Archives for category: crm

The emergence of the social customer, business, and partner value chain, alongside the rapid growth of social media channels to enable businesses to extend their customer engagement operations in ways never available before has also caused as many problems as it has generated significant new benefits.

The market has witnessed multiple vendors with various Social CRM solutions without a deep focus on current enterprise CRM investments from prior waves. New social analytics tightly woven to the vendor offering to determine sentiment, influence external to business intelligence enterprise tools, the rise of new social work flows gaps inside the business to link community and content search optimization, category aggregation, tablets, mobility, technology connectors, propriety lock-in platforms for businesses strategically navigate in their customer IT strategy, and so on.

Ironically, all the above new complexity and noise (and there is more) can be boiled down to two simple trends we have witnessed in the last decade:

1. Enterprise CRM operations from earlier waves have remained fairly static or have become fragmented organizationally by channel or unit, leading to the growth of technology, business, and data silos internally and a decrease in enterprise coordination around the end customer needs and channels.

2. The networked customer increasingly influences a larger portion of the business relationship across sales, service, and marketing outside of the current enterprise customer operations and expects the business, in turn, to interact in a unified fashion, without regard to channel or business touch point.

These two mega trends have ignited a firestorm of activity across the vendor landscape, be it in software (legacy and start up), platform exchanges, tablets and smart phones, developer partner communities and collaboration, new SI and vendor alliances, and more.

Unlike the CMO driven Social Media initiatives that are in various stages of deployment, the market for Social CRM and associated enterprise CRM intersections between social and operational is still in its nascent stages. Identification of the most suitable solutions, best-in-class practices, silo avoidance, private and public cloud architectural implications, and the appropriate enterprise hybrid technology mix for organizations remains greenfield (while Gartner pegs this sub-sector in CRM to be 1B in 2011, data on the ground appears to indicate otherwise).

This hesitancy has a solid rationale. Unlike the current initiatives creating Social Media COE’s and such, Social CRM has much higher implications for enterprise front office operations, involving thousands resources, organizational constraints, business and legal implications. Its what happens once an enterprise acts on the social insight.

There are a few pioneering vendors that have been able to prove their capabilities and are pursuing a ‘suite’ position in this market. Yet there is a lot of duplication (and major gaps) in the functionality, and, more important, none can claim to replace existing enterprise CRM with new social CRM solutions for the existing enterprise CRM market (that is without creating yet another Social CRM silo). Rather, an integration, hub-spoke, division based, or combination of the above is the sales model approach witnessed, with low risk POC or assessment types of engagements occurring alongside.

Moreover, there is no one vendor that ‘does it all’, unlike prior ‘feature wars’ from the earlier CRM era. As a result the entire evaluation process is fundamentally different, involving stakeholders from Finance (CAPEX vs. OPEX), Technology (Multi-Tenancy, Off Premise vs. On Premise, and SOA implications), Business (Field Adoption, Mobility, and Time to Benefits Realization), and other units, such as PR, reviewing against a completely new set of parameters.

The above considerations are critical in the Business and IT investment decision (or lack thereof, with often today a preference to postpone given the state of the market). Yet, business leaders navigating their future customer strategies, full due diligence is required now more than ever before to be positioned now for rapid execution. Businesses are completing due diligence efforts as the recognition of the need for change, even with the highest ‘noise to signal’ ratio seen in the CRM sector for years, will not abate in the coming years and competitive attrition is around the corner. Rather, indicators on ‘noise to signal’ are that it will only increase.

Without new customer engagement models envisioned that can be operationalized in the enterprise front office, and a plan to harness the benefits of change, sitting on the sidelines, ‘waiting for the dust to settle’, is not an option.

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The traditional sales pipeline model no longer holds in the new socially networked sales pipeline. What was once a well defined funnel of prospecting, needs evaluation, and solution selling has now become a networked sourced sales activity within many companies today prior to initiating contact with vendors. This had lead to both shortening of the sales cycle and a disconnected sales, sometime frustrating, interaction for both parties. For those companies not understanding the new networked customer and engaging where the conversations are occurring externally, the traditional pipeline building activity of buyer and seller alignment has collapsed.

Combined with the current global economic environment, this loss of forecast predictability only adds to uncertainty in sales management.

The net result of this trend has implications for both buyers and sellers. Companies that cannot connect with the new socially driven sales process will be in a poor position to respond to perceived ‘last minute’ customer inquiries when in fact due diligence has been completed on the buyer side. As the networked customer has assumed more aspects of the traditional sales cycle than has been the historical precedent, businesses must also adapt. Those companies that can bridge the current disconnect and engage the customer wherever the social sales conversations are happening, will be best positioned to win.

I ran into another lively CRM definitional debate, the kind that seems to pop up every six or nine months or so.  This write up from Focus last November seems to have covered it fairly well.

I attended SugarCon 2010 last week, with the helpful support of Focus. I won’t cover overall conference recaps as they are captured herehere, and here.  Overall, the attention and time investment SugarCRM gave to to the latest trends in Social CRM was great. I will save feedback on that piece as the Salesforce.com $142M Jigsaw acquisition today trumped the news.

Jigsaw CEO Jim Fowler presented last Wednesday on “DaaS is the new SaaS“. The indirect, horizontally integrated sales model has been the norm in the technology industry, but analogs can be applied to many other sectors, such as the dealership model in insurance or automobiles, franchise in retail, or social service delivery in the public sector.

In all these sectors, a key historical issue has been on how best to integrate, segment, and collaborate sales and customer data with business partners and regain control of the end to end customer experience. Its a very complex business issue on its own and has not had an adequate technical approach until recently. The emergence of B2B Platforms, with an assumption of some level of core data model standardization via a Cloud option, has potential to address many of the prior issues. Extremely complex and costly middleware rule customizations, or worse, point to point solutions, were the options pursued earlier with the end result of, usually, zero adoption.

For an example of how that went in the auto sector a decade ago, feel free to lookup the story of Commerce One.

As a second pillar, the exponential growth in Social Networking can address much of the unstructured data at the customer conversation end point, empowering not just Marketing with new tools, but Service and Sales as well. The real pressure is on integrating across all front office functions, not just Marketing. There is a danger in viewing the trend in Social CRM as a Marketing only led, or “Twitter” led initiative, leaving the cross-unit strategy and planning phase behind. This phase is now more important than ever, with any missteps being highly visible (look up the Walmart “fake blogger” story). If left to a single front office function or group, the results will likely be zero ROI or worse, loss of customer trust. There are signs this is already happening.

That perspective was resonated loudly in the conversations last week at SugarCon. More on that later.

It was interesting that the SugarCRM conference was followed with Chirp, the Twitter developer conference in SF. Its very clear that Salesforce is investing heavily in both trends, with Chatter covering the social side, and Jigsaw as one piece of the B2B platform play. But this story is just starting, and is not about a single CRM vendor.

Ok, this is an ongoing pet peeve and probably not breaking news, but the trend toward constant micro-updates (you name it, twitter, blogs, google alerts, etc.) without solid foundations to relate various concepts being thrown about simply results in more noise and little signal, damaging market understanding. Moreover, over the long term, has the potential to backfire on proponents getting on the bandwagon with little planning.

I know we live in an 140 char world, but without the means to understand that world, its noise. I recall seeing a similar complaint on how someone thought they were a Twitter expert because of the #s of followers they had generated through various “optimization” tools. You get what you measure, and when you are floating in a sea of noise, you need water to drink not more buzz.

So, I finally got around to powering through Paul Greenberg’s 4th edition (almost 700 pages!) of CRM At The Speed of Light. Its really a re-write from the earlier versions, not an update. So if you have the earlier version I highly recommend the new update. It complements nicely other recent works Enterprise 2.0, Experience Economy, Groundswell, to name few here. And my old time favorite… The Wealth of Networks.

The consulting on this industry shift seems to be taking off lately, likely due to this finally hard hitting the corporate agenda in a very unseemly “caught off guard” manner (Google Buzz, Toyota, United, etc.). The list of missteps can be updated almost everyday now. So, yea… now its finally on the “wide” agenda, but there remains little “wide” understanding on what exactly to do about it.

Perhaps the non-biased expert community needs to start gathering and publishing these cases to dissect exactly where a customer failure happened in the chain. Each case has its own dimensions and most are quick to jump to either a software, consulting solution pitch or blame the entire company as a side agenda. I watched a lot of the Toyota testimony today on CSPAN. Aside from the cross-cultural interplay, what was fascinating was that the CEO announced a series VOC programs, customer advisory board, customer engagement initiatives, etc… was not this in already place given their industry leadership in this area?

Again, without the details in this case, it’s hard for most outsiders to decipher, at a granular level, the true root causes. The public narrative is being written regardless.

Plenty of big software announced Social CRM components last year and many smaller players have been focusing on the sidelines in this area for years. But they too seem to working on a moving target, lots of real? “beta or alpha” initiatives… the sector feels a bit like 1999 again. Hopefully, without the repeats.

Most early stage public websites were initially agency-focused as the imperative during this period was to provide information about their respective organizational structure, functions, and services via the online channel. This design approach relied upon the service requester to have effective research skills across many public functions to understand what services were available where, and under what circumstances they applied. In other words, this wave on online public portals were agency-centric and not customer-centric. However, increasingly, public service value is now being seen as best created at a cross-organization level, across agency boundaries, functions, services, and channels.

One important area of focus in intentions based design is on bundling related functions and services by similar areas (the meta-data) to create integrated set of applicable services. In the private sector, this is often the standard sales delivery model for small to medium sized busineses. A public sector example of this, is a grouping of applicable public services by demographic profile (e.g. seniors, students, etc.) whereby, based on your demographic profile, the end user is navigated to the suite of services and/or either provided self service online tools to aggregate these, or is transferred to a specialist trained in this service area (which can either be a follow up call, direct online “immediate call back” transfer similar to that used in Amazon’s Call Center, or via online chat, to name a few).

Another major area of focus in designing an intentions based portal is integrating the various channels to support a single interaction, the recipient of which is recognized and receives the same treatment regardless of which channel he or she uses. The “landing page” of the public portal a critical aspect of this aggregation and integration, and needs to be synchronized with the data stored in various legacy systems and, ideally, also has access to centralized call center to provide human based support (note: this can be now be supported with many new and emerging technologies at a much lower cost structure, should the business case identify this need).

When incorporating an intentions based design, it is critical to have a single point of contact to manage the interaction (either via the web portal, a centralized call center, or ideally a combination of both). The integrated channel contact point aggregates the various agency functions, providing the citizen with the information about the services, eligibility, and offering specialist advice among other things. A robust knowledge base system that links the two channels is a critical component to empowering both web and call center channels in this model.

In addition, it is also imperative to to understand the customer’s needs, behavior, and preferences related to the intention. This understanding of individual’s or organization’s needs allows the public portal to identify subsequent “related services”.  This further allows for public value to be realized from the interaction, as opposed to a “one off” request for information. For example, someone inquiring about food aid in a certain program or region, may also be directed to more information on the micro-lending programs also available in addition to supporting literature, sites, etc. When designed correctly, this is done without the end user having any information about the actual numbers of agencies or programs involved in managing the services, or how they work together across units in the delivery of the integrated services. This is aspect rightly belongs to the organization to manage, not the requester.

Lastly, the ability to continuously sense and respond to intention based portal requests, drives a virtuous cycle of value, a “network effect”, of citizen requests that can be aggregate and analyzed for further improvements in policy design and organizational structure. The more interactions captured, the more insights and feedback gathered, the greater the “network effect” is enabled via the aggregated, intentions based model. Moreover, this further lays the groundwork work future “semantic web” approaches, once the network ecosystem becomes self sustaining.

In consequence, the new design approaches approaches and emerging technologies now available allow for public facing portals allow the ability to ensure that public services are more integrated, accessible, and transparent, in ways that were not addressed in earlier iterations at a much lower cost structure, ultimately achieving a higher social ROI.

Larry has a good, valid, and “history book” rant calling it out in terms of the Gartner Hype Cycle.  But its only a marketing exercise? Fun and games between Marc and Larry.  Anyone remember the client server net appliance debate…?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FacYAI6DY0&feature=player_embedded#t=27