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Social CRM: Stop thinking about ownership and start thinking about culture change

April 13th, 2012 by Lloyd Gofton

This post was originally published as a guest post on Monty’s Outlook

Who owns Social CRM? This debate continues to divide opinion, but I believe it is the wrong question. Ownership is not the issue, and only echoes the ‘who owns social media’ tedium, which I have ranted about for longer than I care to remember.

The social media ownership debate has been perpetuated by a range of marketing and communications agencies with the objective of grabbing budget from each other and squabbling over whose social services are ‘better’.

This misses the point. Ownership of what is fundamentally a conversation is irrelevant, and as parts of the same marketing/comms machine it’s a waste of everyone’s time. Social is not and was never a marketing focus alone, it’s so much bigger than that. As David Meerman Scott said: “Nobody cares about your products, people care about their problems. Customers do not want a relationship with your business, they want the benefits a relationship can offer to them”.

So is the ownership debate around Social CRM the same? Well, in many ways it is. The customer owning Social CRM is a crucial point, we are talking about putting the customer at the centre of the business. However that doesn’t give a company the structure needed to build a Social CRM mechanism, so it’s back to the ‘debate’: What tends to follow is that no one or everyone owns it, and ‘ownership’ is the wrong term.

As Mitch Lieberman says: “Social CRM is about bringing ‘me’ (the social customer) into the ecosystem… It is not about the technology, it is about the people, process and cultural shifts necessary to support and grow a business.”

Let’s take this back to basics. Who or what is the social customer and why is change needed? Put simply, the social customer is dynamic, hyper-connected and can define an organisation’s value, relevance and reputation. It is not about the company’s reputation, it is about the reputation of its customers, they are the ones who will form opinion of that company.

As a result, social customers force organisations of all types to be more customer-centric and have transformed the way in which organisations need to communicate with and, most importantly, listen to their customers.

The key here is taking CRM beyond a marketing or customer services specialism, and building a philosophy that translates across the organisation. Customers can intersect and engage with an organisation at many different points and do not follow traditional channels of communication.

Therefore, A Social CRM strategy must be implemented across the business to succeed. As with any area of social media, or any conversation for that matter, the best place to start is by listening. In terms of CRM, this is essential. Organisations should only engage and add value when they have listened to and understood the problems, challenges and issues that customers are experiencing.

So where does this leave the ownership debate? As I said earlier, thinking of Social CRM as something that can be owned is a dangerous path as it means the organisation is trying to remove the customer from its central business focus, and neatly packaging it off to a single department.

From the conversational point of view the customer owns Social CRM, but from an organisational point of view Social CRM is the result of a cultural shift that needs to take place in an organisation to focus the business around its most important element, its customers.

So, if we really need someone to own Social CRM, it should be owned at management level, as these are the correct individuals to guide and develop the business into cultural change. The Social CRM approach, related strategies, tactics and technologies stem from there.

If you try to implement Social CRM tactics and technologies without this cultural change you will fail.

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