Remember, Social CRM is About Employees, Too!

I have been reading a lot of Esteban Kolsky’s writing these days. And not just because he is going to be participating in the social media track at SugarCon this year.

Esteban makes a lot of great points about how concepts like Enterprise 2.0 bleed into a total Social CRM – or really any “customer-centric” company philosophy. I would like to think that all companies place the customer at the hearty of operations, but in a more complex, fast moving, technology ridden world, this becomes a much more convoluted process to manage.

Early CRM was about “customer data” and “customer-facing processes” in areas such as sales, marketing and support/call center. However, these older systems were silos of customer data (even if they centralize data and promote collaboration) that kept a lot of information out of the hands of other teams. Restrictive team access and other limitations of earlier software tools made it difficult for other parts of the organization to deliver on the service principles of “customer-facing” stakeholders.

For example, say a customer calls into a contact center with a problem. Usually, a service rep can provide a resolution and most of the time the situation is solved in a “self contained” manner inside that transaction (even if it takes a few calls). But in some industries or scenarios, the resolution of an issue (even if the solution is easily identified in the call center) has to take place outside the call center. Say, a mortgage payment dispute needs to be scrutinized and approved by a senior team member before a credit can be issued. Now, it is difficult to track (without some major process customizations and creative team/user management) the resolution of this task as it leaves the purview of traditional CRM.

In short – it is sometimes difficult to make “non-CRM” workers accountable for what are considered customer service practices. Making accountants and other personnel that never actually talk to customers start thinking of themselves as part of a customer-centric overarching process can sometimes be difficult.

And that is where Enterprise 2.0 and social CRM overlap. Just as social CRM is fluid, unstructured at times (or seems to be) and all about a collaborative engagement, the next generation enterprise needs to be as well. The walls between customer and company have fallen; so must the walls between departments. All are equally accountable for brand identity, and overall success. The mantra of “it’s not my job” is fading (well, at least I hope so).

Esteban makes a nice continuum graph to illustrate this point (thanks to Jacob at the CustomerThink blog for posting it):

Of course, I am simplifying and probably distorting Esteban’s points here. But the important thing to consider is, “how connected are your front and back office processes?” No longer can we consider some parts of the business to be locked away from customer view. This takes a greater openness, but also a lot of work insuring the right kind of collaborative attitude both internal and externally.

On the plus side here, a lot of traditional CRM systems have become more modern interaction platforms – so that users, data and processes are more easy to model and change. This is a big deal considering a lot of the barriers to this type of automated end-to-end process were technology based.

2 thoughts on “Remember, Social CRM is About Employees, Too!

  1. Martin, thanks for post, it’s a good read—I work in a call center as a Customer Advocate–your point about social CRM lessons applying to non-customer facing departments is a good one. Part of the struggle for traditional CRM/traditional internal ops is that it is a very ingrained perception of the customer/company interaction as a very defined and narrow avenue. Social CRM demands true accountability, and that is going to feed into a sort of internal social CRM which means shifting values and business practices.

    For example the common practice in large companies of creating layers of bureaucracy which are designed to prevent anyone from getting through often extends to customer facing employees (i.e. if a company mistakenly charges a client for a product or service that they shouldn’t have), and prevents them from doing the right thing for a customer. Corporations mix this type of attitude into their business practices or finance policies, and for a pretty long time you could get away with this. But as Social CRM demands accountability from front line employees, I think we’ll see a shift internally as well. And with good reason.

    The other thing that comes to mind is the visibility internally that such a shift will bring. It stands to reason that if companies can’t afford to ever ignore a customer they’ll have to learn to apply the same reason to employees as well. Sort of similar to how Brian Solis talks about putting the “public” back in public relations.

  2. Great piece, Martin –
    Collaboration takes flexibility, inside & outside an organisation. As most business processes typically cross more than one department, enabling “good” CRM and/or social tools in just ONE department, scuppers any discretionary effort by one team.

    -= David

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