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Sorting the CRM/Social CRM Concepts (and Jargon)

June 02, 2011


There has emerged concepts – or what some have argued is jargon – surrounding CRM and Social CRM among them “CEM” i.e. customer experience management and “CIM” or customer interaction management.

To get some clarification ContactCenterSolutions recently raised this issue with several leading firms. We asked: “Differentiate and discuss the differences between social CRM and CIM or “Social CIM”, between social CRM and CEM or “Social CEM” and between CEM and CIM? Which of the three is becoming most significant and why?”

Here is a selection of the responses:

Hank Barnes, principal, product marketing, Customer Experience Management Solutions and Jamie Anderson, senior manager, Customer Experience Management, Customer Marketing, Adobe

Barnes: CEM is the most important because experiences provide differentiation. The other two are aspects of the CEM journey that need to be used, considered, and optimized along the experience spectrum.

Firms are not linked to their last performance, unless they consistently deliver bad experiences to customers.  Customers are more demanding, but again, the problem is people focusing on internal metrics around retention and loyalty  rather than focusing on what customers want a business to do for them in order for them to not switch, buy more, and possibly recommend.

CRM is not an answer for this.  CEM is.  If organizations shifted their customer focus to CEM, they could focus on optimizing “moments of truth” along the customer journey, making sure they deliver on their promises and meet, or exceed, the expectations of their customers.  If that occurs, loyalty and recommendations will follow. 

The biggest factor is the empowered, digitally savvy consumer.  They control the relationship, not the company.

Anderson: CEM is key as it consists of five key elements; process, social, content and applications, analytics and crucially, context. For a modern business to effectively engage with customers and provide the mechanism to rapidly respond to changes in customer behavior all of these elements are important.

When we consider process capabilities, it is not enough to think business process management (BPM). We must also think customer first and deploy ‘Customer’ Process Management. Design processes from the outside-in and ask ourselves “will doing this materially and positively affect the way in which customers are able to interact with us?” If this can be achieved it’s a clear win-win from the offset. Naturally the process will become more efficient which will drive business efficiency but also then be easier for the customer to use and more attractive for the customer to engage with.

Social should not be thought of as an “extension” to your customer’s experience but is in effect the essence that allows the customer to form a deeper and longer lasting relationship. Social can lead to customer co-value creation and this should be central to an organizations strategy around attracting, engaging and servicing its customer effectively. Social also does NOT simply mean Twitter/Facebook feeds, to think this undermines the real value of social business. It’s also about how you, as a brand, orchestrate a social strategy utilizing social tools to make your brand experience more engaging and where the value of that can be measured from the value returned to you by your engaged customer base.

Content and applications is inextricably linked to context though context does pervade across the entire customer experience/customer engagement lifecycle. Through a modern digital enterprise platform it is possible to unlock/re-use existing application content and delivers it to the user or customer. By leveraging existing application content you can maximize re-use of processes and pre-built integration and orchestrate these in a manner which is more customer-centric. From a purely content delivery perspective, aside from application content, it is imperative that the content delivered is personalized, tailored and is presented in the context of both the immediate customer interaction and in synch with their customer profile.

Analytics is critical to ensuring that the customer experience is optimized and remains relevant at all customer touch-points. Analytical tools can provide valuable insight into how customers interact and how content presented is being consumed. This allows organizations to adopt an iterative approach to customer experience design by continually evaluating and improving the way in which the customer engages with their business.

Matt Trifiro, senior vice president, marketing Assistly:

Frankly, all of this industry jargon does us a big disservice. Once you push aside all of the gobbledygook, it’s about how you reach and interact with your customers. Whether you call these “experiences,” or “interactions” or “relationships” doesn’t matter. The confusing names don’t change the underlying equations -- other than perhaps intimidating you into thinking you can buy some fancy technology to solve all your problems.

At the root level, your customers want to reach you: on your website, on your Facebook page, through your blog, in your discussion forums, on Twitter and so on. Successful companies will recognize this as the “new normal” and leverage tools and human processes that make this possible.

Larry Ritter, senior vice president and general manager, Sage CRM Solutions:

At Sage we adhere to a comprehensive customer experience philosophy, concentrating on the sometimes sophisticated aspects of many moving parts (e.g. sales, system implementation and support) so the engagements are simplified and the customer experience is satisfying.  All customer-focused strategies and the systems that support them are important, and for Sage customer experience management is the foundation.

Vinay Iyer, vice president, SAP CRM:

We see CRM as the overarching umbrella for a company’s overall approach to optimize the experience for their customers. Social CRM, CIM and CEM are three important elements that interact with each other to build and execute a company’s overall CRM strategy. Social is one of various channels to deliver CEM. Its importance is growing. While all three elements are relevant, it is worth pointing out that first and foremost companies have to get their CEM right. Without a proper CEM strategy, companies ran the risks of executing a variety of activities without knowing their exact impact.


Brendan B. Read is ContactCenterSolutions’s Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Carrie Schmelkin

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