In the annals of enterprise information technology, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has a storied, if not necessarily checkered past. The term has been associated with expensive implementations with hard to measure returns. CRM is also too often confused with Sales Force Automation (SFA), a system used to track deals and report to management. CRM is bigger, more comprehensive, encompassing Sales, Service and Marketing. 

Unfortunately, the implementations made headlines, more often for failures than successes. The question then is why did CRM simply not fade away and disappear into the night?

Actually, it almost did just that, but along came Social. As Social Media began to grab the limelight people began to take another look at CRM. It needed a boost, a new context, so great minds began to consider the connection of CRM with Social; Social CRM was born.

Whether Social CRM as an independent entity has staying power or is more akin to a one hit wonder (ala Carl Douglas -- Kung Fu Fighting) remains to be seen. 

The Social CRM Complement

Social CRM does a nice job bridging the gap between its namesakes, giving context to social and a human touch to CRM.It bridges the gap both in discussions, as well as in practice.

Within sales, Social CRM humanizes the sales effort, allowing people to connect beyond a transaction.In customer service, Social CRM is able to serve as a guide to the contact center, now as the starting point for Enterprise Customer Experience, where Customer Experience is the marketing term darling du jour. I would like to extend it a bit, making it a bit more concise.

Enterprise Customer Experience represents the people, internal processes and technology required to listen, guide and engage your customers in the digital world; all towards creating personalized therefore enhanced experiences."

At some point soon we will stop referring to these idea as Social CRM; it will default back to simply CRM. People are social, technology is not.

Make no mistake, the impact of Social, technically and culturally has been made both on the customer side as well as organizationally and will continue. There have been some ongoing debates regarding CRM and Social CRM, whether it is a strategy versus technology or both.

We need to move beyond the academic debates and take what we each need from the conversation to best suit our own needs. The impact needs to be measured from the customer perspective, not the internal perspective. The measure that organizations need to consider is the impact on and to the customer.

Learning Opportunities

The Goal is the Customer’s Experience

It is important to remember that what a person -- a customer -- perceives is their experience. As organizations we need to consider that the perception is influenced by many things, but most of all it is use of the product or service.

If the customer is trying to communicate with us, then yes, information technology and company culture have a big impact. However, if the customer is riding in a car, listening to music, or at home cooking, doing laundry, vacuuming, how are we (the organization) involved?

The organization is not involved until something goes really well, or really poorly. Customers typically want to communicate with a company only when they need to do so -- when the vacuum breaks, the food tastes bad or the car breaks down. In marketing land, we try very hard to get the customer to interact at other times, but it simply does not happen all that often. The exception to this is the growing importance of community, where customers enjoy interacting with each other; we are there just-in-case.

The organizational goal within Enterprise Customer Experience is to focus and work very hard to deliver a unified experience across digital channels, but that is hard! Unification where systems are loosely coupled at best, and the organization is siloed (divided by jobs descriptions and executive fiefdoms), is a massive challenge.

In order to unify experiences -- or the experience -- across channels, you need an approach, a strategy, goals and objectives. As big as customer experience is as a discipline, where terms and ideas like Big Data and Predictive Analytics dominate the conversation, it is really about small data and personalized experiences. The hard part is not collecting the data, it is understanding what to do with it.As others have said more eloquently than I could, we do not have a data problem, we have a filter problem. Within the enterprise, we need to understand the boundaries of what we can accomplish and focus our energies there.

Editor's Note: To read more of Mitch's insights, check out Customer Value: It's About a Bigger Pie