Success vs. Change: Why Thriving Companies May Need an Extra Nudge Toward SCRM

By Chris Bucholtz

It maybe apocryphal, but I’ve always sensed there was a grain of truth in the story of a group of Silicon Valley engineers who were taken on a tour of the launch facilities at Cape Kennedy in the mid-1970s. These engineers, who were working on powerful digital computers that would eventually evolve into both the personal computer and large-scale supercomputers, were astounded when they walked into mission control. There against the wall was an enormous, white cabinet, festooned with lights, dials and engraved black plastic panels. It was an analog computer, housing tubes and wires that were several generations behind the state of the art.

“What is that still doing here?” asked one of the incredulous Silicon Valley engineers. “Why haven’t you replaced it with something newer?”

“Why do we need to replace it?” the NASA docent shot back. “This thing only allowed us to land on the moon!”

Change in technology – and in any process, really – is harder when things are working than when they are not. The saying “if it ain’t broke, why fix it?” is often offered as a way of derailing progress, even when that progress is badly needed.  And that’s not just true in space travel – it’s true in business.

Social CRM is a bit like that: it involves companies learning new ways of doing things. That may be easy when things are tough and a new direction is clearly called for. Pain often results in change.

But when the company’s in the black, and management is comfortable with how things run, there can be a distinct lack of urgency about change in new and unexplored directions.

Another saying comes to mind: “better than is the enemy of good enough.” That’s a useful thought when it comes to addressing specific tasks – like pounding out blog posts, for example. But when it comes to developing company-wide strategies for adjusting to changing customer behaviors, it’s not really enough.

The real issue here is complacency. A sense of contentment or comfortableness is a hazardous thing for any business to have, because it can cause business leaders to stop looking for the next way to improve their businesses. Worse yet, it can cause them to assume that what’s working now will always work. And that’s just not so.

I mention SCRM because it’s a great case in point. Many companies are finally getting the idea that it’s important, and they’re dipping toes in the water. A few have really grasped it. But many more are waiting, or they’re ignoring the customer behavioral trends, or they’re dithering about it while using business metrics to attempt to justify an already-made decision.

The worst scenario is that of the business that runs a SCRM pilot project – but budgets too little for it to succeed, or gives it goals that are unrealistic and impossible to achieve. When this self-fulfilling scenario runs its course, and no ROI can be discerned, the entire idea is written off – for a little while, at least, until it again becomes too obvious that social media is not a fad or a passing fancy.  And, by the time that realization comes, competitors will have already taken an lead in the social arms race.

My advice: don’t sacrifice what your business can become in a misguided effort to preserve what it is, especially when it comes to an aspect as dynamic and rapidly evolving as your customers. You need to move in step with them, and that can be difficult at times. But that’s good – complacency is your enemy, and encountering pain can help you make the changes you need to keep up with your customers.