During the first week of this month, Gartner issued its Magic Quadrant for Social CRM products. What that document indicated was just how hard it is to build a full understanding of SCRM just yet – the products and companies included in the quadrant did an assortment of disparate things, and Gartner violated its own stated criteria to get a few of them on the board. The overall effect was akin to taking a toolbox, dumping it out and then trying to rank wrenches vs. hammers vs. screwdrivers. Yeah, they’re all tools, and they may all come in handy on a project, but they do different things.
Paul Greenberg wrote about the quadrant itself here and he raised a number of great questions about it, most importantly this one: does this Magic Quadrant help clarify the confused SCRM picture for users? I wish the answer was yes. Unfortunately, by having a variety of different kinds of product in this comparison, Gartner’s created something like a Can-Am auto race in which multiple classes of cars are on the course running multiple races at the same time – who’s the real leader? Who’s leading the classes? It’s very easy for spectators to become confused.
For example, only three vendors are in the leaders’ quadrant, and they’re perilously close to the center of the graph.
Esteban Kolsky also wrote about this and cast a similarly critical eye on the idea of a Magic Quadrant for SCRM.
I think that it’s very possible to do a Magic Quadrant-type evaluation for SCRM tools – especially if you break them out by the type of tool. Then, you’re engaging in an apples-to-apples comparison. I also think that if you’re going to do such a comparison, you’ll need to scale back your revenue and customer requirements for getting into consideration; this space is still rather new and the best ideas may be with small companies, or may not have yet been turned into products.
As for a Social CRM application – in other words, a CRM application that’s gone fully social – that animal doesn’t exist yet. What you have is a number of CRM vendors who have introduced social components to their applications, but they’re still not full-on SCRM turnkey solutions. Salesforce.com is on the quadrant, and it has Chatter, but that’s a collaboration tool (Salesforce also has the abilities of Radian6, which are considerable, but how these will be integrated is unclear and will hopefully be articulated next week); RightNow’s on the quadrant, and they have a big jump on coordinating peer-to-peer service. Other CRM companies have introduced social components, but did not make the quadrant. But all of these are just CRM products with some social components – they’re not really SCRM tools, and lumping them in with Jive and Lithium (which are not CRM applications) is an unfair comparison to all involved.
Here’s what I see as a true social CRM product: something with “traditional” CRM at its base, with the ability to automatically process and organize large volumes of social data (the sources of which can be selected by the company) and add them to customer records where appropriate. But it can’t be simply a tool to scrape data off social media and dump it into CRM. The next parts are what make it truly SCRM and not just CRM with the ability to suck up data from new sources.
Next, it’s got to have a way to scale social behavior. This is the two-way part of SCRM. I envision a system that can be set to look for conversations, keywords or sentiment that then creates a priority list for social managers of the places where they should be engaging with customers. Then, these conversations need to be tracked, along with overall sentiment and the data that they generate. The effectiveness of responses needs to be measured just as closely as the overall sentiment present on the web about a business; the latter is a baseline, and the former is the measurement of how effective a company’s social engagement efforts are.
Finally, the collaboration aspect needs to be present. This can’t be simply internal collaboration – there needs to be a permeable membrane between the inside of the company and its customers and partners. We already have internal echo chambers in our businesses, where the best guesses of executives are backed up by their subordinates’ equally conjectural postulations; social gives us a chance to inject the voice of reality into those discussions and can spare us from making mistakes even as we make our customers happier.
This will be a social CRM product. It doesn’t exist yet, and what form it will take when it does appear is still uncertain. Until then, SCRM is still a do-it-yourself project involving an assortment of tools. That makes a Magic Quadrant very hard to build just yet. My suspicion is that when we get a really valid MQ for this space the players will be very similar to the ones on the existing CRM MQ’s – because without the CRM underpinnings you don’t have SCRM.