The Return on Initiative – Social CRM

Laurence Buchanan wrote a great piece “Measuring the ROI of Social CRM“, one worth reading. In the article, Laurence brought back to the forefront a topic, also addressed earlier this year by Mike Boysen, “The ROI of CRM (and Social CRM).” While ROI traditionally stands for “Return on Investment”, as it should, I would like to extend it a bit, as Laurence states:

“The real question in my mind is not whether ROI is measurable or valid (it is), it’s whether ROI is the only metric worth evaluating? I would suggest that ROI as an isolated metric is not enough. In fact nothing like enough.”

I do not want to skew the core points of either of these posts; when a company does anything, there is a cost. However, Laurence does make a good point about the need ( for all businesses ) to also include longer term thinking, You know, strategy; thinking beyond this quarter. Like many suggest, if a CEO should be compensated not only based on this quarter’s results, but the next few, and then the next few after that. Then all parts of the business need to think beyond one quarter as well. Please, do not misunderstand, I am not suggesting everyone needs to just think strategically, but everyone should spend a little bit of time thinking strategically.

Social CRM allows for, and actually drives individual initiative.

Innovation can seldom, if ever, be measured in the time frame of one quarter. Actually, 9 times out of 10, you have to look back and say “that was innovative”, as it is hard to catch in the moment. How does this relate to the ROI of Social CRM? I am here telling you, It does! If you encourage individual, or small team initiatives, what your teams can and will do if empowered to do it will surprise you. If you allow, sponsor even, people within your organization to get closer to the customer through Social means, the payback (Return) will happen. It cannot be done in a day, or a week, but through continued efforts. You will look back on many of these and think, ‘wow, that was innovative’.

Of course, any initiative needs to be supported by a business case. It is possible to measure return by more than dollars, but cost has only one measure – or does it?. As an organization, you need to be flexible with regards to the return, flexible in what and when. If employees are allowed to put a little bit of passion into their own work, the payback is going to be very powerful. I realize that some might take issue with the flexibility on return, but you might also be flexible on the cost part too – since people are the main cost, there are worthwhile, non-monetary rewards.

As Graham Hill states in a response to Laurence:

“Working closely with customers as SocCRM [Social CRM] demands provides unparalleled opportunities to understand the value that customers are seeking and the companies they transact with to help them provide it.”

A quick example

The return and value to the customer, is a more passionate employee who will spend time, maybe their own time, working to help the customer get their jobs done. Think of the Twelpforce initiative by Best Buy – give it a try, ask a question about something Best Buy should know the answer to and see the response you get. (On Twitter, @Twelpforce) – do you think all of these people are sitting in a store at “work” waiting to answer questions? Some might be, but many are at home or using a mobile phone.

Best Buy may or may not be the best example here, as they are a larger company, and this effort was anything but ‘grass roots’. I do not want this to be read, as a “do more with less” message either. But, for businesses of all sizes, employees with passion are a great asset. Allowing these impassioned employees to get close to and help customers get their jobs done builds stronger relationships, and dare I say leads towards loyalty.

Balance short term with long, and empower your teams, I guess I could have just said that from the start. What do you think? Did I miss the mark, and oversimplify the value of Social CRM?

4 thoughts on “The Return on Initiative – Social CRM

  1. Mitch.

    Great points – and I think it ties in to what mark tamis and I were talking about back in Feb at the SCRM Summit. Not only are we in a situation where we can put more internal people “on the front lines” as it were, but these people are motivated in many different ways.

    Like Mark pointed out – it is rarely money that drives a Person to go above and beyond in terms of customer service (like your @Twelpforce example) – it is the sense of empowerment involved in being – even for a short time – THE face of an organization and being a very important link in the chain. In addition – the soft skills and personal brand building that is happening here can not be discounted.

    Mitch – you are a GREAT example of this. Here we had a VP in the PS side of a tech firm leveraging his skills and intellect to build a personal brand and his own firm! Not to sound corny – but it is the “American Dream” style of personal self-determination in action here.

    And yes – it takes TIME. Comity did not occur overnight – it took months and months of listening, learning, relationship building, earning trust, etc.

    I think I am bordering on a big enough thought for a post of my own now – so I’ll stop there.

    Thanks for the insight as always Mitch!

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