CRM, Meet Your Future

I was recently invited to facilitate sessions on how traditional CRM strategies are now in a new phase known as CRM 2.0 -- or social CRM -- for the sales and marketing BA and MBA candidates at the Wharton School of Business.

Wharton School Visiting Associate Professor Sandy Jap is preparing her students for a career in sales and marketing by empowering them with the latest information on how online communities have changed the playing field for CRM strategies. There's no doubt that businesses need to adjust current models to meet the needs of this emerging medium.

It is really difficult to discuss CRM today without addressing some component of social media. Web 2.0 and social media practices have created the Social Customer. Companies that are not in a position to embrace their customers through social CRM strategies will quickly lose touch. Social media is not a separate entity but a blend of CRM interactional tactics. The same issues that caused CRM failures in the past will rear threir ugly head in social media if the fix is to simply throw technology at them. I started off my presentation by focusing on this new entity known as the Social Customer and used Paul Greenberg's, author of CRM at the Speed of Light, definition of social CRM:

"CRM is a philosophy and a business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules, processes and social characteristics, designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted and transparent business environment. It's the company's response to the customer's ownership of the conversation."

One of the most popular books on social media, Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, focuses on Generation Y, the 18 to 27 age group that many Wharton students fall into. The technographic profile of this group points to its high levels of social media activity, which is setting the stage for how CRM will have to adapt.

Making the connection from traditional, transactional CRM 1.0 to interactional CRM 2.0 or social CRM was clearly understood by the students -- they get it. Social Customers were in front of me and after our interactive discussions, I may have learned just as much from them as they did from my presentation.

The students were eager to learn that their experiences with social media -- their high proficiency in social media was not surprising given that most of them grew up on the Internet -- would be a welcoming trait to the corporate world they were soon to enter. Corporate executives are still trying to get their arms around how to integrate social media into traditional channels of engagement and they desperately need employees that are comfortably engrained in social media knowledge and practices. On the other hand, corporate executives who can lend their extensive knowledge of traditional CRM to the interactive generation for an effective blend of collaboration at its best, thereby leveraging the power of social CRM.

My word of advice to the corporate world is to invite this generation into the conversation: They get it and are well-versed in all of the tools involved in social media. In preparation for their entrance into the workforce I would advise executives to make the company's image and workplace more social media-centric. Companies do not want to miss out on this talent pool simply because of a disconnect between unfamiliar forms of interaction.

Remember, social media may have grown its roots in the younger generations but they, too, will grow up, move on, and disperse. Nevertheless, they will keep their databases with them and expect social media to be in the mix.

Key Takeaways:

  • Traditional CRM strategies will have to provide a social media channel.
  • Social media is not a separate entity from CRM -- it must be intermixed with traditional strategies.
  • Students entering the workforce can accelerate the company's social media initiatives: Invite them in!
  • Social media in the workplace will aid in attracting the best incoming talent who are currently fluent in its usage.
  • Use the economic slowdown as a motivation for using social media to streamline processes and give the customer a voice.
  • Take the time to plan and align social media strategies with business initiatives.
  • Know what is expected from a social media engagement initiative and set up measurements and goals.

It was a privilege for me to have the opportunity to address these students and I hope to extend a hand to their future success.

About the Author

Michael W. Thomas (mwthomas@newfiresocialmedia.com) is a social CRM consultant with New Fire Social Media, national president of the CRM Association, and recipient of CRM magazine's 2004 Most Influential CRM Leader award. His social CRM blog is www.crm2.blogspot.com. He can be reached on Twitter at @mwthomasSCRM.

Please note that the Viewpoints listed in CRM magazine and appearing on destinationCRM.com represent the perspective of the authors, and not necessarily those of the magazine or its editors. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top.

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For the rest of the September 2009 issue of CRM magazine please click here.

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