Putting Social Messaging in Context

30 06 2011

During his keynote at the Social Business Forum Milan where I participated in a panel, Keith Swenson made the following very interesting observation: in business, the paradigm is moving from a Newtonian model (external observability, smoothness, simple rules, predictability) towards a Quantum model (limited precision, turbulence, relationship-based, unpredictability).

Currently we’re in a phase where we are trying to adapt to this new paradigm, and most notably we are looking at how IT tools can help us adapt to improve the way we interact with out collegues, supplier, partners and yes, our customers(!) in order to optimize business outcomes. Pioneers such as Yammer, Socialcast and Newsgator have found inspiration in the user-friendly interfaces of Facebook and then Twitter and are helping to move the needle from document-centric organisation towards more people-centric. Activity Streams for example are rapidly finding their place in business by facilitating sharing and the exchange of information and ideas. As the next step in the evolution, vendors are now adding features such as letting applications send out messages into these streams, such as a notification that a payment has been processed or from a machine needs servicing.
With it come a host of related technologies deemed necessary to make them fit for working behind the firewall, such as integration with Enterprise Directories, security layering and encryption of sensitive data.

Social Messaging is helping change the way we work, enabling new ways of collaboration, but at the same time it is adding a lot of overhead rather than simplifying communication and facilitating ‘serendipity’. Messages have certainly become shorter and more effective (though it does take quite a bit of skill to decypher the 140 character messages sometimes), but I believe that as these platform gain in popularity, there is a real risk of information overload. Just think back to the Will & Kate Royal Wedding – at one moment there were over 4,000 tweets per second flying around the internet. It is impossible for anyone to follow these snippets of information, other than get a general idea thru engines such as Radian 6 or Attensity that pull out trends and sentiments.

Now I am not saying that this comparable to what happens within businesses (not quite yet…), but we’re slowly displacing the email overload issue to social event messaging overload, whilst losing the advantage of email – namely its asynchronous nature – in the process. You could go for a coffee break or a morning management meeting and miss out on information of capital importance to your business. Your Desktop’s Home Screen or your Mobile Device will show you the events in real time, but what happens when there are so many events that they scroll away and out of sight (which means out of mind…)? This issue will only worsen when you bear in mind that adoption of social messaging is not ubiquitous yet. Currently general uptake is still relatively limited, so imagine what will happen when the trickle of events becomes a river…

Moreover, what will happen when we start collaborating with external parties through your Enterprise Social Messaging system? What will happen when Customers add information to your online community platform or request assistance through a tweet or a Facebook message or whatever Social Messaging system we’ll have in the future? Or what to do with Fedex update about delivery of the goods that were ordered? Or how to manage information collected through an automated interactive scheduler to confirm when you’ll most likely be home to receive the goods? How do you manage security (who can do what, when where and how) and keep track of the context (why)?

Various Knowledge Management strategies have seen the light – again borrowed from the consumer space – such as filtering thru content tagging (adding meta data, hashtagging…), subscriptions to who and what you follow (publish/subscribe model), or group-based selection. What I believe will be he next ‘level up’ will be ‘intelligent’ filtering thru message analysis that uses social graphs, expertise tracking, and context information to rank and prioritize what is shown to whom and how, what is pushed to an asynchronous stream and what is left to gently fade into the flow, and what is flagged as requiring follow-up actions if no resultant activity is detected. Gamification has the potential to play a role here to ensure that we do capture the interactions and the expertise of the employees and construct an effective representation of the social networks that is beneficial to our Knowledge Workers. Rather than have gamification only promote and drive certain desired behaviours, analytics can feed itself on that data to make suggestions regarding who should be collaborating and within which context in order to increase the likelihood of a successful outcome.

What is currently lacking from my point of view in the tools currently proposed by Enterprise Software Vendors is the ability to get the right message to the right person(s) at the right time, whilst at the same time providing them with sufficient context to allow them to make informed decisions. Hence my fondness of Adaptive Case Management and its potential to be used as a collaboration framework and system of record for context whilst at the same time laying a foundation for the Quantum model that will build on the strengths of Knowledge Workers.

ACM is – among other things – used as the glue to maintain the ‘paper trail’ so as to guarantee visibility, traceability and accountability whilst leaving sufficient flexibility to for people to deal with unpredictable and unforeseen events. I believe it also has great potential to incorporate Social Messaging events as part of this ‘paper trail’ and thus provide an elaborate context for more effective collaboration which can then serve as the basis for expertise discovery and context for gamification. The key issue to solve how to route and associate these Social Messages efficiently with the right context – which is where the aforementioned tagging and analytics can play their part.

Social Messaging is currently still very much in its infancy in terms of it being used in a business, because there is no real framework yet that allows it to remain effective as the volume increases. Context-enhanced social messaging, with the possibility to drill down and expand on information and to connect with people on-demand who have the right skillset will be the next hurdle to overcome to retain collaboration effectiveness.


Connecting Salesforce and Radian 6

10 05 2011

It’s been a month since I attended Cloudforce in Paris, followed bythe Radian6 User Conference in Boston – so I thought it would be about time to gather my ideas and impressions and ‘commit them to paper’, so to speak. Especially in the light of the acquisition of the latter by the former just before the events. Salesforce clients in particular will stand to gain through the connection of social customer insights to the Sales and Service Clouds, by identifying new opportunities to engage with customers and to explore the customer’s context in order to facilitate service interactions.

In Paris we were graced with the presence of Marc Benioff – a gifted and convincing public speaker who delivered a well-constructed presentation – let down only by his apparent need to jab his rivals. Marc took us through not only the rapid growth of Salesforce, but also through the entire evolution of business computing. The way it was presented that Cloud Computing is the next level up from mainframe, client/server, personal computing, and the internet. Although I would agree that Cloud Computing has disrupted the way we organize IT by turning it into a utility, changing it from a CapEx to an OpEx that potentially moves the deployment decision from the CIO to the Line of Business – I would challenge that the platform features by themselves correspond with the term ‘disruptive innovation’.

Let me elaborate on that. What we have seen is that the delivery mode may have changed, but what the user sees is still the same contact database and Sales funnel designed primarily to efficiently help management keep tabs on sales activity rather than make the Salesperson more effective. Although tools have been provided to customize the interface (or DIY it thru Force.com), there is little room for example to take into account approaches more aligned with customer buying cycles, such as the McKinsey Consumer Decision Journey. You may counter that argument by saying that the Sales Funnel is a method that has proven to be effective in the past – but then again, how would you know whether you’re not losing a lot of business opportunities because you interacted with the prospect at the wrong time? With the Sales funnel, these would fall by the wayside, with the tacit hope that your Marketing or Inside Sales team will pick them up again when they call back in 3-6 months without any nurturing…Furthermore, if all of your competitors are using the same approach, there is no competitive edge to be gained as this effectively levelling the playing field.

This is not something that is specific to Salesforce however: I’d say that CRM Vendors offer systems that in 95% of the cases all have the exact same features. And as such I believe this is where I think the Radian 6 acquisition makes the most sense, beyond just the social media engagement toolset.

It is not just the listening capabilities of the platform, but also the mindset of this dynamic company from New Brunswick (Canada) that can help bring about a new conciousness about other approaches to CRM systems that better cater to the expectations of the Social Customer . This is where the real disruptive innovation can be had in my opinion. As we come to better understand the relationship between customer activity (not only on social media, but also on other channels such as the phone with a CSR, at events, thru geolocation clustering – anywhere that we can get extra datapoints) and their buying and advocacy behaviour, we’ll need to the flexibility and agility to be able to adapt our systems. And Radian 6 is in a position to provide many more datapoints than Salesforce has ever had access to, so all is needed now is some Sensemaking. Easy peasy!

Oversimplification aside, one caveat that I’d like to highlight is that as were still very much in the early days of discovering how monitoring social media activity can improve business, and furthermore there is still very little awareness as to the capabilities of the various listening and monitoring platforms. Radian 6 does a very good job of scraping the various blogs, twitter streams and so on and putting this in reports, but it should not be forgotten that at best, you’ll get some trends that can be used to steer your messaging in quasi real time – or with a bit of luck discover some hitherto hidden needs. Salesforce on the other hand is about managing data about individual customers – which you can then group into segments with similar characteristics (demographics etc.) so as to optimize your marketing spend for example.

Just to make the distinction more clear, there is a gap between trending “customers” and getting specific social activity about an individual customer to get their context, kind of like the difference between having market intelligence versus having customer intelligence. Radian 6 has added features such as the Engagement Console which allows you to apply rules-based filters to extract events that require attention, as well as mechanisms to assign a reaction workflow to the Response Team, or create tickets in Salesforce’s Service Cloud (whether third-party CRM Systems will continue to be supported remains to be seen…).

An interesting development that was presented at the Radian 6 User Conference in this light is the Insights platform. Even before the announcement of the acquisition, they were working to become a pluggable platform, allowing you to add Best-of-Breed second-pass datacrunchers such as Clarabridge for Sentiment and Text Analysis, or Klout to measure influence and thus potential for Advocacy (or nuisance) in order to figure out some level of prioritization – even though I have my reservations about the validity of the algorithms used…

The Insights platform is where Radian 6 and Salesforce will come together – where the linking and analysis will take place to enrich customer profiles with insights derived from social media engagement as well as from other channels in order to better understand customer contexts and provide adequate responses in line with customer expectations.The missing piece of the puzzle (which I talked about in this presentation I gave at the Social CRM 2011 London event) is collaboration to actually optimize how how we organize in order to meet customer expectations and needs. Furthermore, Insights is an essential part of the package as pouring an unfiltered firehose of social media events into Chatter could inundate it with a lot of static, and lead to it becoming impossible to use effectively.

The question that remains for me is the pricing model. Radian 6 has announced it will continue to function as an independent company, but I am still in the dark as to whether clients will be obliged to go through for example Force.com to get access to the data – and thus need to pay access to the intermediate platform as well. If anybody can shed some light on this, please do so in the comments below!

Building a Customer Experience that Creates Value for Customers… And for Companies.

2 05 2011

Today I am honoured to host a guest post by Dr. Graham Hill, Partner, Optima Partners and Associate, DesignThinkers. Take it away Graham!

Graham HillToo many customer experiences (CEx) are created just for the benefit of companies. Customer are either a target or an afterthought. Many customer experience practitioners don’t see the 900lb Gorilla in the room; the most important touchpoints are not about marketing, sales or service, but about the weeks, months, even years of product usage. Companies need to re-orient the customer experience around what customers’ value, the touchpoints they use to create it and how the company can benefit from co-creating more value together with customers. Doing this opens up new opportunities to earn revenues long after the point of sale.

We tend to see the world in terms of who we are and what we do. It’s a cognitive bias colloqially known as Maslow’s Hammer. So advertising people, who obsess about Brands, talk about the customer experience (CEx) in terms of creating a branded experience. And internet people, who obsess about ecommerce, talk about the CEx in terms of creating a better on-line experience. And CRM people, who obsess about marketing, sales and service, talk about CEx in terms of, yes, you’ve guessed it, more efficient and effective, sales and service.

These are all inside-out versions of CEx. They are only about companies, their consultants and the vendors who service them both. They are NOT about customers. They all pay lip-service to customers, but the customer is not at the heart of their thinking, let alone their doing. They are at best a target, at worst, just an afterthought. It is a lot like waiting on-hold in a customer service queue and hearing a sugary voice intone on the telephone, “your business is important to us”. Sure it is, but not enough to staff the call centre with sufficient people to answer my call in a reasonable time.

Make no mistake, the CEx IS about brands, and the online experience, and marketing, sales and service, but it is about so much more as well. As was recently suggested in an online discussion, “CEx… is the sum total of the interactions a customer has with your company“. That’s close, but not quite close enough. In fact, most of the inside-out versions of CEx are so busy focusing on themselves that they don’t see the 900lb Gorilla in the room. That for the vast majority of customers, the most frequent and most important touchpoints are with the product during the days, weeks, months, even years of usage. For customers, the CEx is mostly about value-in-use.

If customers care the most about value-in-use, then the CEx should mostly be about enabling customers to get the most out of using the company’s products during usage touchpoints. That starts with helping the customer establish a need for the product, helping them to make the right choices and offering them the right sales terms. All the touchpoints the inside-out CEx-ers talk about. The ones of most value to the company. But critically, the CEX is also about supporting them when they first use the product, and then over a lifetime of product usage, up to the point where it is disposed of. These are the touchpoints the inside-out CEx-ers don’t like to talk about. The ones of most value to the customer.

This doesn’t mean bending over backwards just to give customers everything for free. Companies don’t need to become charities. It does mean understanding what customers are trying to do at each touchpoint in the CEx and at what creates value for them during each touchpoint, and then working out how to enable customers to create more value in such a way that the company can create more value too. And value isn’t just hard cash. It can also be knowledge that is used to drive innovation, relationships that reduce the cost of the next sale, even advocacy that drives word of mouth recommendation. The CEx isn’t just about creating value for customers, it’s about value co-creation together with customers.

If companies do this intelligently, it can turn upside-down how they go to market. Rather than just charging customers for outputs at the point of sale then abandoning them to their fate, which is so often what happens, companies can also charge customers for ongoing outcomes during the weeks, months and years of using the product. For example, Rolls Royce Aviation doesn’t sell aero engines any more. Instead, it sells ‘power by the hour’. Customers only pay Rolls Royce when the aero engine is used to fly their airplanes. And the airline may even be paid by Rolls Royce for maintaining the same engines in their own facilities. Its all part of a move towards outcome-based contracting that is sweeping business.

If we want CEx to become more than just another advertising slogan, ‘one touch’ button or marketing cross-sell campaign, we need to start to think about it from the customer’s perspective. And to work out how to co-create more value together with customers. Not convinced? Ask yourself a simple question, “which company would you prefer to do business with? One that is only interested in creating value for itself, or one that wants to co-create value together with YOU!”. It’s a no-brainer isn’t it? It should be for companies too.

Graham Hill
Customer-centric Innovator

Further Reading:

Merz, He & Vargo
The Evolving Brand Logic: A Service-dominant Logic Perspective

‘Power by the Hour’: Can Paying Only for Performance Redefine How Products Are Sold and Serviced?

Irene Ng
Outcome-Based Contracting: Changing the Boundaries of B2B Customer Relationships

Announcing CRM Idol – Your Company up on the Billboard!

25 04 2011

Imagine yourself as a rookie baseball player, being called up to bat in the NY Yankees stadium. The crowd is in extasy, all wanting to see whether you can hit that homerun and win the game. Or that you have been selected as a contestant in a television show, to show off your talent to the whole, country, and even the world! This is the aim of Crm Idol, to give you a chance to strut your company’s stuff in the limelight – and with some cool prizes to be won. I am honoured to have been chosen as one of the judges and I want to thank Paul Greenberg for this

I’ll now let him walk you through the contest and the rules, and wish you all the best of luck!

Okay, everyone this is the big one. CRM Idol 2011: The Open Season is here and we’re ready to take your companies and find out which one of you in the Americas and which one of you in EMEA is not the next CRM Idol but the FIRST CRM Idol.

The Idea

Most of what we’re trying to do was outlined in the pre-announcement announcement of CRM Idol last week. But it bears some repeating:

Small companies – at least in the CRM software related world – and that means social software world, in this case, too – abound. There are thousands of companies out there that are possibly innovative, possibly commercially viable in a big way, possibly the next big thing. But, as we said, there are thousands of them. And, no matter how great your product is, if no one knows about it, well, then, oops. Not a good thing.

These small companies are all making efforts to get into the ecosystem that could benefit them – one which includes investors, influencers, technology/strategic partners, media connections, etc. While getting support from this powerful ecosystem is by no means a guarantee of success, it can be enormously helpful in getting well down the road there. But, those small companies are often thwarted in that effort by either really bad PR people, or just the incredible amount of companies out there trying to reach into the ecosystem who are pummeling the small amount of influencers, etc. every week with requests to demo or talk.

Now, to be fair to the influencers, they are human beings with lives that aren’t built around supporting this one company that really thinks they are it. All they know is that each of them is getting between 20-50 requests a week to take a demo or conversation with someone who owns or represents a company they’ve never heard of and never talked to yet. In addition to those that they know. Often enough, they are pitched by a public relations person who is either inexperienced or not really good at their job who makes no effort to find anything out about the person that they are pitching to. So the influencer, journalist, venture capitalist gets a generic curve thrown at them that doesn’t even break over the plate – guaranteeing that the email is going to be discarded as a matter of course before the first paragraph is even read. Or it could be that on a particular day the influencer got 10 pitches and had a headache and didn’t want to see any of them.

As unfair as generic pitches and high volumes of noise are to the influencers in the highly desirable ecosystem we are chatting about here, it is a problem because what are probably a lot of good companies are never given a chance to move ahead because of the difficulties inherent in the process and the vagaries of bad luck on any given day.

Which is why CRM Idol 2011: The Open Season exists.

The concept is simple, small companies out there. If you meet the submission criteria outlined below, you will be given the opportunity, first come first serve, to secure a time slot on a specific day that will put you in front of some of the most influential people in the CRM/SCRM world. They will spend an hour with you in a demo to hear about your technology product – software only – and they will write a jointly signed review of what they saw of you – that will be published in multiple venues as soon as its written. It can be a good review, a bad one, a mix or indifferent. There’s risk on your part to be taken here. But it is something that you need to be aware of. The reviews will go up as soon as the 5 judge sign off on the final content. They won’t be exhaustive reviews but they will be opinionated and fair.

Forty companies from the Americas and twenty companies from EMEA (that means ONLY Europe, the Middle East and Africa) will get a shot at this – again first come first serve (more later on what that means). Of the 40 in the Americas, 4 finalists will be chosen. (NOTE: There will be an APAC edition hopefully late in the year or if not, early 2012, depending on the success of these two events. Sorry, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, et.al. Logistics made it impossible at this juncture.) Out of the 20 in EMEA, 3 finalists will be chosen. Each of the finalists will be REQUIRED to do a ten minute video about their company and the product. Not a repeat of the demo but a video. Note I used the word REQUIRED here. Let me put it this way. If you make the finals and don’t do the video, we will publicly skewer your company. Know why? Because our judges are giving up what little free time they actually have in a summer to do this and it will take us 4 hours a day for 3 business weeks to do it. So if you can’t or won’t put in the effort to do the video, don’t bother to apply. Seriously. We’re trying to help out here and we want you guys all to succeed but it’s a two way street.

Okay, that rant out of the way. Once the finalists are chosen and the videos done, they will be posted online in multiple media outlets. They will be voted on in two ways:

  1. Popular vote – see, crowdsourcing is important. All the votes for the one winner from the Americas and the one winner from EMEA will be tallied from the public sites – in aggregate. That’s 50% of the vote.
  2. Extended Judges Panels – as you can see below, we may have assembled the greatest panels of judges – both leading vendors and influencers ever assembled in the history of CRM – not to be hyperbolic or anything. Each judge will select a specific winner in each of the Americas and EMEA from the 7 finalists. That’s the other 50% of the vote. The original judges will be voting as panel members.

The winners in each will get a major array of prizes, some of which are below, and be declared “CRM Idol 2011 Winner.”

Not too shabby is it? Vast amounts of media attention even if you don’t make the finals. If you make the finals at all, some prizes to you. The winners get everything that the ecosystem can offer but guaranteed success. But they do get all the accoutrements they need to support their increased likelihood of it.

That way, you small companies out there who have been victimized by bad approaches or just circumstance have the opportunity to bypass all of that and make something happen. It’s up to you to take the reins in hand but once you do, you have at least a serious chance at making yourself successful.

The Criteria

This competition is for small companies in the CRMish/SocialCRMish world. – see the categories below for some guidelines though please feel free to make the case if you don’t see yourself in the guidelines.

  1. You have to have software that is commercially available by the time of the demo – that would be in August – again see below. No betas, alphas, release candidates allowed. If we find that you’re not commercially available, and you have a time slot, you’re out and someone else will fill the slot. So please be sure that you can verify the claim if you want to participate.
  2. You have to have 3 referenceable customers that, if we care to, we can contact and ask about you.
  3. You have to have revenue under $12 million U.S. your last fiscal year. As far as disclosure goes, you have the choice of making the claim that you do – though that will have to be stated in your submission and we’ll trust you or you can disclose your revenue in the submission with the knowledge that only the permanent judges will know what it is. If you make the claim, please be prepared to back it up if we ask. Your call on how.
  4. You have to be willing to make a ten minute video if you get to the finals. More on that later.
  5. You have to fit a category – though there is some leeway there.

The Categories

The categories that we’ve identified to start are:

  1. Traditional CRM Suites
  2. Social CRM
  3. Sales – Sales Force Automation, Sales Optimization, Sales Effectiveness
  4. Marketing – Marketing Automation, Revenue Performance Management, Social Marketing, Email Marketing, Enterprise Marketing Management, Database Marketing
  5. Customer Service – all permutations
  6. Mobile CRM
  7. Customer Experience Management
  8. Social Media Monitoring – requires the possibility of integrating with a CRM technology
  9. Customer Analytics – including text/sentiment analytics; voice based analytics; social media analytics, influencer scoring, etc.
  10. Enterprise Feedback Management
  11. Innovation Management
  12. Community Platforms
  13. Enterprise 2.0 – collaboration, activity streams etc.
  14. Social Business
  15. Knowledge Management – this one requires the possibility of integrating with CRM systems
  16. Vendor Relationship Management
  17. Partner Relationship Management

Once again, if you don’t see yourself in this list, don’t worry. Just make the case as to why you have some customer-facing possibilities and the likelihood is that we’ll be cool with it. We’re trying to make this easier for you, not hard.

The Rules

They are numbered to be entirely clear.


  1. There will be 40 slots made available in the Americas and 20 in EMEA.
  2. The submission will be by email ONLY to: nextbigthing@crmidol.com. (See below to see this again and what to do if there are problems). Any other attempt at submission will be rejected out of hand with the problem exception mentioned below.
  3. The submissions will occur starting today – Monday, April 25 and will continue until Friday May 13 or until all slots are filled, whichever is first (watch #crmidol on twitter for updates on that as it occurs). On May 13, should any slots be left, the remaining specific dates and times will be made publicly available and another final round of submissions for those remaining slots will occur from May 13 through May 20. After that the submissions will be closed.
  4. Each submission will include the following:
    1. Your company contact and named person contact information Two date and time specific slot requests. ONLY two. If your slots are not available, you’re out of luck until May 14 – and then you can resubmit to any time slots that are publicly announced as still available. Though there is no guarantee that there will be any available slots at that time. (see below for examples of how to submit the dates/times)
    2. The category you feel you fit into – or if you don’t but think that you qualify – why.
    3. A description of what the product is/the company is. Be persuasive here that you meet the criteria, not that you have a great product. This is merely a qualifying discussion. URLs cannot be used as substitutes for this description. The submission needs to be all inclusive. However, they can be used as supporting documentation.
    4. The names of the three (3) referenceable customers – the company, the contact and the way to communicate with them – minimum of email and phone, please.
    5. A statement that says that you meet the revenue requirement along the lines of “our company states truthfully that our revenues in our last fiscal year 2010 were under $12 million U.S”. OR you can state the actual number with the knowledge that the primary judges in each of the Americas and EMEA will treat it as under non-disclosure. But please be aware those designated primary judges below will see the actual figures if you choose to reveal them.
    6. A statement that says, “if (you) make the finals, you are committed to making a 10 minute video for submission and public viewing as part of the conditions for entry.” Word it anyway you prefer but make the commitment clear.
  5. If you are accepted, you’ll be notified privately but it will be posted that you’ve been accepted on the Twitter #crmidol stream. The time will only be sent to you privately. Just your acceptance will be posted. Please allow some time between your submission and the posting of it to the hashtag and your private notification, since we all still have to work for a living. 
  6. If you don’t include everything specified in the rules for submission, it means automatic disqualification and you cannot resubmit.

The Demo

The demo has few rules. Just be prepared to a. explain your company; b. show your product – live please c. answer questions from the influencers/experts. Not much more than that. I’m sure many of you are experienced at this already so wed don’t have to tell you this, but just in case… A site for the demos with login etc. will be announced to the timeslot owners in early August.

The Video

The standards for the video will be mentioned to the finalists once they are named. To rest any unease, you won’t be required to spend lots of money to get it done. How much you spend and on what will be up to you as will the content and how you present it. We’ll issue guidelines when the time gets near, including how the video is going to be distributed for posting and voting.

The Judges

Here are the lists of all the judges. As you can see, we have what is likely to be the heaviest hitting list in the history of anything done in CRM when it comes to awards or competitions. Click on their names to get to their LinkedIn bios. They are in alphabetical order.

Primary Judges

The Americas

These five judges will handle the 40 entries for the Americas which consists of the United States, Canada, South and Central America. They will all be involved in the one hour reviews each of the days over the two weeks and will jointly sign off on each review which will be posted to multiple media sites. They will also solely choose the four finalists for the Americas.

  1. Paul Greenberg – Managing Principal, The 56 Group, LLC
  2. Jesus Hoyos – Managing Partner, JesusHoyos.com, LLC
  3. Esteban Kolsky – Principal and Founder, Thinkjar LLC
  4. Brent Leary – Managing Partner, CRM Essentials
  5. Denis Pombriant – CEO, Beagle Research Group


These four judges will handle the 20 entries from Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia etc. They will all be involved in the each of the 1 hour demos/discussions from Sept 5 through 9 and will write and jointly sign off on each review which will be posted to multiple media sites. They will also solely choose the three finalists for EMEA.

  1. Laurence Buchanan – Vice President, CRM & Social CRM, EMEA, Capgemini
  2. Silvana Buljan – Founder & Managing Director, Buljan & Partners
  3. Paul Greenberg – see above
  4. Mark Tamis – Social Business Strategist, NET-7


This is an exciting part of CRM Idol 2011. Each of these fine human beings has volunteered a day of their time – two during the finals and one with the winners – to provide the benefit of their experience to the contestants. What they will do is noted by their name. This is an awesome idea that Anthony Lye actually cooked up. Each of these mentors has decades of experience in the software and venture capital world and is considered a leader in the CRM space. So if you make it to the finals, you have the benefit of their knowledge and their valuable time. Amazing.

  1. Anthony Lye – Anthony will provide one day for the Americas finalists and one day for the EMEA finalists for consultation on how to best do the content for the contending videos and whatever other pertinent advice the finalists need. Anthony has had years of experience as a senior management person for enterprise CRM and a thought leader.
  2. Joe Hughes – Joe will provide one day for the Americas finalists and one day for the EMEA finalists for consultation on how to best do the content for the contending videos and whatever other pertinent advice the finalists need. Joe has been a leader in the CRM space for as long as we can remember and one of the more foresighted when it comes to the value of Social CRM
  3. Larry Augustin – This is a prize for the winner of EMEA and the winner of the Americas. Larry who has years of experience as an executive in the software space and has been a successful venture capitalist will work with the winner to prepare them for dealing with possible investors including doing a VC matching with the winners.

There will most likely be other mentors announced as the competition gets closer to the demo dates. We might try to make some mentors available to prepare you if you need them for the one hour demos but that’s still up in the air. We’ll keep you posted.

Extended Judges Panels

The Influencer Panel

  1. William Band – Vice President & Principal Analyst, CRM, Forrester Research
  2. Jim Berkowitz – CEO, CRM Mastery
  3. Bruce Culbert – Chief Service Officer, The Pedowitz Group
  4. Zoli Erdos – Publisher/Editor, CloudAve and Enterprise Irregulars
  5. Mike Fauscette – Group Vice President, Software Business Solutions, IDC
  6. Josh Greenbaum – Principal, Enterprise Applications Consulting
  7. Dr. Graham Hill – Partner, Optima Partners
  8. Dennis Howlett – Buyer Advocate
  9. Ian Jacobs – Senior Analyst, Customer Interaction, Ovum/Datamonitor
  10. Michael Krigsman – CEO, Asuret
  11. Marshall Lager – Managing Principal, Third Idea Consulting
  12. Kate Leggett – Senior Analyst, CRM, Forrester Research
  13. Maribel Lopez – Principal Analyst and VP, Constellation Research Founder Lopez Research LLC
  14. Jeremiah Owyang -Managing Partner, Altimeter Group
  15. Sameer Patel – Managing Partner, Sovos Group
  16. Scott Rogers – Customer Evangelist
  17. Robert Scoble – Managing Director, Rackspace Hosting
  18. Brian Solis – Principal, Altimeter Group
  19. Dilip Soman – Professor of Marketing, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto
  20. Ray Wang – CEO, Constellation Research
  21. Mary Wardley – Vice President, CRM Applications, IDC

The Vendor Panel

  1. Larry Augustin – CEO, SugarCRM
  2. Anthony Lye – Senior Vice President & GM, CRM, Oracle
  3. Phil Fernandez – CEO, Marketo
  4. John Hernandez – General Manager, Customer Care Business, Cisco
  5. Jonathan Hornby – Director, Worldwide Marketing, SAS
  6. Joseph Hughes – Senior Executive, CRM Service, Support and Social System Integration Lead, Accenture
  7. Charlie Isaacs, VP, eServices and Social Media Strategy Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise
  8. Vinay Iyer – Vice President, Marketing CRM, SAP
  9. Katy Keim – CMO, Lithium
  10. Marcel Lebrun,- CEO, Radian6
  11. Mitch Lieberman, Vice President, Marketing, Sword-Ciboodle
  12. Chris Morace– Senior Vice President, Business Development, Jive
  13. Zach Nelson – CEO, NetSuite
  14. Bill Patterson– Director, CRM Product Management, Microsoft
  15. Dileep Srinivasan – AVP – CRM & Social CRM, Digital Marketing & MDM, Cognizant
  16. John Taschek –Vice President, Market Strategy, Salesforce

The Journalist Panel

  1. Elsa Basile – Director, Callcenternews (Argentina)
  2. Barney Beal – Managing Editor, SearchCRM,
  3. Anita Campbell – Publisher, SmallBizTrends.com
  4. Robin Carey – CEO, Social Media Today
  5. Neil Davey – Group Editor, Sift Media
  6. David Myron – Editorial Director, CRM Magazine, Speech Technology Magazine
  7. Valdir Ugalde – Board, Member, mundocontact (Mexico)
  8. Ann Van Den Berg – Senior Editor, CustomerTalk (Netherlands)

Media Partners

You’ll note that we have 8 journalists on a panel of judges. Well, each of them represents a media partner that will be broadcasting the competition and posting the videos for voting in the finals for the popular vote. They are an awesome array of the most influential media sites in social media, CRM, and small business as well as local influencers in CRM in Latin America and Europe. They will be significant in the lives of the contestants, the finalists, and the winners giving each what may be an unprecedented breadth and depth of coverage. Their coverage will be supplemented by posts to the blogs and other sites that are owned by many of the judges so there will be significant reach for all 60 of the initial contenders. Each of these partners will be getting exclusives from the judges and hopefully some of the companies too so that we can add a quality of coverage that would enhance the value to the SMBs participating. in all areas – CRM, social and small business directly.

We expect to add more media partners as we continue on throughout the competition.

The current partners and links to their sites (in alphabetical order, like every list here):

  1. Call Center News (Argentina)
  2. CRM Magazine/DestinationCRM
  3. CustomerTalk (Netherlands)
  4. Mundocontact (Mexico)
  5. MyCustomer.com/Sift Media
  6. SearchCRM
  7. Social Media Today
  8. SmallBizTrends.com

The Prizes…So Far

These are the prizes as of launch today. There are several others in the works that will be announced as the contest rolls out.

All Finalists

All 7 finalists will get to choose one day of consulting from the list of Influencer consultants below. The order of choice will be based on the popular vote on the video which will be kept confidential but used for the choosing. There will be more consultants added to the list as contest moves forward.

The Americas and EMEA Winners

Each winner will get to choose four prizes from the list. Note – in the case where multiple prizes are being offered by a single vendor – the vendor counts as a single prize with all the items as part of that.

  1. Accenture
    1. A full day workshop with CRM leaders in Accenture for possible partnership and/or possible investment.
  2. Capgemini (for EMEA winners only)
    1. A half day workshop with Patrick James, Global VP CRM and Laurence Buchanan to explore joint go to market opportunities and help you refine and test your value proposition.
  3. Social Media Today
    1. A blog post featuring the winner of the contest to run on both The Customer Collective and Social Media Today
    2. A single blast to the Social Media Today opt-in list (approximately 50,000 names) which will conform to their minimum standards (valued at $10,500)
  4. Microsoft
    1. 12 mos. of CRM Online Free for developing extensions to CRM
    2. 12 mos. of Windows Azure Free for developing web-based portals and BI solutions
    3. Access to the Office 365 Beta for building collaborative applications and services
    4. Access to the BizSpark One program -a program designed to connect emerging businesses and their investors with a Microsoft advisor to help them identify unique opportunities and expand its business presence
  5. SugarCRM
    1. Free 10 user subscription to SugarCRM Professional or Enterprise
    2. Membership in the Sugar Exchange and free consulting on product integration with SugarCRM
    3. CEO Larry Augustin, a successful venture capitalist in his own right, does a mentoring & VC matchmaking session with the winners
  6. Brian Solis
    1. One hour internal webinar on how to use SCRM and social media to your advantage
  7. Paul Greenberg
    1. One hour pro bono external webinar on a subject TBD for lead gen, mindshare, etc.
  8. Ray Wang
    1. One hour pro bono external webinar on a subject TBD for lead gen, mindshare, etc.
  9. Sameer Patel
    1. One hour pro bono external webinar on a subject TBD for lead gen, mindshare, etc.
  10. Influencer Consulting– free strategic consulting for 1 day or 8 hours from a variety of judges (in person travel expenses to be covered by winners)
    1. Esteban Kolsky (in person only)
    2. Paul Greenberg (on phone or in person)
    3. Denis Pombriant (on phone or in person)
    4. Mark Tamis (on phone or in person)
    5. Jesus Hoyos (on phone or in person)
    6. Brent Leary (on phone or in person)

The Times, Dates, Hashtag and Email

Okay here’s the hardcore stuff:

  1. The hashtag is #crmidol
  2. The email for submission is nextbigthing@crmidol.com
    1. If you have a problem submitting to that email send your submission and a report of the specific problem to pgreenbe@gmail.com

Dates and Times Table for the Americas and EMEA

We’ve put together an easy little table with all the relevant dates and times that you’ll need as you progress through the competition.

Dates/Times Americas EMEA
Submission Dates August 15-19; August 22-26 September 5-9
Submission Times 3pm ET; 4pm ET; 5pm ET; 6pm ET 3pm GMT; 4pm GMT; 5pm GMT; 6pm GMT
Finalist Video Submission Date September 30 October 14
Winner Announcement October 17 October 31

A Note or Two

A little bit of unfinished stuff that will sort itself out as time goes forward.

  • There will likely be a CRM Idol site (Joomla based) coming in the next month or so that will be an aggregate site for all the media outlets and streams. However, this remains a work in progress that’s still under discussion.
  • There will be more mentors and prizes added and possibly a judge or two.
  • For now ongoing news will be found at the twitter hashtag #crimidol.

In Closing

That’s about it. Now its time to bring it. First come, first serve. See you, maybe as the 1st ever CRM Idol, in Vegas, Hollywood. London or on the Social Web. Somewhere anyway.


Social CRM in Retail

28 02 2011

The Edelman Trust Barometer indicated that we trust CEOs and experts more than last year, and that trust in “people like me” slipped down the list. But, when it comes down to it, who do you turn to when you want to know how a dress looks on you – your friends, or the brand’s CEO?

Thomas Wieberneit wrote a post last week with a similar title, and we started a good old-fashioned discussion through email to see how Social CRM thinking could enhance the customer experience. One of the key thoughts is that people will turn to their strong ties for advice and discuss options, and their ‘hire’ the brand (which is basically a weak tie) for service delivery in the for of goods, services,and knowledge. Furthermore, rather than “consuming passively”, people are now participating activily in meeting their own desired outcomes, including shaping the service they want using what I label Customer Enablement Technology.

To give you an idea of what this could all look like, I thought up a scenario, and Thomas added to it and I’d like to share it with you here:

Jenny, a Marketing Assistant in her mid-twenties, wants to look good at a cocktail party organised by her employer the following evening. She ask her friends for ideas on dresses through Twitter and a FaceBook status update. Someone suggests she’d have a look retailer JolieRobe’s catalogue. She decides to click through to the website as some of the catalogue photos that her friend showed looked really great. Whilst sitting in front of her TV she pulls out her iPad she goes to the webstore drag & drops a couple of her close IM friends onto the that she thinks have good taste and who can provide her with sound advice.

The webstore has picked up from FaceBook that she wants to attend a Cocktail Party and adapts the interface with an appropiate ambiance and selection based on her preferences – as well as on what the company knows about her and and her friends. With her friends she co-browses a number of dresses and pulls up a 3-D model of herself on which the dress is projected to give her an idea of what it would look like. Through webchat with her friends she decides on a dress and posts the model up on FB, where she get 8 likes and 5 encouraging comments within a couple of minutes. She doesn’t want to buy it online, as she wants to ‘see how it fits and feel the material’ before buying so she decides she’ll pop into a store the next day. The webstore indicates the one nearest to her and indictes the availability, and also offers to put one aside in her size for her to try out.

She thinks she could also do with a haircut and connect her iPad to her favourite hairdesser’s site (she pays them a monthly subscription fee for advice) and starts a call using her Bluetooth headset and 3G connection by tapping on an On-Screen button on the web page. She is greeted by one of the personal stylists (a ‘repurposed’ Customer Service Rep) and shares what she wants to do whilst giving access to to her 3D-model and dresses she is looking at. The agent listens to her and suggest 3 different hairstyles that would go well with the dress, as shows them on the iPad projected over Jenny’s picture that she just took with the iPad’s built-in camera. She again shares this with her friends, who think the one she has chosen is fabulous, and the the agent takes the make an appointment the next day before disconnecting.

The next day, she goes to the local JolieRobe Retail Outlet. The Foursquare App on her iPhone indicates that one of her close friends is in the vicinity and she invites her to come along. In the store, the shop assistant is alerted by the store’s dashboard that Jenny has come in with her friend and checks on what she is looking for through her own Smartphone. Jenny’s profile pops up, together with what was gathered through Social Network Monitoring, as well as other interests that were determined through datamining.

She approaches her with a personalized greeting and walks Jenny to the part of the store that has the cocktail dresses, and hands her the one she was looking it. She tries it on at it fits her well, and is comfortable as well as good-looking. She’s not to sure about the colour, so she walks up to one of the interactive mirrors – basically a 70″ LCD screen stood up on the short side with a Kinect motion detector. The screen reflects her own image, but by moving her hand in a circle, she can modify the colour of the dress. Jenny wants a second opinion and finds that Jane, her best friend is not nearby but online. She usually goes shopping together with Jane and trusts her opinion very much so she invites Jane, who is in front of at her office computer’s webcam onto the store’s screen to share the picture.

The assistant then uses the same screen to show a some pairs of high heels to go with the dress, as well as suggest make-up to complete the picture. After having made sure the dress and heels look good on her “in real life”, she checks it out through the NFC code reader and pays for it through the store’s web interface, thanks her friend and the shop assistant and heads of to her appointment with the hairdesser, who is waiting for her, picture in-hand and ready to dress her hair.

Now Jenny’s all set to make a good impression!

There are many othe possible scenarios we could think of, including letting Jenny and her friends design the dress, provide input to the venue where the cocktail party is to be held, or connect with people who will be going as well to find out what their interests are (small-talk facilitation…). What is important is not so much that we provide the service (which is of course important), but rather that we understand where it fits within what the custoemr job-to-be-done, and how we can create an economics surplus in the value we co-create with the customer in helping achieve her desired outcomes. And if you want to read up on what types of value beyond monetary that you should be concerned about, I suggest you have a look at Wim Rampen’s post on taking customer service seriously.

Incentivising Online Community Participation

14 02 2011

The adage concerning online customer communities has it that you should not give monetary rewards or gifts to members, as this is an impediment to to the ‘health’ of the community and keeping it vibrant. Participants would be motivated only by their gains, and this can discourage members who are there for the ‘social’ aspect of exchanging with likeminded individual, social recognition, and finding peer support.

We stand incredulous before the so-called ‘super-users’ who are the backbone of these communities. They selflessly spend countless hours helping their peers and keep the momentum going. For example, KachiWachi, Distinguished Logi Legend and Webcam Guru on Logitech’s Support Forums has posted nearly 45,000 messages in almost five years – that’s around 900 per month!

Usually online communities platforms rely on reputation systems that award badges, points, and the like that play in on Social Gaming ideas to get people to participate for status and peer recognition. Sometimes priviledges are given such as access to VIP areas of the forum as with Aprilia motorcycles, or even exclusive site visits as to some of the planespotters with Air France.

What motivates these individuals to give so much of their time? Some would go as far as to ask “Don’t they have a life?“. Can we emulate the conditions in our own customer base so as to provide fertile ground to encourage such behaviour? Is it the new nature or nurture debate in new Web 2.0 clothes? And – when will there be a backlash against those companies making millions and billions on the backs of the ‘unpaid armies’? Remember – free implies that it’s voluntary, and just like customer, they can just pack up and leave.

I really started thinking about this following a panel discussion at the Social Media Week Paris seminar on social CRM and community Good Practices with Thomas Le Gac (Orange France), Marina Tymen (Air France), Stanislas Magniant (Publicis Net Intelligenz) and myself. In this discussion, I exposed the case of Giffgaff, a niche UK mobile virtual network operator (part of Telefonica/O2), as it has made me reconsider the (de)merits of giving incentives to customer to participate in the company’s community. Initially I was dead set against incentives, but now I think that- depending on the circumstances and the objectives that we are trying to maintain- it can make sense to incorporate incentives in the overall value proposition.


Giffgaff is scottish for ‘mutual giving’. The company sells pre-paid SIMs and keeps costs down by having a lean organisation (16 staff), outsourcing support to its customer community, and it hardly does any advertising to make itself known. By doing so, they are for example able to provide ‘goodybags’ of 250 UK minutes, unlimited texts and internet for only £10 per month ($16/€12 inc. VAT). It is built on a SaaS platform provided by Lithium Technologies that has a forum as its base, and integrates seamlessly with Facebook and Twitter if people prefer to access it that way.

From the onset, it was made clear to customers that they could extend the value they got out of the platform provided Operator by helping other members and ‘recruiting’ their friends. For example, accepted answers get members 50 points and onboarding is rewarded by 500 point (equal to £5). Furthermore, ideas to improve the Giffgaff offer are rewarded with points as well – with the advantage for the business being the ability to innovate based directly on the needs and desires of its community. Points can be redeemed for call minutes or cash, or can be donated to good causes. As a result, around 40% of the customer base gets such incentives.

Giffgaff’s results are quite impressive. It has one of the highest engagement ratios I’ve ever heard of: Jacob Nielsen‘s 90-9-1 principle concerning audience participation is blown out of the water with a ratio of 1-25-74! It’s top 10 super-users average 9.5 hours per day of peer support. Average response time is around 3 minutes, with 100% of the questions being answered within the hour. I spend more call time on hold just to get to a CSR!

Its customers promote the brand outside the platform as well, on personal blogs and Twitter, making Youtube videos, and defend it on external sites. Key here was  to provide personalized links that could be distributed by members, so that referrals could be attributed correctly – an idea  sourced from the community itself.

Involving Customers in Running Your Business

I think the key to Giffgaff’s success lies in ceding control traditionally held by organisation to its customers and involving them deeply with regards to innovation, branding, PR, and determining its service offering. The incentives concord with the objective of providing better and cheaper service to its members, and and motivates more active participation, as now they are “playing for keeps”. Management’s role is to provide the platform that brings together the ingredients, but also to ensure that the business remains viable and sustainable – and that includes making decisions that may be unpopular with the community if not exposed in a transparent and authentic manner.

Based on the case outlined above, incentives can be instrumental in increasing and improving community participation, but it would be dangerous to generalize, and as Thomas Le Gac pointed out during the panel discussion – illegal in some countries. Not all communities would or even could benefit from adding an incentive programme, it will for a large part depend on the business model on which it is built.But it will be interesting to observe whether online customer communities will evolve as there are ever more companies out there who will all be vying for attention from customers in the hope of attracting super-users to motivate other members. At what time will voluntary (free) contributions tip over into incentivised participation.

I’m looking forward to reading your opinions on this. Please comment!

Customer Insights, Collaboration, and Cloud in 2011

14 12 2010

It’s that time of the year again, when we look back to the past and try to project what will happen in the future. Although I do not consider myself to be an analyst, I do have some ideas I’d like to share concerning my areas of interest.

Clouds above San Francisco

The year 2010 has seen a rapid adoption of the idea that companies should listen more closely what customers are saying in order to understand their job-to-be-done and work towards meeting their desired outcomes. These outcome can be an ideal customer experience, or adapting a service offering so that it better meets needs and expectations. Customer experience now increasingly includes using social media to find and exchange with like-minded individuals, creating de facto online communities. Customer Engagement strategies which integrate these channels is increasingly being accepted by companies for Voice Of Customer, to source ideas for innovation, and to scale support.

Customer Insights

So this is where I get to my first idea. Currently there is still a disconnect between between the contact, transaction and historical interaction data we have stored in out CRM systems and the behavioural data that we can learn from what customers say and want through Social Media channels as well as traditional channels such as email and interaction with customer service reps. What most platform currently do is allow the creation of events (automatically or manually) based on clever filtering and funneling by tools such as Radian6 or Attensity or flagging in a community platform such as Lithium’s after a predefined delay.

Although these tools certainly do have their merits, I think the next evolution will be that the customer’s Social Media activity extracted from them will be blended into the ‘snapshot’ we have of the customer by adding the historical and transactional content of the CRM System. This will give us insight into what experience the person is expecting (based on personality analytics, sentiment evolution, social and interest graph segmentation, issue anticipation etc.), and help her help herself or her peers, but it will also help decide what priority to give the interaction (or level of engagement) based on whether she is a high-value, high potential customer, whether she is likely to churn and so on.  So I believe that this year we will see more integrated platforms that link customer behaviour glaned through cross-channel engagement to transactional data. The key hurdle to overcome will be linking the different identifiers to the right customer…


This year we have seen the coming of age of Enterprise 2.0 where company are moving from the “why do it” to the more pragmatic “how to do it”. People are become a central preoccupation because we have been grossly underutilizing the capabilities and potential for innovation of our Knowledge Workers, forcing them in a straight-jacket of assigned tasks and roles rather then empowering them to make choices and decisions to achieve goals and objectives. Enterprise 2.0 has given us tools that facilitate communication, flatten hierarchies and break down silo walls, but they seem to miss the compelling reason for their implementation (other than serendipity, innovation sourcing etc.). I believe the compelling reason is collaboration for, around and with the customer – together with partners and suppliers. We now have the tools to invite the Social Customer into our company as witnessed by the convergence between social CRM and Enterprise 2.0 into Social Business (yes, I know, definitions may differ but not really of importance IMHO) and this has the potential to better meet market expectations.

What is missing from this picture though, is agility, visibility and traceability into what is taking place in these collaborations. Business Process Management was my initial thought, but this is just to rigid to effectively handle ad-hoc, unpredictable interactions. This is where I believe Adaptive Case Management has a role to play. It empowers the Knowledge Worker, gather step inputs as relevant (history, documents, issues etc) and lets her decide on the next step to take based on the outcome of the previous one. Best Practices as captured as templates, which in turn can be chosen an adapted as needed. What I do feel is missing however is that it does not sufficiently take into account the human factor, namely the possibility to find Knowledge Worker Expertise that we can identify through Enterprise 2.0, and then match as an input suggestion for the process step at hand. The same would go for external input such as from customers or groups of customers that can provide insights that are useful to meet goals. Analytics again will play an important role in this.


For the last part I’d like to look ahead even further down the road, possibly 3-5 years down the line. The Cloud (and not the Clouds as SFDC said at Dreamforce 10) is slowly turning applications such as CRM into a commodity that is ubiquitously accessible (on-demand through whatever means we choose). The promise of Utility Computing is coming ever nearer  – and possibly making infrastructure providers such as Amazon the improbable ‘winners’ of the ‘No Software’ wars ;).

I think a key promise of the Cloud is not so much that you outsource your IT management or that you can access it from anywhere (mobile, desktop, etc), but rather the potential to quickly connect your dataset to that of your partners, suppliers, channels and mine the collective data for customer insights that you would miss if you’re looking at only your own data.

This in a nutshell is what I think could or even should play a role in the next year based on my understanding of the markets (insert endless unnamed disclaimers here that you won’t readanyway). Rendez-vous next year to see how wrong I was 😉 Please share your thoughts in the comments below!