and it comes back again to the notion of education. Your knowledge, time, energy, understanding, and wellroundedness of the topics stated need someone to educate each person throughout each touchpoint to see it the way you do.

    It won’t work any other way or else the chain will break. It’s a flow.

    They speak of culture of innovation, but now you’ve posed the great question. Where’s the culture in Social CRM, we’ve identified innovation and the strong points and people are leading the way, but a culture of Social CRM needs to be taught just like innovation has been teaching on a mindset of innovation, thus you need a mindset like yours.



    • Hi Spiro,

      I’m flattered with your comment. Great to see you appreciate the post. I most certainly enjoy and appreciate your engagement and in and on the Social Media world.

      Thx for dropping by & the RT on this post.


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