Sunday, 18 July 2010

sCRM, the M:M Customer Crush?


In my last post I dove into Social CRM tools and what they do, or enable companies to do. It didn't strike me until later that there actually is a real danger in executing Social CRM: it destroys relationships we currently are used to - in our company.
In old fashioned database design, relationships are very important. The Employee table has a relation with the Salary table, of course. But does the Salary table have a relation with the Employee table? Technically, Yes - Functionally, No

The Employee table has a one-to-one relationship with the Salary table: every single employee has exactly one salary (even if it's zero). This is denoted as 1:1

Organisation-wise, an employee has a relation with a manager. 1:1 from the employee's point of view, but of course the manager has more employees than just one (in most organisations), so that is a one-to-many relationship really from the manager point of view; 1:M - from the employee point of view it's a many-to-one relationship; M:1

Last but not least, an employee has work to do. Let's call that tasks, and you'll see that the Task table has a one-to-many relation with the Employee table; one task will be executed by many employees. On the other hand, the Employee table has a one-to-many relation with the Task table: one employee usually has more than one task assigned, even when the Task status is "completed". So, employees have a many-to-many relation with tasks, or M:M

You'll probably see where I'm going with this: the introduction of social media in a company blows the entire company wide open, leveling all the thresholds. The usual single entrances (Marketing, Sales, Support, etcetera) are surpassed and the many people out there meet the many people in there simply as it is. From the usual one-to-many relationship of a company towards their customers, social media will turn it into a many-to-many relationship

Back to the database model. Many-to-many relationships can't exist without an intermediary table that simply links two one-to-many relations, thus enabling the many-to-many relation

In a company where everyone uses social media to engage with the customer, where is that intermediate (table)? Or in other words, who manages all that? How do you prevent a tweet from a customer being handled by someone from Support and someone from Marketing at the same time? How do you prevent a customer from getting more than one message from your company? Worse, how do you prevent contradicting messages?

Oh noes! Social media isn't going to introduce yet another management layer, is it? I thought it was going to decimate enterprises and hivemind organisations! Or at least, I was wishing it. Hoping. Thinking.
Well, there has to be something like tweet assignment, user assignment, customer assignment, and history of company-communication towards a given customer. Call it workflow, BPM, you could even compare it with Supply Chain Event Management. Someone has to assign customer outcries to company carers, but that should be doable with a few smart algorithms. And if the customer is bounced back by a department for the third time or so, he should be picked up by the sag wagon

And if your company is opting for the extra management layer to handle all that added traffic: get out of there!

5 reacties:

Jon Ferrara said...

Hi Martijn,

Great point on issues we will all face as the walls separating companies & their customers/communities get torn down. Now all departments will be touching the customers, not just sales, marketing & support. The cubicle walls within companies and the ways that teams interact will also get transformed. It sure looks like an incredible change is about to hit organizations and the ways they do business.

I have not been this excited since my early days of mining my first GoldMine...

Martijn Linssen said...

Hi Jon, thank you very much. I totally agree, it is an exciting and thrilling idea and experience!

I mulled a bit on a possible solution. Like I tweeted we EDI-guys call this "detecting, classifying and routing" and that was invented to handle envelope-less messages. Still, that was from a push-perspective (look for content known according to agreements made and the rest must be trash). Social will be according to The Power of Pull though, so *anything* goes

I see a bit of CEP in there too. You have to know which messages went in where and got handled with what and when (how soon), I mean after all Social will have to be fed into the MIS in the end too. And you have to store the messages because if you classify them wrong you will route them wrong, and they will get sent back to you

Combine that with the classical retry-mechanism or what I usually call "Three strikes you're out!" and you pretty much have what you need

I'll send you the bill next week ;-)

Mike Boysen said...

I'm sure someone will tweet that there are already twitter clients with assignment capabilities. The problem is that social media and social CRM go far beyond Twitter. What we have is new silos being deployed and no way to centralize control (OMG!) and wrap them up in workflow and process in a neat and orderly way (OMG! that's control!)

The command and control elastic band is being stretched to it's limit and it will have to snap back to a real equilibrium at some point. We're going to see stories, hopefully sooner rather than later, that support my thinking.

In the meantime, we'll have anarchy to some degree or another.

Marcel van Brugge said...

Hi Martijn, thx for the interesting and also intriging blogs you write. My second response within a week :-). A few questions:
- sCRM does not mean that the old-fashioned CRM with workflow will disappear, does it?
- sCRM could mean that anyone within the company can communicate with customers. But should they all have the capability being the 'initial' contact? That is very dangereous. Isn't it possible to build some structure into this by defining roles that fit the social media concept such as moderators or case managers that 'manage' the adhoc workflow? I am not an expert on CRM, but I believe that is not new CRM functionality and certainly not on social media platforms. It feels to me more like a paradigm shift from managing things vertically towards horizontally. And from that perspective, a matrix organization is not a new concept either. Maybe what I am trying to say is: can't we make it work just fine with existing functionality and management concepts?

Martijn Linssen said...

Thanks Mike, beautifully put. John Hagel's Power of Pull is all about this

Thank you very much Marcel, glad you like them ;-)

I wonder about the oldfashioned CRM like you. Looking at the wiki ( I do see workflow being mentioned a lot - and it shouldn't disappear but part of sCRM will redefine workflow as we know it. Again, it's the difference between Push and Pull: being able to predict what's coming at you (Push) is getting futile because some of that will just be, like mike says, anarchy-like. Chaos

Adhoc workflow is a fine term, you should coin that :)

What you describe is an enterprise nightmare I think: it defies hierarchy as we know it; I think we can't reuse the management concepts we have

Customer engagement will prove harder than it is, I think, at least once the flood comes. It's not hard to pick up that one complaint per day or week and one could even have an oldfashioned meeting on it, but we'll need tactics and strategy and army- and chess-like structures I think - will that all fit into today's organisations? I think not, at least not in roughly half of them... (just guessing here)

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