Making it Simple - The Components of a Social CRM Program

Updated: August 23, 2010

First and Foremost

Lets start at the beginning. Social CRM is a program that encompasses what is probably the most significant segment of your company strategy - the part that encompasses how you will relate to your customers. "But," you say, scratching your head, "Wasn't that CRM?"

Yes it was, but with notable differences that we'll get into. Remember SCRM is an extension of CRM, not a replacement. What that means is that the basic core operational functionality that CRM has is still part of SCRM, only woven into a different way. The same fabric, different thread and patterns.

Again, the stress is on the word program. Thus as a program, Social CRM says, "what is it we have to do to know customers better and interact with them better? The benefit of doing that will be better customer retention, smarter customer acquisition, more committed customers who will become, optimally customer advocates, and by the opposite token, will be less mad and more forgiving when there are problems."

To figure that out, we have to break what comprises an SCRM program.

The Caveats

A couple of quick caveats:

  • You can always find exceptions to the rule - meaning that few companies have a holistic SCRM strategy. Most are piecemeal.

AND expanding on that...

  • Most companies are not necessarily using all the individual components - perhaps some of them.


  • I'm leaving the idea of strategy as implicit here. The strategy evolves throughout the development of the SCRM program stages. In other words, if you've incorporated the voice of the customer in the thinking of the company from the get go and then taken a look at the gaps between the existing corporate mission and vision and the one you develop and look at the objectives you're attempting to achieve then you have the foundation for the resultant customer engagement strategy which, of course, results in the program. I'm going here with what I recently defined as my starting point:

"I find social CRM to be the program developed to execute a customer engagement strategy based on the continuous improvement of the customer's experience with the company. In its most advanced form it is the program for a collaborative value chain at a company that involves the customers in the development and implementation of the company's business plans to varying degrees - depending on the company. It will, done right, provides mutual value."

(Thanks to John Ginn for pointing out this missing explanation)

What I'm providing are what you would need to craft an SCRM program that would give you the best chance at being successful with your customers and a brief description of what each means in a Social CRM context - not traditional CRM

The Components

These components are in something of an order but the reality is that a lot of them will be done simultaneously and in some cases, like the Voice of the Customer (VOC), will be part of the program's perspective throughout and at the same time will have some deliverables associated with the program

Voice of the Customer - this is perhaps the most strategic and most tactical component of the entire program. On the one hand, there is a strong cultural component here - the willingness of the company to recognize that the customer is in command of the conversation (see culture below). On the other there are concrete things that need to be done. First, a customer advisory board that would be in place from the beginning - available to provide you with valuable inputs on how to craft this SCRM program. On the other hand, while you are doing what you see below (see all other components) you need to do what many call Customer Experience Mapping - which looks granularly at the customer's interactions, expected results, actual results and the weight the customer puts on the result in all channels. So this is strategic and tactical.

Mission and Vision - "But," you say, "our company HAS a mission and a vision statement". So what. You need to do a facilitated set of sessions to decide what your VOC-driven vision and mission is and then plot it against the existing one and see where the gaps are in your corporate vision vs. the one you came up with and same for the mission.

Objectives - This is no different than any other strategy you might have. What do you want out of this SCRM initiative. However, what you want might be different. For example, if you are being traditional - aside from revenue benefits, or lift or better CSAT scores, you might want to look at what it takes to create customer advocates. Meaning you set an optimal objective that says my objective is customer evangelists. While you certainly won't get 100% results, if you use an SCRM strategy you will get more than if you didn't plan for them.

Business Requirements - This is again not much different than it always has been. What resources do we need to accomplish the task. But the resource set changes somewhat because you will be dealing with non-traditional channels and probably with channels that are outside your control - for example, Twitter - which means the personnel you bring to bear, the hardware and software that you might need, etc. could be quite different than a more traditional company-focused approach. Simple example - what do you need to turn a Twitter complaint into a trouble ticket for customer service?

Processes Assessments - Here there will be fairly significant different because of the processes needed to be more "social." Processes and business rules that for example represent protocols that the company will have to use to deal with customer complaints on the social web. But it also includes more traditional processes, such as the classic sales processes that you use from lead to cash.

Business Case including costs/TCO - this is no different than its ever been except that you're taking into account for example, software costs that in a previous era you might not have such as social media analytics or monitoring tools. Or the labor cost of a community manager. But that's more a product of the change in business culture and customer interaction and expectations than it is a change in making the business case.

Risk Assessment - same. Risks are different though. What is the risk of NOT responding in 24 hours to a customer complaint. Or the risk of not allowing comments on a blog - or the risk of allowing comments on a blog.

Metrics/Benchmarks/ROI - This is perhaps the most fuzzy. Because right now, how to measure the value of successful social customer interactions is still a bit unclear. What kinds of benchmarks should you adhere to? What kinds of KPIs should you set for your employees? What kinds of metrics measure customer value that you can use to show why you've been successful. There are hints here and there on what to do - the beginnings of efforts that are starting to define how to measure success with a social customer. For example, Customer Referral Value as an extension of Customer Lifetime Value where the customer's indirect impact on revenue is measured based on their trusted relationships with other potential and actual customers of your business - and their willingness to evangelize you. Also First Contact Resolution rather than First Call Resolution - which basically is allowing for the fact that the customer has preferred channels, not necessarily the phone - though not ruling it out either - to be in touch with you - and their customer service issues might be resolved without it ever reaching the phone. This needs a long and careful look by your company when formulating an SCRM program and strategy.

Culture - This is the most difficult of all parts. Historically, it always has been. If there is anything underfunded in traditional CRM strategies it is the change management programs necessarily to alter the company's culture to allow acceptance of this. This is magnified a hundred fold by SCRM, not because of SCRM, but because it involves a fundamental transformation of the company. It doesn't just say, become customer-centric. It says "recognize that the customer is in command of the conversations about your company to the point that they can have an impact on your company that you have nothing to say about when it occurs and they communicate in channels that you have no control over." So, you are effectively (not literally) ceding control to the customer - which actually, in real life terms, is recognizing that the customer has far more power of his/her buying decisions and even more over the performance of your company than he/she ever did before. Which means that you are forced to respond to that change. The customer has changed, the culture of the company needs to change to recognize that so that it can, with minimal internal damage, change what it does.

Communications - Another unappreciated factor when it comes to the components of a SCRM program. How you communicate with your employees and your customers in the course of crafting the program actually matters. Things to consider are the channels that you are going to communicate with them on - for example, are you going to ask for customer input? If so, how? Survey? Facebook query? LinkedIn Q&A? Meetings and phone calls? Focus groups? How are you going to keep the employees informed as to the status of the projects/programs as you evolve them? How much do you want them involved? If you do - wiki? Or more passively - email status reports. Or an Intranet site? Or a party to more cheerily explain what you're doing? In other words, communications - rather than in the past when they tended to be unidirectional, now need to be more multi or bi-directional. The communications channels you need to use will matter in the success of the creation of the SCRM program.

Vendor Selection Strategy - While the point in the process you start vendor selection hasn't changed - later rather than sooner, nor the fundamentals of vendor selection haven't changed - meaning the vendor needs to meet your needs; not you squeezing in your plans to meet their technologies, what you need to "select" when it comes to SCRM has most certainly changed and in a more bewildering way than ever. First, you have to consider not just your operational requirements but what kind of customer inputs (feedback capabilities) and outputs (engagement and monitoring on external channels) you need; what channels you are going to use; how you are going to capture not only the traditional customer information such as transactional data; but the social data meaning profile information; interaction data and influence knowledge, etc. Then you have to consider what you are going to do with that data - e.g. deeper customer insight; using inputs for expanding service knowledgebase, etc. Then you have to decide what architectures work for you - SOA, REST, etc. Then whether best of breed or whole suite (good luck on finding one) etc. But, all in all when it comes to vendor selection in SCRM, you have to do decide what vendor provides you with the tools that help you do your job and meet your objectives. Key phrase: do your job. Not just provide you with features, do your job. Get it. Do your job. 'Nuf said.

Model Project (Pilots) - Of course, to make it happen, the iterative approaches that worked for CRM still work for SCRM. That means that you should look at what the pressing business problems you have are - not always negative either and build pilot programs that can handle the solution to the particular problem. You can expand your portfolio later when it comes to adding other SCRM capabilities. Do something that provides you with a way to prove the case - and some measurable result that gives you success, helps buy in and provides a place to start.

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