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How Much of a Relationship Do Your Customers Actually Want?

On the Harvard Business Review, Matt Dixon and Lara Ponomareff wrote a piece that caught my eye, Why Your Customers Don’t Want to Talk to You. Consumers increasingly prefer self-service, and the authors speculate:

Maybe customers are shifting toward self service because they don’t want a relationship with companies. While this secular trend could be explained away as just a change in consumers’ channel preferences, skeptics might argue that customers never wanted the kind of relationship that companies have always hoped for, and that self service now allows customers the “out” they’ve been looking for all along.

For managers hell-bent on deepening relationships with their customers, that’s a sobering thought.

That last line is particularly relevant to the new thinking: that companies need to engage their customers in “conversations”, which social media is enabling. A related question to ask is, do they really want a “relationship” at all with companies?

What exactly is a “relationship”?

Let’s start with an important point: what exactly is a “relationship”? Put simply, it’s a two-way connection I have with you based on some form of interaction(s). In that sense, buying a product from a company qualifies as a “relationship”. But that’s insufficient. We want to know how deep is the relationship?

The thinking of Mark Granovetter is relevant, provided helpfully by Lithium’s Michael Wu. Four elements determine the depth of a relationship:

  1. Time spend together
  2. Emotional intensity
  3. Intimacy (mutual confiding)
  4. Reciprocity

Now, apply those elements of relationship to the way you think about companies from which you buy. What’s the emotional intensity you have with the power company? Do you find yourself confiding with Amazon.com when you purchase something? How much time are you and your bank spending together?

Those questions point to a more commonly understood definition for relationship: high scores on the four Granovetter dimensions. But scoring high on those dimensions is an insurmountable hurdle for most companies vis-à-vis their customers.

The job your product is hired to do

This idea that companies need to think in terms of the “job their product has been hired to do” is one I learned from Clayton Christensen, Harvard professor and author of The Innovator’s Dilemma. It’s understanding why the customer buys your product, and what needs it fulfills. “Needs” often being different than thinking in terms of the features a product has.

This is what defines the relationship customers want to have with a company.

Leading social CRM thinker Wim Rampen argues this in his post Social CRM – What Relationships Should You Care For, And Why? In the post, he states this:

From a company’s perspective, a relationship with your Customers is not what you need most. You need most to understand what job it is your Customers are trying to get done.

Wim is spot on. That’s the innovation mantra. Nicely applied to social CRM.

The depth of a customer’s relationship depends on the job you’re hired to do

My interest in having a relationship – the deeper, more commonly understood definition – with a company is directly proportional to the complexity of the job I’ve hired you to do, as follows:

Here’s how the different jobs size up.

Efficiency, simplicity, convenience

In a consumer-based world, we have but only so much bandwidth for purchasing things which require lots of our time to engage and use. Mostly, we need commodities.

And you know what? We need ‘em fast, reliable and without taking up a lot of time. In this bucket o’ jobs-to-be-done, spending a lot of cycles engaging with many companies in ongoing relationships just will not cut it. How would you get anything else done?

It’s as Jon Husband shared with me on Twitter:

<Do they even want a relationship with companies? #scrm #acinsights> I don’t

The nature of relationships in this scenario is transactional. And there’s nothing wrong with that. My bank gives me efficiency, low cost and no hassles. I’m loyal, but I don’t have a deep relationship with them.

They just happen to satisfy well a job of convenience and efficiency I need done.

Episodic interaction events

Mountain Dew ran a great social media campaign called DEWmocracy. DEWmocracy got consumers involved in a number of initiatives:

  • Ad agency selection
  • New flavor selection
  • New drink names
  • Package creation

The campaign was a great example of an episodic event to drive interactions. This was relationship-building beyond the core product offering. What made it successful is that it extended the job-to-be-done. Sure, Mountain Dew tastes great, and you can enjoy cans of it. That alone really points toward convenience and simplicity, the lowest=level relationship.

But Mountain Dew was able to elevate the complexity of the job. It got people involved in the support processes for the production and distribution. Genius, and of course, risky. But many consumers responded. They found it fun to participate, and Mountain Dew reciprocated, as Ad Age notes:

Once you’ve engaged consumers, you can’t stop. Mtn Dew made an effort to let consumers know why it was taking their advice, as well as why it wasn’t.

Now that DEWmocracy has mostly run its course, the relationship will become shallow again. Until the next event. But it has raised market awareness, and established what the company is about in consumers’ minds.

One last note here. Old Spice’s recent social media marketing blitz was not an example of addressing the job-to-be-done. It was pure marketing awareness, a point well-made by Jacob Morgan. And it worked.

Complex job, long-term usage

SAP. When you think of SAP software, do you think, “lightweight, simple-to-use, rip-n-replace anytime?” No, you don’t. SAP software is legendarily complex and powerful. They are a huge company with thousands of customers, billions in revenue and myriad business applications.

This is a complex job-to-be-done.

SAP maintains a strong customer community and extended ecosystem (including the SAP Developer Network) to manage its relationships with customers. Which makes absolute sense considering the complexity of the job-to-be-done. Customers want a relationship with SAP. Frankly, they need it.

Complex jobs often mean several things for customers:

  • Recurring need to interact with the company for information
  • Higher switching costs, increasing the need to understand what the company’s future direction is
  • Variety of use cases, meaning many ideas for future product versions

It is in these situations where the popular notion of “relationship” most closely matches what customers seek.

The core focus is the job-to-be-done

Clayton Christensen wrote this with regard to the way companies should consider their customers:

With few exceptions, every job people need or want to do has a social, a functional, and an emotional dimension. If marketers understand each of these dimensions, then they can design a product that’s precisely targeted to the job. In other words, the job, not the customer, is the fundamental unit of analysis for a marketer who hopes to develop products that customers will buy.

That’s the perspective  from companies toward customers, not so much for relationships, but for product features.

The job is also the fundamental unit of analysis going the other way, customers toward companies. Understanding the complexity of the job-to-be-done points to how deep a relationship customers want.

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

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Foursquare + Square = Killer Small Business Social CRM

Parker Smith wrote a piece that got me thinking. In Foursquare: Democratizing the Loyalty Program, he posits that Foursquare could be the loyalty program provider to small businesses. I think he’s right.

Then I noticed these identical product benefits touted by the companies themselves, Foursquare and Jack Dorsey’s Square:

For example, foursquare can tell you how many times a customer has been to your venue or the frequency of their visits. Many venues are now using this data to reward their most loyal customers with freebies or discounts.

Foursquare

If you frequent a place that accepts Square, we’ll let them know you’re a repeat customer. That 10th cappuccino may be on the house, no paper coffee card required.

Square

Would you look at that? Are these guys going to end up competing with one another?

A few years back, I was the personalized marketing product manager at Pay By Touch, which offered the ability to pay for items with biometrics (i.e. your finger). Once you could identify the customer and her spending, interesting loyalty program solutions became available.

Which brings me to what Foursquare and Square are doing. Square is still in beta mode, so it’s hard to predict fully its uptake in the market. But let’s assume Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and his backer, Khosla Ventures, are on top of this opportunity. And Foursquare is growing quickly.

Each provides pieces of what would be needed for a small business CRM. The companies are independent, but I can see new value created if they were to work together.

There is no CRM for offline small businesses

At least, not for businesses that operate in the physical world. Dry cleaners, restaurateurs, retailers and other small businesses. They may have loyalty punch cards, but generally don’t have any programmatic way to track and engage customers.

But they could use CRM as much as a large business does. I like this customer lifecycle framework by Gary Hawkins in Customer Intelligence:

It shows the stages of a business’s customers: new, existing, declining, lapsing. And the ability to tier active customers also is valuable. Each tier has its own dynamics. There is much more to CRM than a simple frequency loyalty program. It’s a deeper level understanding of the customer base. Understanding the statuses of customers from this point of view is powerful marketing information.

Modern CRM is more than the analytics and outbound campaigns. The social CRM movement is gaining strength, and it’s incorporating many social network principles into the customer engagement process.

And it’s not readily available for small businesses that operate primarily in the “offline” world. Unlike the digital platforms of e-commerce, offline transactions are not measured. At least not beyond the credit card transaction for consumer transactions.

This is an area of enormous opportunity. The company that solves the CRM issue for the 4.3 million small businesses in the U.S. has an enormous opportunity in front of it.

Complementary CRM strengths of  Foursquare and Square

The two services each bring unique strengths to a small business CRM solution. Take a look:

Start with the commonality Diagram. Foursquare and Square both provide:

  • Customer identity = who are your customers?
  • Visit frequency = Foursquare check-ins, or Square credit card swipes

When you see them both tout free products for repeat customers, this is how they’d do it. Identity + frequency = loyalty punch card.

But what about the services’ other features?

Foursquare provides the social fuel:

  • Social incentives: It’s fun to build up points relative to your friends, show off your Foursquare badges. And who doesn’t want to be Mayor of some local business?
  • Social interactions: People use Foursquare to to broadcast their location. This lets other meet up with them. Or in the case of crowded venues, find someone else there.
  • Game dynamics: This reporting in on your locations is an addictive game for many. It’s cool to get your first check-in daily bonus, to unlock a new location (hooray!) and oust someone as the Mayor of a place.
  • Social media word of mouth: By following people on Foursquare or Twitter, you can see where your network hangs out. This raise awareness for businesses, an incredibly important benefit.

Here’s an example on that last point. Socialtext CEO Eugene Lee often tweets this:

I’m at Coupa Cafe (538 Ramona St, at University Ave, Palo Alto). http://4sq.com/IITeJ

I don’t spend much time in Palo Alto, and I’d never heard of Coupa Cafe. But you know what? If I find myself in Palo Alto needing lunch or a coffee, guess which place I’d specifically look for?

Square provides the transaction processing power:

  • Dollar spend: Incredibly valuable information to track. Does someone come in a couple times a week, but spend heavily on food? Or do they frequent the cafe more often, but only buy coffee? Dollars spent is an important complement to simple visit frequency.
  • In-the-flow process: Square captures it’s information in-the-flow. That is, you don’t have to do anything extra. You’re have to pay, it’s part of the normal process. Foursquare requires a check-in, which is outside-the-flow of regular small business-customer interactions.
  • Transaction handling: By owning the transaction handling, Square can implement low-maintenance marketing programs. Businesses can create promotions tied to specific accounts, and execute them at the point-of-sale via Square.
  • Merchant account process: The process of getting businesses signed up for these programs isn”t trivial. It is standardized, but there’s a lot to tackle to provide good service. Some early reports indicate that Square has a superior merchant account set-up process, which may be its best innovation.

The in-the-flow nature of Square should not be underestimated. Getting adoption for any service is tough, and removing whatever friction to participation that exists is a critical element. This commenter on a post about Foursquare makes a good point:

The sort of people who will stop and record their restaurant visits and who have friends who also stop and record their restaurant visits and then write reviews of same. And while that’s a prime demographic, I’m thinking it’s not nearly as large as you’d hope. Most people just don’t have the time or inclination to “play” FourSquare.

This is why putting the process of playing Foursquare in-the-flow would be valuable.

Making it happen

The challenge is in connecting a credit card transaction to a person’s Foursquare account. Then I realized Square’s intentions are much bigger than a simple transaction swipe. The company lets people set up their personal accounts on Square. I assume you will enter your credit card number online, and when that number comes through in a transaction, it’s associated to your Square account. Thus Square can manage loyalty punch card programs.

Well, why not associate your Foursquare account to your Square account? When you swipe your credit card at the local business, Square processes the transaction the way it normally does. But it also does something else. It prompts an update to your Foursquare account.

I’m not talking a Blippy-style broadcast of your credit card purchase amount. Rather, your location status is updated automatically on Foursquare. Just as if you’d updated from your iPhone.

The small business then gets the social part of the CRM program.

What do you think? Two great tastes that taste great together? Small business could use the combined elements of Foursquare and Square.

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 111909

From the home office in the restarted Cern Large Hadron Collider along the French-Swiss border…

#1: What Shaun White & Snowboarding Can Teach You About #Innovation http://ow.ly/E8h7 Get exposure for ideas early, so others can digest impact

#2: Managing Employee Innovation Communities (via Spigit blog) http://bit.ly/3SREBr #innovation #e20

#3: City of Manor’s “citizens’ innovation” project (using Spigit) is featured on WhiteHouse.gov blog: http://ow.ly/DURl #gov20

#4: RT @CarolineDangson #IDC Social Survey: workers say they use IM for ‘collaboration’ & social networks for ‘sharing’ – thinking about diff

#5: RT @rotkapchen: RT @wimrampen Social Media Disrupts Decision-Making Process http://bit.ly/2KTUIz (via @GrahamHill)

#6 RT @tjkeitt Starting the process of researching #e2.0 technology pushed into business processes (CRM, ERP, project management, etc.). This is the future.

#7: RT @kevinmarks says @Caterina “Google never got social software – Knol means you have to write a whole article; wikipedia combines tiny contributions” #w2e

#8: Pitching Sequoia? They want to know which deadly sin your company lets customers indulge in http://ow.ly/DGn1 by @glennkelman

#9: Checking out: The Awesomeness Manifesto http://ow.ly/DmID by @umairh Much to love in that one #innovation

#10: Time Magazine is apparently torn between naming Twitter or the Economy as its “Person” of the Year http://ow.ly/CRbB

Social Software 2.0: Enterprise Process Ubiquity

In the beginning, there were forums, blogs and wikis. And it was good.

In talking with people about the Enterprise 2.0 industry, I like to insert yet another versioning number scheme:

  • Social Software 1.0
  • Social Software 2.0

Social Software 1.0 was the era of actually creating these open, collaborative applications. The approach of these tools was groundbreaking. Apps for managing knowledge that are open, persistent, easy to create and accepting  contributions from many? This was groundbreaking. The tools of Social Software 1.0 are: blogs, wikis, forums, microblogging, activity streams, tags, social connections.

Social Software 1.0 is the “Tools Era”. Put these collaboration and information sharing tools in place, then let the benefits flow. And the benefits do flow.

But are they flowing fast enough? Will they assume core operational infrastructure status within enterprises? This is the crux of Dennis Howlett’s post, Enterprise 2.0 – the non-debate. It’s a fair question. Dennis notes this in his post:

I’ve also argued that I’ve never heard anyone ask for some Enterprise 2.0 though I’ve heard plenty ask for ERP, CRM etc.

Let’s examine that particular quote for a moment, on two fronts. First is the important point that CRM, ERP and other existing enterprise software address core company activities. Sales? No sales, no company. ERP? You can apply a thousand clerical workers for all the little things needed to manage resources, or organize information systematically to great benefit.

Second is the fact that markets demand these apps. Let’s take a ride in the time machine back to 2001. In the article, CRM Adoption Continues at an Aggressive Pace, this market growth was noted:

Spending on customer relationship management (CRM) applications will grow to $10.4 billion by the end of 2001, a 167 percent increase from the $3.9 billion spent in 2000, according to a report by eMarketer.

An industry on fire, with sales in the billions, that was started sometime in the mid-1990s, and Siebel Systems was started in 1993. So in the course of just a few years, CRM was a bona fide hit inside businesses. Enterprise 2.0 is at an earlier stage in its industry life cycle, but isn’t currently on track to be the size of the CRM market in the next few years.

This isn’t to say Enterprise 2.0 isn’t finding its footing with its tools focus. As Dion Hinchcliffe writes, there has been a significant pickup in corporations’ implementation of these applications: “Just as importantly, we are also starting to see customers implementing Enterprise 2.0 in scale. These typically include enterprise social networking, wikis, and social CRM.”

Look closely at the three types of implementations: wikis, social networking, and social CRM.

Social CRM?

That’s not part of the Social Software 1.0 canon. Rather social CRM is an example of the next generation of social software. Social Software 2.0.

Social Software 2.0: Addressing Existing Enterprise Workflows

Here’s how I define Social Software 2.0:

The integration of collaboration, increased findability, social networking and crowdsourcing into core enterprise activities requiring defined workflows, specific user sign-offs, results measurement and role-based access.

I’ll admit that comes across as a tall order. But it’s a worthy goal. Check out Ray Wang’s ten elements that define the next generation of enterprise business software solutions for a deeper look at these requirements.

The challenge is figuring out where social benefits traditional processes and systems. In Susan Scrupski’s great presentation, Enterprise 2.0 Demystified, there’s this slide:

Susan Scrupski - E2.0 Demystified

Credit: Susan Scrupski, SoCo Partners

There’s an aspirational component to the graphic. “Social ERP” includes a number of nuts-n-bolts activities that all of us can understand: order tracking, purchase orders, inventory management.

What we don’t yet understand is how social gets in there and improves these processes. But Nenshad Bardoliwalla starts us down that path in his post, Is Enterprise 2.0 a Savior or a Charlatan? In the graphic below, he fills in the white spaces of process flows with instances of social software applications (+ email/IM):

Nenshad - social software fills in process white spaces

The graphic starts to describe the way social software could integrate into existing activities of organizations. But it still leaves some questions. For instance, see that wiki in the Contact Center row, to the right of Campaign Management? It’s linked below to the Sales and Quotation Analysis process.

In Social Software 1.0, that’s a standalone wiki. I’m a fan of the notion that collaboration needs to occur in-the-flow of work. And having a separate wiki for collaborating on a customer quotation analysis makes it tougher to get usage.

In Social Software 2.0, that’s a collaborative space integrated into a sales force automation application. The customer quotation analysis occurs right where all the “action” occurs in the effort to win new business.

Some Examples of Social Software 2.0

With the luxury of a blank blog page, I’ve got the freedom to suggest a few examples where collaboration and crowdsourcing can be more integrated directly into corporate activities.

B2B Sales: The process of pulling together a proposal in the B2B market generally requires involvement of several parties. This is a process screaming for collaboration, visibility, searchability and persistence. It also has deadlines, and sign-offs by executives. Generally, tapping an existing database of customer information is required too. Embedding a wiki-like experience in CRM, along with the deep database access and project dimensions would be valuable.

Procurement: Enterprises buy mountains of things. Inevitably, some of it doesn’t work out as well as expected. As employees order and request items, allow them to rate and comment on existing contracts. By sharing their experiences, employees provide procurement managers with insight into the quality of suppliers. And employees can describe evolving needs. The workflow aspect of this occurs when the crowdsourced rating falls below some threshold, triggering a required review by the procurement manager.

Product Management: If you’ve ever done product management, you know that you’ll receive plenty of individual ideas on what’s needed. Business units, sales, marketing, engineering, customer service…all have strong opinions on what should be included. Putting all these internal constituencies together on a common platform to identify ideas and get crowdsourced input on the most pressing features would be a tremendously helpful. The process would need to include analytics to filter through them, and workflow to flesh out features and get sign-offs. Example: Spigit innovation management.

There are myriad corporate systems and processes where some elements of social can be leveraged to improve operations.

Sameer Patel, in his post Why Process Barfs on Social, includes this tweet by (now former) SAP EVP Zia Yusuf:

@dahowlett blog and wikis will not drive value alone, I think the trick here is to connect “crowd insight” directly into specific bizprocess

And Helpstream CEO Bob Warfield adds this thought:

What we’re lacking is simply a harmonious marriage of these two.  Social should be integrated into specific business processes, perhaps many if not most specific business processes.

What we’re seeing is the natural maturation of an industry. Tools were needed to establish the Enterprise 2.0 field in the first place. Now it’s time to apply these tools, and social computing concepts, to the mainstay activities that drive businesses.

What Form Will Social Software 2.0 Take?

The maturation of the social software industry beyond tools to deeper integration into existing business processes will have parallel development paths:

  • Established enterprise applications will add social elements to their offerings
  • General purpose collaboration and social network providers will develop features addressing specific types of traditional activities
  • Social software platforms focused on delivering value in a specific core business activity

Like most enterprise software markets, there will be room for all three types of offerings. I think it will be hard to dislodge best-of-breed for the biggest systems: ERP and CRM. Those vendors will add social elements as time allows, and nimble small companies will offer plug-ins that supplement their offerings. Most other systems in the enterprise will be up for grabs if there’s a better way.

I’ll close with another quote from Bob Warfield with regard to how the Social Software 2.0 landscape will play out:

No touchy feely stuff allowed.  You can’t just be about making things “better” or “empowering people.”  Passion is great, but call your shot, and if the ball doesn’t go into that pocket, you’ve scratched and forfeit the game.

Would You Manage CRM with a Wiki?

Or human resources with a blog? How about project management with forums?

Funny questions to ask, no doubt. Of course it’s not possible to effectively address many of the critical business functions using basic Enterprise 2.0 tools. Yet when it comes to social software, it often seems that the only game in town is to be a provider of such tools. For instance, Gartner’s Social Software Magic Quadrant requires that vendors have wikis, blogs and forums to be considered (side note – for the record, Spigit has all three social software tools and more).

I am fully on board that there are great opportunities for new types of communication, collaboration and information discovery in these tools. For instance, see my post, Microblogging Will Marginalize Corporate Email.

But there’s an enormous opportunity for applying the ethos and value of  ‘social’, ‘transparency’ and ‘collaboration’ to a wider range of business processes. Key here is not to force specific processes into a general purpose tool, but to bring social software ethos to longstanding enterprise activities.

Hmm…sounds Dachis Group-like (“social business design”), eh?

Activity-Specific Social Applications

In the recent Gartner Social Software Hype Cycle, analyst Anthony Bradley introduced a new category, Activity-Specific Social Applications:

“As social software implementations mature, application patterns are evolving, and the software industry is responding with activity-centric social application offerings rather than with generic social software capability suites. Delivering a targeted social solution with a general purpose social tool (such as wikis and blogs) can involve significant development, configuration, and templating effort.”

Bradley has identified the next opportunity in enterprise social social software. Integrating the valuable characteristics of social software into the in-the-flow activities that make up our days. As a percentage of employees’ time, activity-specific social applications will be quite large.

Back in March 2009, Sameer Patel wrote, don’t confuse Enterprise 2.0 with social computing concepts. He was making this exact point, and included this illustrative diagram:

Credit: Sameer Patel, Span Strategies

Credit: Sameer Patel, Span Strategies

His point is that the left side are tools, whereas the right side are results-based activities. Key here is to create applications aligned with the processes for those activities. That means going deeper than a general purpose tool.

Successful Applications Will Be Designed for Results

So back to the original question. Would you manage CRM with a wiki? Could you? Perhaps there’s a geek hack to do this, but for mainstream business, the answer is ‘no’. Customer relationship management includes:

  • Case management
  • Customer revenue analytics
  • Sales pipeline
  • Individual prospect opportunity workflow
  • And lots of other stuff

It would be really hard to use generic off-the-shelf social software to deliver the above functionality. Yet, going back in time, here’s what was prescribed for CRM success in April 2002:

People [who fail] don’t integrate CRM into the other parts of their business or implement CRM as a stand-alone and don’t have it communicate with core systems. A bigger and more frequent stumbling block is forgetting to address the people issues around a CRM implementation. In almost all of the cases we described earlier, CRM is a behavior modification tool.

There is a need for the “hard” functions that CRM can provide, like case management, campaigns and analytics. But that’s not enough (e.g. see social CRM), and enabling the customer-centric firm seems to require a good bit of what makes Enterprise 2.0 tick: cross-organizational perspectives, contributions from different departments, a more collaborative orientation to an end-goal. Integrate CRM into “other parts of their business”.

Wikis, by themselves, don’t provide the necessary CRM functions that are table stakes to be useful for companies. But CRM platforms could benefit from integrating more social software tools and conventions.

And that’s the case for a lot of the current processes that define companies today. They aren’t going to be addressed by off-the-shelf generic social software tools. But they benefit by incorporation of social software tools.

“Activity-specific social applications”. A few examples:

Dachis Group talks about social business design as “the intentional creation of dynamic and socially calibrated systems, process, and culture.” Indeed, there’s a huge opportunity to apply social software to the multitude of applications and processes that make up organizations, beyond the insertion of standalone generic tools.

Watch this space.

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