Post by Neil Davey
Post by Neil Davey

The industry still seems to be getting its knickers in a twist over terminology. ‘Social CRM‘ has seemingly been settled on as the de facto term for the utilisation of social media to interact and engage with consumers for mutual value.

But the matter is still far from settled. For instance, RightNow Technologies – allocated the number three slot in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Social CRM – has seemingly turned its back on the CRM industry, choosing instead to deliver products under the banner of CX.

The unveiling of this new branding at the RightNow User Conference last October – where CX (customer experience) was described as the “big brother of CRM” – caused consternation in some quarters. Why create a new category when CRM and social CRM suit just fine?

Well, comments from RightNow Technologies’ CMO, Jason Mittelstaedt, have ruffled more feathers.

CRM: have we heard it all?

“Certain terms and topics only have so much life – there is nothing you can do to re-beautify a topic that is dead,” Mittelstaedt said during a conversation we had a while ago. “This is the first year that Gartner is not having a CRM conference in the US. Last year the show was dead and as one of the premier sponsors we sat down with Ed [Thompson, Gartner VP and distinguished analyst] and a few of the others afterwards and told them that they were missing the boat – nobody wants to hear about CRM anymore because they have heard it all! I went to some of the sessions and these guys could have given the same presentation seven years ago. And everybody knows it. So this year they repositioned it as Customer 360 Summit and were much more aggressive with the customer experience and social piece.”

He added: “When a topic is dead, nobody should feel like they have to keep it alive – especially if it has lived for 15 years. Let’s move one and get excited about the future.”

Cue a great deal of ‘lively’ discussion across the internet about the vitality of CRM – including posts by the likes of by Paul Greenberg and Ian Hendry – and how wrong it is to dismiss an industry that is not only valued at some $13bn but also continues to grow during the recession and is forecast to continue to grow.

Furthermore, as highlighted by David Myron, program director of CRM Evolution, registration at his event has also nearly doubled this year – despite still having CRM in the title.

All excellent points.

Strategy or technology

So why try and create a new category when CRM is doing the business?

IMHO, the key to this is whether you view CRM as a technology or a strategy. As a technology, CRM has experienced a rapid evolution from the days when it was little more than salesforce automation. CRM software and technology is really is quite radically different. It’s now a goliath.

From a strategic point of view, regardless of the tactics, tools and platforms that have emerged over the past 10+years, the aim of CRM remains largely the same, though of course it too has had to evolve, particularly in light of the fact that the customer now has far greater power/influence than before.

So if we’re talking technology here, I can see why these new terms/brands/categories are going to bandied around. I might not agree with it, but I can understand it. Some brands want to create clarity (as Jason says is RightNow’s motive), some want to create Chinese walls between products, and some… well, as Michael Krigsman suggested in Paul Greenberg’s blog, some create categories to claim ownership of intellectual territory.

Broadly speaking however, categories/brands/terms aside, we’re still talking about technologies that support a CRM strategy.

With the emergence of categories such as ‘social CRM’, the debate over the nature (and health) of CRM is sure to rumble on. But if ever there were any doubts about the validity and vitality of CRM, then the passionate debate that has been witnessed over the past year should dispel them!

[blockquote]Social CRM has been settled on as the term for the utilisation of social media to engage with consumers for mutual value[/blockquote]

Originally posted on i-SCOOP’s Social Marketing Forum and moved as part of an integration.