The world of Social CRM is starting to get more and more involved with trying to change how an entire organization functions and operates. However, from the client standpoint they want something they can get started with today and evolve over time. Are we making things too complicated for clients by telling them they need to change everything about how to do business?

Is it All or Nothing?

I’ve been having some very interesting discussions with the insightful Francine Hardaway on twitter lately.  The title of this post actually came from a tweet Francine sent over to me which she used to describe what we need in the Social CRM space (and what we need less of), and I couldn’t agree more. 

Jon Ferrara (creator of Nimble and formerly the creator of Goldmine CRM) actually gave a fantastic analogy which I believe to be pretty accurate. Jon compared current Social CRM to working with a lawyer to start a new business. If you want to start a new company a lawyer will tell you that you need a whole slew of legal documents before you can get started, everything from a back end accounting systems, to legal documents, to HR policies and on and on. The reality is that you DON’T need all of that stuff to start a business but you do need it later on down the road to help you RUN the business and to scale. I should know, because I started Chess Media Group and we definitely did not need to go through all those legal documents. 

In the Social CRM space we see the same thing. What happens? Companies want to evolve their customer engagement strategies (or perhaps CREATE their social media strategies) and instead of being given clear action items or things to do we start saying things like, “well you can’t be social externally until you are social internally,” or “you have to change your corporate culture first,” or “we need to spend a few months researching and developing a long term strategy before we can do anything.” Meanwhile the client is on the other end thinking, “look, I’m going to start this with or without you.” 

This entire industry as whole is going to go absolutely nowhere with that approach. I am definitely a guilty party; I've spent a lot of time trying to focus on the "guru" side of things and have completely lost site of the "guidance" that clients need, but that's over now.

Customer Engagement Doesn't Need to Be Complex

If you look at a high level approach of Social CRM it's really all about customer advocacy and improving the user experience. However, when you start to drill down into what Social CRM really is people will tell you that Social CRM affects everything from your corporate culture, to your supply chain, to your organizational structure, to your leadership team, to your CRM systems, to your ERP, to your (insert company function here).

Now, call me crazy but it's starting to feel as though Social CRM is becoming synonymous with the phrase "how to run your business from the ground up," and I'm just not sure that's the right message or even idea that we should be conveying to companies. Do you? Social CRM has started to balloon into some sort of amorphous entity that has no shape yet encompasses everything. 

Basically what I’m getting at is, are we making things a bit too hard and complex for companies that are interested in evolving their customer engagement strategies. I really think we are. Now, don’t get me wrong I don’t want to over simply things either as that is also certainly quite dangerous -- in fact, colleague Mitch Lieberman recently wrote up a fantastic post which also echoes this sentiment called, “Are we oversimplifying the complex, or making the simple too complex?." 

I don't believe anything needs to be THAT hard, complex or tedious if we go along the "guidance" route. I've spent some time chatting with vendors, previous clients, current clients, analysts and just smart folks involved in the space and this is the overall feeling that is being conveyed to me as well. 

Customers Need Guidance to Get Started

Instead what I think we need to realize (and what I see often from client side discussions) is that companies want to get started NOW, and evolve their programs as they go along. Take a simple example such as using Twitter for support. In 30 seconds you can have an account up and running with someone managing it. Your customers and those that interact with you will dictate much of how the channel will evolve. Perhaps you start getting a few technical requests so you need to develop a ticketing system and a routing system for the tech guys, maybe a few months later you start getting some negative feedback that you need to figure out how to address. The point is that companies REALLY don’t need EVERYTHING before they get started. What companies do need is guidance along the way which is the key point of this article. 

This post is both a promise and also a request for anyone and everyone that writes about Social CRM and customer engagement to start focusing on guidance.

What do you think? What have you been seeing in the space?  Are you seeing too much of an emphasis on gurus and not enough of a focus on guidance?  What can we do to help clients (and the industry) move in the right direction and how can we adapt to what they want instead of what we THINK they need?  There needs to be some sort of middle ground, no?