Friday, 16 July 2010

Social (hiccup) CRM tools

In the past few days there has been quite some fuss about Social CRM, to which my post did contribute a bit I guess. As always, tweets were exchanged as a result and there was some destruction but also a lot of construction

First, some disclosure: as an Enterprise Integration Architect and a linguist I believe in natural diversity and detest the idea of one-size-fits-all. The only one-size-fits-all is real, physical death - and even that gets dealt in tailormade portions.
So, to be honest, I see Listening Platforms as a good tool to turn CRM into Social CRM if only there were Speaking Platforms as well. In fact, I think Listening Platforms could turn Anything into Social Anything. So, it's from this perspective that I am writing this blog post

Second, I overstretched on this post. It cost me over a full day of research, downloading and trying software, viewing demos, chatting to people, asking around. I definitely got out of my comfort zone here. Over 1,000 words in one blog post - consider yourself warned. Anyway:

There are two parts to be highlighted: one of them is the Social Customer, and the other is Social CRM tools. After all it's the magical Social Customer that ought to press for Social CRM tools, right?
A marvellous presentation on the Social Customer is this:
Courtesy of Attensity and Chess Media Group

Apparently the Social Customer is a woman, or I've clearly missed a point. Or both. But I love the presentation for consistently showing that customers just want to be taken seriously, trusted, and treated like humans. I feel bad for the marketing boys reading that who are used to direct mail and other mass-marketing shattergun approaches
  • What does the Social Customer want? Creativity, innovation, collaboration, to be valued
  • What does the Social Customer give? Improved product, better advertising, great WOM
  • How can you please the Social Customer? Listen, be supportive, converse meaningfully
  • How can you displease the Social Customer? Broadcast, empty promises, spam
There we have it. The Social Customer wants to play and be played

Now let's have a look at the tools present for Social CRM: Jive, Lithium and Nimble. Nimble didn't make Gartner's MQ but then again it's not been released, although you can join the private beta

Lithium is providing you with various applications for your customers to use. Blogs, Forums, Chat, even a Tribal Knowledge base. I was baffled to read this. You need to deploy communitites and software in order to honeypot your users? Read slide 12 guys: meet her where she is
What do I deem important for connecting to the ubiquitous Social Customer? Being able to connect with everything just like she herself does. What does Lithium offer?
The Lithium platform offers a number of connections to the social web (Facebook, Twitter), CRM systems, web analytics, and more.
CRM systems named are and RightNow technologies, but that's all there's to it - and there is a 2-page PDF on I took the tour on the Twitter Community and that gives a good insight. Basically the communities are used for retrieving or asking information given a certain tweet, and then responding. There is some handy interaction too, no bending over backwards
User assignment is missing: right now if you're a user, you could get 2 or more different answers to one and the same tweet from one and the same corporate account!
There's no way you can pull in a user's Bio or last few tweets or do a quick scan, or get their influence or mood, or anything else that would add value on top of Twitter. Heck there's not even a nice GUI to do a Twitter Search: command line is the way to go

I would qualify this as a Social Customer Support / Service. You also have to register to be able to join the community, and OAuth is not supported, it is all extremely proprietary.
In this way, Lithium will only add a thin functional layer between the Web, Facebook and Twitter on the one side, and a (if any) CRM system on the other. Although according to the PDF, only some part of seems to be supported...

When I visited Jive's products page and their solutions page, all I got in Firefox was a blank page. Made me feel 10 years younger which somehow flattered me, but I had to use Internet Explorer to get some results. Jive is clearly sending a very bad message there given the fact that Firefox is the most used browser since January 2009. Still, I let Jive know and they are probably still mulling on it

Update July 16th 15:00 CET: Turns out I was wrong-ish. The issue occurs every now and then, with any page it seems. I just got very (un)lucky clicking Products and then Solutions and getting two blank pages in a row. Here's a screenshot
The demos at Jive are sexy, impressive and video you can just read without sound (love that) - although there's no control about. But they excel in showing how the internal organisation works together via one and the same platform, albeit that it shows influencer website trends, collect conversation topic clouds, buzz, etcetera. It's unclear whether that "simply gets there" or is posted by employees, however.
However, they approach the world inside-out, like Lithium does:
No need to chase people, content, or conversations across countless forums, blogs, or wikis. Now, people can gravitate around the topics they care about and use whatever ways they want to socialize -- widgets abound for popular content, new members, popular discussions and much more. Stay in the know via email, RSS, dashboards, and more
Listen up people, that is simply impossible. One size fits all doesn't exist. The Social Customer is everywhere, ubiquitous, and you have to meet her where she is.
Yes I understand that's a bit of a difficult journey to undertake but you don't have to, feel free to stay right at home. But don't expect the entire world to come by your house just to complain or gossip about you.
Jive makes a smart excellent move with Jive for the Federal Government by the way

Nimble is in beta, but I had a very long chat with Nimble-founder Jon Ferrara - so all I can say is based on that. Nimble doesn't offer any integration with an existing CRM application or vendor, Nimble is meant to be the CRM.
On the other hand, it supports integration to almost any (social) network out there of which Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are a few. It offers integration with a.o. Gmail as well, all neatly integrated into one and the same presentation layer.
Conversations, emails, appointments, everything is shown for one and the same user of whom profile settings are automatically retrieved. It's an Integration dream, really. The same look and feel regardless of the underlying network, with bars and buttons changing depending on the network, but you could put any user on this even if they don't know how to spell Social Media
One of the great functionalities is what I call Sticky-Noting: people can even comment to an appointment in your agenda - very handy if you're having that important meeting with that one person you'd like to have more background on...

I said it on Twitter: what I saw is simply mindblowing from a Social Media point of view. Network influence, Stars, just about anything that "values" a contact can be easily added.
And it's the exact right attitude: outside-in thinking, not inside-out. Nimble drags in the customer or business contact no matter where he or she is, combining networks and profiles. This is going to be the Social CRM tool of the decade, easy.
If I were Nimble I'd also sell or freemium a dressed-down version for use with (social) networks - I'd love to use it myself to keep track of the same contacts I now approach via all these different channels

  • This is my first and last attempt at doing a new market tool comparison, at least free-of-charge that is
  • The Social Customer has to enter Lithium's and Jive's portals but they will find her regardless, as long as she is on Facebook or Twitter. Nimble pretty much functions like Sauron's eye and even then offers plug-ins for various blog platforms so they are easily Nimble-ised
  • I'm missing the integration to the existing CRM systems but that's what all three share - maybe I'm just an old-fashioned guy, but then again none of the old-fashioned ones is open or stable enough to allow for long-lasting integration. CRM is a volatile market by default, I guess

But, we were here to care for the Social Customer. How will she fare? What do you think?

10 reacties:

Mike Fraietta said...

Hey Martijn,

The social customer will win. As we progress over the next few years in becoming more connected, the AVERAGE person will have the opportunity to be as powerful and influential as a Robert Scoble or a Perter Shankman. Every brand and company must change their mentality and be ready to embrace the shift...the tools can only assist to a degree.

Thank you for including Jive Software as tool in your post. I definitely agree that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, although Jive and Lithium have progressed nicely in fitting across a multitude of industries in the enterprise sector. As consolidation and acquisitions continue, we'll see more and more solutions that offer the right package for companies of all scopes and sizes to handle the power shift to the consumer.

(I just checked the Jive site on Firefox and had no problems. I'll still submit to support.)

Mike Fraietta I Social Media Manager I Jive Software I @MikeFraiett

Martijn Linssen said...

Hi Mike, thanks for the comment!

I agree with you on the mentality and the people: customers, suppliers, employers; all kinds of them. We won't be all as influential as Robert

I looked again at the Products and Solutions pages and it's a strange problem. First of all, I was wrong - and will update accordingly. The issue occurs just randomly. I have Firefox 3.6.6 and here's a screenshot: - it occurs with any page it seems, on a regular basis. I just got very (un)lucky

Marcel van Brugge said...

Hi Martijn. Great post. I am wondering why you took Jive into the comparison. I was thinking Jive is a solution aimed in principle to facilitate internal collaboration and knowledge sharing. Especially for larger organizations. Tmho (S)CRM is not their game.

Martijn Linssen said...

Thank you Marcel. I included Jive and Lithium because they made it into Gartner's Social CRM MQ upper right quadrant, greatly reducing the number of tools to check out ;-)

But you make a great and valid point. It's what I call Chatterising: Social CRM is really driving internal company collaboration. And in that way, it's bringing back the topic of Integration

Mike Boysen said...


We came away with a shared perspective. You have to be where your customers are, you can no longer tell them to go somewhere to meet you (even if you invite them nicely). And one more thing, you should be able to do it where YOU are...which is what makes Nimble an exciting idea.

When's that beta????

Martijn Linssen said...


Nimble is in beta, and ramping beta id's up each week. They expect a broader release in two weeks

Paul Gilliham said...

Hi Martin
You put forward some interesting analysis in your article, and thanks for taking some time to look into the approach of Lithium.

A consistent theme that you emphasize through your article is the notion of ‘meeting your customer where ever she is’. I am fairly certain that all of us agree on the statement, where things get sticky is ‘okay, how do you enable that in a way that is meaningful for customers and scalable and feasible for companies to roll out consistently?’.

The customers that are trying to solve this approach are all similarly concerned with scale – how DO we talk and engage with those customers meaningfully, without just throwing people at the issue? Not only how do you engage, but how do you discover where people are having these conversations so you can

One approach, and the one we at Lithium favour, is to enable companies to foster/nurture their discussion leaders, technical experts and advocates in a centralized location (some call it a home base), while providing integrations back deeper into the company (for sources of customer data in CRM systems) and outwardly providing connection to the places where the social customer is aggregating (ie on Twitter, on Facebook, etc). The presentation you refer to classes this as Creating Mutual Value (slide 13) This isn’t just a collection of users or fans, a la Facebook, but an evolving, growing body of knowledge, reputation and connections which can help provide the intellectual fuel and foundation for interactions in other social venues.

The broader social web (particularly Facebook which seems the hot topic on people’s radar right now) provides a very broad level of interaction, lots of people, lots of ephemeral connections but provides little to no depth of relationship. For some people this is perfectly fine, for people engaged in deeper discussions, having a level of trust in the expertise of another user for their review, or answer to a question or thoughts on a topic becomes important. Bottom line is they want to know they can trust the person answering them. A pervasive community can help provide that. This approach isn’t for everyone granted, but if deeper meaningful relationships are important to your organization, you want to grow a strong, knowledgeable group of active advocates around your brand or product, and you need to provide a ‘front office’ interaction system for your traditional back office CRM tools – community gives real results.

Whatever holistic strategy you employ to engage with your social customer, at somepoint you will need a centralized hub point to help manage the inputs/outputs of that audience (the knowledge, the reputation, the interaction history). Some people place this in the CRM, some (like us) put it at the community level - but having that completely distributed, basically means you have it nowhere.

I don’t think that any of us disagree that there is a way to go in this industry as we continue to make customer interactions as frictionless but as meaningful as possible, while at the same time ensuring a scalable, repeatable and valuable solution for companies.

If you want to get deeper into the working of our approach, including gaming dynamics, reputation and Scout Labs please let me know!

Martijn Linssen said...

Paul, thank you very much for this elaborate and very clear answer!

I agree with you on the sticky things, but this is what marketing and support has been doing for the last decades: meet her where she is. The old-fashioned customer that is, who is reached via ads on radio, TV, direct mail, billboards, and supported via call centers, offices, and telephone, email, and now chat as well

There you have the means, the locations and the channels; very diverse

The only difference now is that somehow companies want to eavesdrop on customers talking to eachother, rather than to the company, and this is new

well you won't catch me talking to my neighbour about your company, at least not at a price that ROI's. Nor when I send email or make phone calls to business contacts, friends or foes. But some of that communication that I do is public and can be reached at low cost. Twitter, Facebook, and pretty much everything Google will give you access to

All that is you legally eavesdropping in and reaching out to public places just like companies now are legally broadcasting in public places

What Lithium wants is give their customers a platform to reach them, and this is something entirely different. That is more of an old-fashioned type of CRM where you deepen and strengthen relationships (btw I mean no harm by the word old-fashioned)

Lithium wants to deepen the relationship with customers talking to them, not broaden the relationships with the market - or do they want both? I think it's clear that you want to support the customer with all the tools there are in order to exchange information

Communities such as you describe ("pervasive comunities") have been existing for years now, and there are several open source forum apps that support them, and I've participated in more than a few. They indeed give you a deeper level of engagement and trust and value, simply because they're more intimate and less anonymous than the wwww in general

Indeed it then comes to linking that or those with your backoffice - which I don't see at Lithium, judging by the demo's, info and white papers, other than the short piece of mentioned in my post. Then again, none of the three "sCRM tools" mentioned above offer any integration worthwile into the backend, they're all primarily web-oriented (not surprisingly maybe but very disappointing to me)

If I'm concluding that all in a few words: old CRM is deep relationships with customers known that will (are meant to) return. New CRM is shallow relationships with customers unknown that won't (aren't meant to) return. Lithium does a bit of both...

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