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What is Social CRM?

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That’s the question that opened the Social CRM 2011 event in London. Funny, we were there to hear about Social CRM, but no one knew for sure what it was about. Many places around the web are trying to answer the same question – check this, this and this page.

My favorite definition is the one from Esteban Kolsky‘s presentation, where he says:

“The company’s programmatic response to the customer’s control of the conversation.”
Paul Greenberg

This sentence alone doesn’t tell us much. So let’s try and break it down in pieces to see if it makes more sense.

Customer’s control

This has a lot to do with Web 2.0 and everything we’ve been hearing for the last five years. In the past, companies used to choose when, where and what they would communicate with their customers. Companies were in control of the information. We all know that it doesn’t work like that anymore. Customers are talking about the brand when and where they please, they are more informed about their rights and what is going on in the market. It’s getting harder for companies to keep up.


In the past, most of us didn’t expect to have a conversation with a brand, did we? The closest to a conversation we would get would be a phone call or emails exchange. Today we have live chats, forums, and of course, social networks. The interaction is getting more human, more personal.

Company’s response

If you go back a few decades, you must agree one thing has never changed – customers have questions and they want answers. Companies have to constantly come up with the best and quickest solutions in order to help its customers. And how to do that? You need to start at the beginning. According to Brent Leary, you need to find, catch and keep your customers. In order to do that you need to create content, which generate conversations, which will convert to exchanges (information, confidence, sales process), which will finally create a relationship. All this process, and how you do it, is determined by the Social CRM.

The controversy

When you start looking for Social CRM definitions, you’ll see there’s some controversy out there. Most of the articles talk about how to create a community, the importance of listening and being where your customers are. That’s definitely part of the customer relationship, but is it part of the customer relationship management? Here’s another type of definition by Social Media Examiner:

Social CRM is still about CRM (but evolved), meaning a back-end process and system for managing customer relationships and data in an efficient and process-centric way. Social Media Examiner

In this definition the focus is in data and back-end process, something totally different from what we’ve been talking about so far. Simple things such as – Do you have your customer’s twitter account and email at the same database? Do you keep track of your customer’s history on Facebook? Can you tell if your customer has complained about an issue in other channels before he reached you?

Those questions seem simple, but they are very hard to answer. It’s almost impossible for a company to have this information integrated in a single database. Shouldn’t that be the future of CRM?


Written by Cristina Dresch

May 8, 2011 at 10:30 PM

Posted in Social, Web 2.0

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