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Social CRM Evolution vs. Mobile CRM Revolution

By Christopher J. Bucholtz CRM Buyer ECT News Network
Jul 13, 2012 5:00 AM PT

CRM technology -- along with the way we use it -- is going through an interesting patch of development right now. In part because mobile devices are now delivering on their potential, there's a renewed vigor around mobile CRM. At the same time, because the case for social media's permanent status as a critically important component of how we deal with customers, social CRM continues to gain attention and energy.

Social CRM Evolution vs. Mobile CRM Revolution

There's a lot written about the convergence of these two trends, and I agree that together they are far more powerful than if they had evolved sequentially. But I also think that social and mobile represent different things -- and that may help CRM users prioritize their investments around them.

Getting Mobile Right

Mobile CRM is an evolutionary step. It takes what we've been doing in CRM and moves it out of the office and into the field, but it doesn't change the nature of CRM or the tasks that CRM users need to carry out to make CRM work.

It changes who inside the business is affected by CRM -- field service personnel, for instance -- but it doesn't change the nature of the data you track or the signals from customers you need to track.

Social CRM is revolutionary; it signals an entirely new volume of data that you need to track, which requires changes to the way you think about your customers and the people in your company who deal with them. It also forces you into dealing with conversations with the customer, the nature and volume of which you may have never imagined.

That's why CRM vendors right now are working so hard to get mobile right -- of the two it is the easiest to comprehend and the quickest route to revenue. Talking to executives at the CRM vendors, it's clear that many CRM buyers are excited about social, but they make buying decisions based on mobile.

Social is an item on the checklist, but it's not there because most buyers have social CRM strategies just waiting for a technology. Instead, businesses are buying CRM that has social capabilities, then hoping to gain clarity around a social CRM strategy that can utilize those capabilities.

That seems like a hazardous approach, but it actually makes some sense -- especially if you realize that the vendors are all feeling their way toward delivering social CRM capabilities too.

CRM Psychology

But mobile is different. As one vendor's CTO said, "social opens the door to a sale, and mobile closes it." Mobile is far easier to get your head around. You know CRM? Well, this is CRM on a mobile device. Concept successfully transmitted.

Besides being easy to understand, mobile confers other advantages on a CRM implementation. For example, adoption is the great killer of CRM investments, but coupling mobile CRM with the trend toward "bring your own device" (BYOD) mobile strategies now delivers CRM to salespeople on devices of their choosing.

This is a major psychological change in how CRM is perceived; instead of the application salespeople are forced to sit in front of at the end of the day, it's something they can use right in the field in near real-time on the device of their choosing -- and it can deliver data useful in selling when and where the salesperson needs it.

The "what's in it for me?" question for the salesperson is answered much more quickly, and adoption rates increase as a result.

Taking Flight

Security concerns are increasingly fading as vendors attack that area of resistance, and the result will be a mobile CRM boom in the near future. The only downside of that is that the social CRM revolution may lose energy as the mobile CRM evolution produces results.

Those results are important, but they shouldn't keep your business from moving forward with exploration of a social CRM strategy as well.

Mobile is like a new freeway that you can speed down toward your goals, but social is like an airplane; it requires different thinking, strategic changes to the organization and a new way of viewing the process of going from opportunity to sale. As promising as mobile may be, it's smart not to skip one of the trips.

CRM Buyer columnist Chris Bucholtz blogs about CRM at the CRM Outsiders. He has been a technology journalist for 17 years and has immersed himself in the world of CRM since 2006. When he's not wearing his business and technology geek hat, he's wearing his airplane geek hat; he's written three books on World War II aviation.

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