Social CRM Requires a Change in Culture

Hi – me again, guess this may actually become a regular thing. Hope you can tolerate two wise guys coming at you from the same blog – both with attitude. I wanted to get out a quick post based on some great experiences this week. The interactions were on many different channels; Twitter, Email, Skype, Phone, Face-to-face, Groups, Blogs…which makes for great engagement, learning and productivity. Or, with so many channels to watch, does productivity take a hit? My approach to work has changed, the question is will everyone be as willing to make the changes they need to, in order to bring your business into the future?

A strong influence on my thinking this week came from two sources. One was a very simple tweet by @designthinkers (Arne van Oosterom) where he said simply “Change is synonymous to future”. A very insightful 5 word tweet. My response was “then why do people look forward to the future, but hate change”? I am far from a student in philosophy, I could easily get myself in over my head quite fast. This was my lead-in to the IDC Directions conference in Boston yesterday. Thinking on this topic during my quick jaunt from Vermont to Boston. The conference was very good, and for those of you on the west coast, you can go the 2.0 version next week.

The subject that interested me the most (and the second major influence) was the Social Business track hosted by Michael Fauscette (@mfauscette) and his team from IDC.  Michael’s talk was a fluid, well presented session on Social Business – or more appropriately how to get there. One running theme throughout his talk regarded the platform – no, not technology, the people. Another running theme was about culture, the culture required to enable a Social Business (a topic that will come up at SugarCon as well). Since ‘people are the platform’ does represent a change and will be required to move us into the future, how to we enable this change, without disruption?

I should be able to quickly bring these two thoughts together

For the most part, people do like looking to the future (no, not all people all the time) but, there may be a bit of hesitation. The reason; because moving forward often requires change, and very few people really look forward to change. As Arne correctly (my opinion) pointed out to me, there is the paradox. If change equates to the future, but people like one, but not the other, where does that leave us? When you say “change” or “change management” alarm bells, defense mechanisms and barriers get thrown up quickly. In order for people to accept Social Business or Social CRM, there is going to need to be a change in the culture within an organization – the whole organization, not just sales, or support.

How do you help people get past the hesitation?

The answer is simple, really. Make your teams, your people, your platform part of the process – and talk about the future, not change. If you listen to your teams, they will in turn become better listeners. People are social, they want to share, then they will lead the charge. Break down silos, enable, reward and promote people being social, why, because they know your customers and it the right thing to do. Being Social is a state of mind and culture, it is not about technology. Focus on establishing value for all the constituents of your ecosystem, and then things will really come together.

2 thoughts on “Social CRM Requires a Change in Culture

  1. Carrots and Sticks. You ask how to get people to change, and I immediately think of carrots and sticks. At our CRM Acceleration event in Bangalore, India two weeks back, our customer Jason McDannold with the TRIA Group talked about how to get his company to adopt SugarCRM.

    He spoke about the biggest challenge around CRM adoption being the cultural change of getting people to use a CRM system. Similar issues to getting people to use social networking tools in a consistent and productive manner within the business.

    His advice was to promote the advantages of using a CRM system with the company (the carrot) and how his sales people would no longer lose track of customer information or be asked to create weekly reports. He said the other half of the change equation was to only pay commissions on deals recorded in the CRM system (the stick).

    I think adopting any new business practice needs to include both the carrot and the stick. The carrot is that the new practice/process/technology needs to actually help people get their job done better than before. The stick can come in multiple ways such as MBO’s tied to the new process or bonuses only being paid if the new process is adopted.

    Either way, change only is adopted if management is actively promoting the change…through carrots and sticks.

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