The Only Thing your Social CRM Strategy Can NOT Do Without

This post was published on Customer Think first. You can find the post here, along with great comments!

There have been some interesting discussions around what elements your Social CRM efforts can or cannot do without. It started with Bob Thompson asking whether one can do Social CRM without Social Media/Networks, or CRM Systems. Another interesting thread can be found here, where Prem Kumar asks whether Apple is using Social CRM. I recommend you read both posts and the discussions in the comments.

These discussions made me think though what would be the one thing your Social CRM Strategy cannot do without. The one element which would differentiate Social CRM from any other Customer Centric or Customer Management Strategy (Like Customer Experience Management or traditional Customer Relationship Management). THE sine-qua-non of Social CRM.

In my humble opinion the sine qua non of Social CRM is:

Empowering the Customer in the process of creating value for the Customer.

This actually is also the missing element of my last post: The “S” in SCRM is not about Social Media. It is not only missing.. it’s the key element that is missing.

Implementing social tools, and doing absolutely nothing differently than before, would not make it part of a Social CRM strategy. Just like adding e-mail or chat to the channel-mix wasn’t truly game-changing. And increasing your listening capabilities by adding Social Media Monitoring, however important, is not game-changing the value creation capabilities of your Customers either.

From 18 to 2 Use Cases?

Having said this, it is also clear to me what popular “use cases” under discussion would not imply a Social CRM Strategy. This does not mean, by the way, that there’s no value in these use cases. To me, they would be part of regular CRM or CEM programs, like we have been running them for quite some years now. They are either about using or adding the Social Media channel and tools or improving upon practices that should have been part of being Customer Centric long before Social Media. Again: still lots of value to capture for you and your company by implementing these use cases.

I reviewed the 18 use cases of Social CRM as published by Altimeter early March of this year. I believe the following 2 use-cases described there, would fit as use cases for a Social CRM Strategy sincy they are about empowering the Customer in the process of creating value for the Customer (themselves or their peers, that is). They are about involving and empowering the Customer in the design and delivery of experiences:

# 11: Social Support and Service – Peer-2-Peer Unpaid Armies or Customer Support Communities – :
Where smart organizations find ways to harness the collective expertise available within their networks of Customers (and providing the platform for Customers to exchange that expertise with their peers).

# 13: Social Innovation streamlines Complex Ideation – Crowdsourced R&D – :
Where companies find ways to harness the collective expertise available within their networks of Customers for ideation, product development etc..

All other use cases are smart things to do, but mainly about doing smart things you (should) have been doing before. Social tools or channels may help you to get these jobs done better than before, but they do not significantly change the game of providing value for your Customers.

Use cases as such can be found all around by the way. They are cases that involve the Customer to customize the products before ordering or even build their own (Lego), cases that bring Customers together in communities of practice or social networks and allow them not only to share, but shape their experiences with their peers (much like Nike + is doing), and cases that allow your Customers to sell, share or distribute their own ideas and products through your platform (E-bay, Amazon, P&G Connect & Develop etc).

These use cases require a higher level of creativity and “guts” than just implementing social media or social tools to existing processes. They require you to re-invent the process and, more importantly, to change the way you perceive your own role and that of your Customer in that process.

Transferring the power

Acknowledging that Customers own the conversation is not enough. Having meaningful conversations on online social networks with your Customers is not enough either.

You need to design experiences and experience platforms that will allow the Customer to influence their experiences or that will allow your Customer to support their networks and peers in creating personalized experiences.

It is about actually transferring the power from the company to the Customer, and that is much harder to do, than implementing social tools to do a better job at the things you (should) have been doing before. And, in my humble opinion, it is the most appropriate answer to the Social Customers’ ownership of the conversation.

What do you think? Are you ready to transfer power to your Customers?

5 thoughts on “The Only Thing your Social CRM Strategy Can NOT Do Without

  1. Pingback: The Real Customer Control Issue.. « Wim Rampen's Blog

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  3. Hi Wim, thanks for sharing your useful thinking!

    What you said, “Empowering the Customer in the process of creating value for the Customer”, reminds me that what Service-dominant logic (SDL) advocates: Knowledge and skills represent operant resources, which are “the fundamental source of competitive advantage”.

    Vargo and Lusch defined the operant resources as “those that act upon other resources to create benefit” and operand resources as “those resources which must be acted on to be beneficial”. According to SDL “empowering the customer” maybe can be regarded as enhancing the usage of customer’s knowledge and skills to cocreate value with service provider.

    On the other side, “empowering the customer” coincides with one of the opinions about sCRM till now I can find everywhere: not trying to control customers instead of sharing control with them.

    All sound well but I wonder the scope and degree of “empowering”. How can it be properly transfered into practical guidelines?

    Anyway, always get inspired thinking from your blogs. Much thanks!


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  5. Wim — thanks for the good words, I read the Altimeter case studies in March as well & it laid out some of what I was thinking w/sCRM.

    I think a very small percentage, in my opinion less than 1%, of companies are actually practicing the empowering while creating value concept you’re talking about. The reason is that it’s intimidating: it devalues hierarchy, and it changes the essential idea of value in a company (there’s not a lot of room to hide, accountability changes in this model)

    I know from working in a call center that the first thing you can do is ask a customer: “what do you want/what would be most helpful for you?” It’s a basic question and should drive any business that is truly interested in being customer-centric.

    But I wonder what you think about this: so those who “get it” and embrace the concept of sCRM and the idea that value creation is a customer driven and customer owned process, they tend to be people interested in innovation — and structure is only of interest as long as it encourages creativity and outside of the box thinking — where do you see traditional business hierarchy fitting in?

    Maybe I’m drinking the sCRM Kool-Aide but one of the things that seems implicit is that part of what’s happening is a shift in business ethics — I like this idea, that we’re being forced to really look in the mirror and say “ok, what can I really provide that justifies its’ own value, and how could it be done differently and create the best value for each individual I interact with.” Anytime you are getting closer to connecting honestly with your customers and acknowledging and engaging them in creating value for themselves and their peers, I think that’s where you are empowering customers.


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