Esteban Kolsky: an interview about Social CRM

Mr. Kolsky, first of all I’d like to thank you for your availability. This is, for me, the chance to learn more about the committing and fascinating SCRM topic and to share your important considerations on my blog.

After reading many posts and articles dealing with the definition of Social CRM, I came to the personal conclusion that the real object of the discussion is often the Social Relationship Management that, as Brian Solis says in his book “Engage”, incorporates the social components of CRM (Customer Relationship Management), PRM (Partner Relationship Management) and ERM (Employee Relationship Management or as I see it Enterprise 2.0), and whose final aim, in the long term, is to build a new concept of enterprise which will work creating a strong and osmotic engagement with its stakeholders and operating cross-functionally to all organization levels and processes.

What do you think about this topic before closing the discussion about it as Paul Greenberg did on his ZDnet post?

    I think that the term is a little over-hyped, but is taking hold in the market – which we needed.  However, I don’t see SCRM any better than e-CRM or m-CRM as we tried to call it when we added electronic or mobile channels to it.  There is more to it than the mere name.  I think that Paul Greenberg did a spectacular job setting a name so we could stop arguing about it, but he did even better by setting the parameters for the discussion –  it is about the conversation changing, and about the customer getting more power in the relationship.  Those are the items we are talking about, whether we call it SCRM or Sally-the-pig makes no difference. 

How do you believe the three components of traditional CRM (operational, collaborative and analytical) will be impacted by the “social” evolution?

    We are simply adding another layer to the traditional CRM.  Social is about conversations, feelings, emotions – and communities.  We are adding to CRM the ability to become community-minded or community-centric.  The customer changed the way they interact with the organization from a one-to-one relationship (traditional CRM considers one customer, one role, one persona) to a one-to-many-to-one relationship (where the community is the many and the customer has many roles, many personas).  This shift in the relationship pattern makes CRM outdated, so the data model needs to expand to consider these communities and the roles that customers play in them.  That extension is what social brings in addition to operational, and analytical CRM. 

Which will be, in your opinion, the mandatory features of a Social CRM tool considering each aforementioned component?

    I have recently written a blog post where I describe that in detail (link: and will continue to explore the issue in my blog in the next few weeks.  In essence, and you can read the details in my blog, we are talking about four layers to the stack: communities, analytics, actionable layer unit (a layer I am working on naming, defining), and connectors to systems of record (CRM, ERP, SCM, etc. – most of the corporate data repositories and collaboration tools in place).

In my professional experience I dealt with Analytical CRM projects so I’m really interested in the evolution of this sector. How do you think will change predictive data mining process and approach in the social era?

    This is a very interesting question since we have seen so much progress in recent years in the field of analytics and BI (business intelligence).  The way I see it, Social brings another modality of data to be analyzed, and another set of results.  Until now we had demographic (customer identifying) information we collected on customers, and then we added attitudinal (what are their beliefs, usually collected via surveys) data and behavioral (what are they doing, usually collected via operational CRM and other operational systems).  The new set of data, sentimental (referring to their sentiments and emotions), bring a measure of how they feel about a specific item, product, or service to the forefront.  While there is a lot of debate over the validity of measuring sentiment (I don’t think is a valid scientific metric, but assists to understand how other metrics may apply) it certainly rounds up the rest of the information we collected.  It makes it very interesting to see who the customer is, what they do, what they think, and how they feel about a specific topic.  Aggregating this data brings an immense amount of value to the table, and I am very excited to see this coming together. 

Where would you place a social CRM team in the organization chart? Which roles, responsibilities and functional dependencies do you see inside it?

    This is a very complex question to answer; there is not a single good answer that applies to everyone.  Just as we did with CRM, I believe that SCRM needs to have an executive sponsor (I would prefer to have a chief customer officer – or even better, the entire executive team behind it), and be composed of several stakeholders that will be affected by it.  Noting that SCRM extends beyond the traditional roles for CRM (Sales, Marketing, Customer Service) by virtue of the insights collected, the stakeholder team is due to grow in size.  Of course, considering there is going to be tools to add to the equation, IT must be included from very early on in the team as well.  This cross-function and across-the-business team will be the one leading the strategy for the organization.  Contrary to popular beliefs, I don’t see SCRM (or CRM for that matter) as “owned” by any particular person or business unit.  I wrote more about this here: 

Lots of people are concerned with the past failures of some important CRM projects and look at the SCRM with prudence. They think that the best approach to put into action a SCRM strategy is a modular one (separate blocks like e-reputation management, social media and buzz marketing, brand community, feedback management, etc. to implement according to the company needs). Do you agree? If yes which blocks do you consider having more priority?

    I agree with your statement about concern, and your statement about the piecemeal approach to deploying SCRM.  After all, it was the model that proved successful when implementing CRM initially.  I also think that SCRM is going to go down the same route: little by little, based on company needs.  As for the prioritization – same as I said before in a couple of occasions, there is no best way to do it – this is done based on the company pain points, the company’s needs, and the company’s strategy.  Each organization will create their own battle plan based on their needs and requirements; it would be imprudent to recommend a specific order. 

Finally, can you give your considerations on social metrics and the importance of going beyond ROI?

    They are necessary.  Seriously, there are going to be very different metrics we need to consider and understand to measure Social –  and we don’t know what they are yet.  Sure, we can extend the traditional metrics we use elsewhere (efficiency metrics like number of impression, number of mentions, number of – well everything, and effectiveness metrics like timely delivery, satisfaction, loyalty, and similar) but they are not going to be applicable once we get going and understand better what we are talking about.  Social is going to require a whole new set of metrics to measure the behaviors, the results, and the initiatives – and those metrics will need to be correlated to traditional KPI (key performance indicators) that the organization follows to understand how things are working.  I think we will see Social Metrics evolve over the next few months (6-18 months) as some of the programs being implemented become more mature and can make effective assessments on the validity and correlation of certain metrics.

Original Interview made by Andrea Incalza -