Not just the software

As many of you have no doubt realised by now, we moderate any comments we receive on the Social CRM blog. After my last blog entry I received a number of comments, some genuine and some not. One of those false comments did however make me think, so I reproduce it below. I have to say that the following is a fake, it is not a genuine comment attributable to the claimed source, which I have removed:

"We have a managerial retention problem and low customer satisfaction. I can see Social CRM playing a big part in my organisation to turn things. How would you start deploying Social CRM in a large, disillusioned and potentially dangerous organisation?
Thanks, Mike"

Now, this comment in itself is not a serious question, but I can use it to illustrate a point: just “getting social” will not fix problems in itself. Like any software, it is another tool that can be used to address problems or capitalise on an opportunity.

Simply knowing that your customers (or, supporters) are unhappy does not address the reason why. The attitude of the company (or club) and its officials must be oriented toward dealing with the feedback, both positive and negative. This of course is not a new problem, but the increasing take-up of social networking actually means that these issues can be made far more public than before. An advantage of the social network in the above case would have been to bring the knowledge to the organisation faster. This is only an advantage if the organisation is prepared to deal with the information, of course.

I am currently in the market for a new bathroom after a weekend of serious demolition (I can wholeheartedly recommend Makita power tools & the Red Hot Chili Peppers for your demolition needs). Many of those that know me will understand I just can’t help myself – if it’s there, then it’s there to be knocked down and reduced to so much dust and rubble. Anyway, prior to the destruction phase, I was doing a little research into the sort of bathroom I wanted and found a range I thought would suit.

Now, this may be old-fashioned, but I like to see what I’m buying, so I found this manufacturer has a web site upon which was a link for stockists; but it was “coming soon”. The warning should have been there, any company who ultimately sells products to the public and has a web site, needs to get the basics right. Frankly, being able to see and touch the product is pretty basic, hence a principle requirement should be to have a working stockist list, integrated preferably to be kept up to date.

Not to be deterred, I pinged off an email to the “contact us” link and carried on thinking about important things like pipe sizes, software and integration technologies. After a few days, I realised there had not been a reply to my enquiry – another one of the basics that really does need to work. At this stage, my thinking was more along the lines of “this manufacturer really should not have a web site at all”, rather than “where can I buy this stuff”. Anyway, I called the phone number on the same “contact us” page and actually got to speak to a real person and very nice she was too. So I came away from the phone with a list of local places that I could go to and see the product. It wasn’t even that hard for her, there was a list of postal codes and associated resellers. I should have taken the opportunity to see why it was I had to phone for this basic information, but at the time there were too many other distractions to get into a protracted conversation about email and web sites. At this point, we are still talking Web 1.0 and have not even gotten into social and other Web 2.0 aspects.

So, the important thing here is that the company needs to service the communication channels on offer. The thing with email is that it is easily ignored, it’s not like the customer or prospect is stood there in the shop after all. By introducing social networking into this means a public discussion can be had and that in itself means there should be more motivation on the part of the supplier. Of course, without the will to address it, where is the point?

Implementing socially orientated software is a strategy and not software alone. Like pretty much any other software tool, the hearts and minds of its users must be on-board with the idea. But in the case of “social” software, even the hearts and minds of those that do not use the software can be necessary for success:
- whose job is it to “monitor” the conversations
- what action should be taken, if any and by whom (they may not be a user)
- how should the social metadata be interpreted

The list could go on and on. The point is, don’t ignore the non-software aspect because ultimately the software is a tool and the people do the business.

As a footnote to this, I actually prefer dealing directly with people as opposed to email, forums, etc. I appear to be one of the few that laments the passing of the human travel agent to be replaced with a travel portal. But then that’s me and at this point I really should say that these are my opinions and not necessarily those of Oracle Corporation.

Comments:

Interesting post. A couple of comments 1) If I had a penny for every single time, my Father has expressed complete and utter astonishment that he has contacted a company using a contact form/email and failed to get any response whatsoever, I'd be rich. Reminds me of the US company (forget who) who started a Twitter account, were swamped with 'tweets' and merely auto-responded with a 'Please send an email to...' 2) Although it may have been typed in jest, I strongly suggest you print that question re. obstacles to Social CRM adoption and give it to the sales force.

Posted by Andy C on December 02, 2008 at 04:47 PM PST #

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