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An Open Letter to CRM and Social Media People


Posted by on August 26, 2010

Over the past few months (and perhaps more so over the past few weeks) I’ve noticed a growing tension between the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and the social media folks.  In some instances this has led to direct name calling in public mediums -  which is rather unfortunate.  The advent or evolution of CRM into Social CRM is merging disciplines together; chiefly CRM and social media, this is causing a bit of a clash between the two camps (in my opinion).  Bickering, arguing, name calling, and ignoring one another isn’t going to help anyone.  Many of you might disagree with what I say and some of you might leave me angry comments in the comments section.  I know if I don’t say this nobody else will…

To the social media people:

I understand that you are passionate about social media and have a lot of great ideas on how to do things.  However, it’s very important to understand that CRM is an integral part of how many businesses function and acquire and retain customers.  If you were to ask me 2 years ago I’d tell you I was a social media guy (today I’d like to say I’m somewhere in between).  I’ve developed global social media strategies, presented executive training sessions, spoke at conference, etc.  But I was not at all involved with CRM.  Over the past year I have tried to get as much involved with CRM as I possibly could.  Both from a practical and theoretical standpoint.  There’s A LOT more learning that needs to take place but I can say that what I’ve learned so far about CRM has dramatically improved my understanding of how organizations work and how a social “anything” needs to fit within an organization.  Without an understanding of CRM, I truly believe that many social media efforts are far from being up to par.

Most social media consultants in the world are marketers, content creators, and technology aficionados.  There is A LOT that can be learned from the CRM guys in the world who have been working with these same organizations for over the past 20+ years on building and developing customer engagement strategies and business processes.  The reality is that CRM guys understand how businesses work better than social media guys. I’m sorry but that’s just how it is and the sooner it’s accepted the sooner collaboration can begin.  I’ve witnessed (several times) first hand how social media people discuss social CRM without understanding what CRM even is to begin with – this is not right.  I think for the most part, the social media folks have a far larger public audience and reach more people than most folks in the CRM world which is why I think it’s so important to really help readers understand exactly what some of these topics are and how things really work.

Please work closer with and learn from the amazing CRM guys in the industry.  They have an absolute wealth of knowledge that will make you more effective and valuable to your clients.  Please try to talk to them, respond to their comments (because they bring up some very compelling issues), and try to understand where they are coming from.  Remember they are just as passionate as you are.

To the CRM people

I understand that you have been working with organizations on business process and customer strategy far longer than most social media people have.  However, social media practitioners have a VERY solid (and better) understanding of how to reach customers online in various social channels and how to build these solid customer relationships.  Believe it or not, these same social media guys are the ones running these global social initiatives for virtually every company in the world (that is involved with social media), so many of them clearly understand what they are doing from the social side of things.  Social media guys can actually be a great business resource for CRM guys and vice versa.  CRM guys (and yes gals too) are faced with an interesting challenge of adapting and changing their existing ways of doing things to keep up with the change in customer behavior along with the changes and evolutions of social channels.  I hate to say it but the social media guys understand social channels and how to reach customers far better than most CRM guys; however as I mentioned before, the CRM guys understand businesses processes and strategy (perhaps not so much the tactical side of things on social channels).

I’ll be the first to admit that the CRM group feels a little bit like an “old boys country club” sometimes.  Maybe it’s just me but online it feels like a tightly guarded close knit community of people that really focus on talking to each other.  Hey I’m being honest.  I think the CRM community needs to do a much better job of “opening up” so to speak and to make things a little bit less intimidating.  I learn more from the CRM crowd that I can possibly explain but the learning has always come with its fair share of scrapes and bruises, which I don’t mind at all but perhaps others will find this quite discouraging.  I really respect a lot of the people in the CRM community and the work they all do.  I feel like the CRM community is much more conservative than the social media community and perhaps that causes some sort of tension as well.  The benefit of the social media community not understanding CRM is that they oftentimes can ask questions that really get to the heart of certain issues or perhaps bring up points that CRM guys just didn’t think about before. I know it’s frustrating to see a lot of social media consultants talk about social CRM while neglecting the very foundation of CRM, but it’s not usually out of slight that this happens.

Again, the social media guys are just as passionate as the CRM guys and I think it will become just as important to understand the back end business processes as it will the front end tactical and customer facing execution pieces that many of the social media consultants are so good at.

So that’s my letter to everyone.  Take it as you will.  Perhaps you don’t agree with anything I said but that’s fine.  The whole point of what I’m trying to say is stop bitching and building up this barrier between the two disciplines.  Both CRM and social media professionals need to work together to make this happen so start learning from each other (I’m trying).  It’s not about arguing or name calling or trying to own a piece of a market that isn’t anywhere near maturity.  It’s about a shared understanding and a collaborative business evolution that at the end of the day has the clients best interest in mind.

What say you?  I welcome any discussions below but please refrain from pointless attacking remarks; there is no right or wrong here.

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  • http://themaria.me/ themaria

    wooooo hoooooo! Great post! I literally have nothing better to add. Both are necessary, and both are complementary to each other. However, you can't do one without the other. CRM professionals who ignore social as a valid business endeavor are short-sighted, as are social media folks who think “social media is so revolutionary it doesn't fit into any business process”. In reality, both are solving the same problem in different ways — acquisition and nurturing of customer relationships and experiences.

    However… there are a lot of misconceptions about each group. You called them out exactly as I've been seeing them. And even though these perceptions aren't always true, perception is reality, so there we have it. We need more bridge builders :) We have an opportunity for greatness here, and for doing things right on both fronts.

    Like you, I also hope to be one of these bridge folks that helps the social media world embrace the CRM and business process fundamentals, even though I'm more social than CRM, but I'm trying to learn as much as I can as fast as I can. That was the whole reason I wrote that SCRM article on Mashable, to at least put it out there, hoping that at least people will want to learn more. Let's keep building bridges.

    • http://www.thefutureorganization.com jacobmorgan

      Thanks for the comment and the enthusiastic, don't think I've ever seen someone so happy over a post :) Interesting to hear that you are seeing the same things happening in the space. The bridge building definitely needs to continue, thanks for the comment!

  • Jon Ferrara

    Hey Jacob,

    Nice job summarizing the issues that #CRM & #Social people face. I belive that there is a ton of synergy between these folks and that in the end they can't succeed without each other. What good is getting people all excited about your products with #Social conversations if your can't take action and manage the ongoing #Relationship?

    Keep up the great posts,

    Best Jon

    • http://www.thefutureorganization.com jacobmorgan

      Thanks Jon,

      Always great to hear from you. I'm sure there's quite a bit people can learn from folks such as yourself :)

  • Mike Boysen

    All I can say is I totally agree

    • http://www.thefutureorganization.com jacobmorgan

      Thanks Mike, great to hear from you!

  • http://scorpfromhell.blogspot.com A. Prem Kumar

    Glad to see the cry being reverberated from someone who is coming into Social CRM from the “social” part of it. Its been quite a while since I cried from the CRM side of it. ;)

    To take things farther, lets get some more social media people weigh in here & use it as a neutral ground to begin collaboration. What say? :)

    • http://www.thefutureorganization.com jacobmorgan

      I'm all for it, ironically most if not all of the comments here are coming from CRM people…thanks for stopping by Prem!

  • http://deliverbliss.com Tim Sanchez

    So, you're saying the CRM camp is more business savvy and deserves much more respect, right? Sorry, I stopped reading half-way thru…have to get back to my CRM implementation now.

    :) Good post, always nice to read someone that sees the whole picture…we need more of that.

    • http://www.thefutureorganization.com jacobmorgan

      Haha, I hope that's not how this came across!

  • http://freecrmstrategies.wordpress.com Brian Vellmure

    Nice post Jacob. Very very well said.

    • http://www.thefutureorganization.com jacobmorgan

      thanks brian!

  • http://www.fuze.com Chuck Van Court

    Sorry, but I have to add that both camps spend way too much time pontificating and arguing about theory and not enough time discussing actual execution and specifics on payback that goes beyond intangible benefits that are hard if not impossible to quantify.

    Could you also please stop the hyperbole of pointing to anomaly cases like the united guitar guy in attempts to scare organizations into elevating where “getting social” fits into their critical path.

    Both disciplines are important to business and enough time has passed to now focus more energy on critically evaluating the costs and benefits of real-world executions that are taking advantage of what being “social” can bring to organizations?

    Ok, I am done venting and need to get back to work.

    Chuck

    • robertbacal

      Chuck, that makes sense to me, although social media is not a “discipline”. It's a tool. I'm very much fed up with social media fanatics pushing it as a solution to every problem within every organization. I don't see that in the talk on CRM, but I don't get out much.

      What seems ludicrous is this. What would you think about two carpenters who came to blows because one said: “I'm not using anything but a hammer”, while the other said: “I aint using a hammer. I'm going to use this screwdriver, and you should to?”

      You'd think both were idiots, and you'd be wise to hire neither.

      • http://www.thefutureorganization.com jacobmorgan

        Hi Robert,

        Great analogy there, actually made me chuckle when I read it. I also think that social media is a tool, a set of channels just like any other and oftentimes it's pushed as the solution to anything. “your company is going bankrupt, here use social media” “you need marketing? here use social media.” It's a bit overkill.

    • http://www.thefutureorganization.com jacobmorgan

      Hi Chuck,

      I think you're right and I'm just as guilty of doing so. I think the challenge is trying to go beyond many of the theories and ideas in a relatively new and still somewhat unproven industry (social CRM). I agree it's definitely a bit tiring to hear about the United guy or Dell or many of the same other recycled “case studies” that are thrown about.

      Thanks for stopping by Chuck!

  • http://lithosphere.lithium.com/t5/Building-Community-the-Platform/bg-p/MikeW Michael Wu PhD

    Thanks for posting this. I think it

    • http://www.thefutureorganization.com jacobmorgan

      Thanks Michael (aka Dr. Wu! :) Glad you stopped by!

  • http://martijnlinssen.com Martijn Linssen

    Fine piece Jacob!

    Social CRM is the first “industry” where the twain meet: Enterprise 1.0 and Human 2.0
    In http://www.martijnlinssen.com/2010/07/generatio… I write about all the differences between the two “parties” involved, and the frictions that will give: more than many

    CRM: top-down, company-driven, decades old, legacy, mature
    Social: bottom-up, customer-driven, young and fresh, inexperienced

    And, like you rightfully say, both share an equal amount of passion.

    So, as usual, we have a great and solid basis:
    If we base it on Love, we'll have a very strong, creative team because there are more differences than similarities, where everyone can add value by contributing its own expertise: completing the puzzle
    If we base it on Hate, we'll have a very fierce, destructive battleground because there are more differences than similarities, giving furtile ground for disagreements over agreements: completely puzzling

    You call out for Love – I join you
    Thanks again

    • http://www.thefutureorganization.com jacobmorgan

      Thanks Martin and very well said. I'll have to read that post you mentioned in your comment. Hope to hear more from you in the future, looking forward to some interesting conversations!

  • http://www.spirospiliadis.com/ Spiro Spiliadis

    Hello Jacob,

    First i don't believe you need to apologize, a conversation can get heated and reactions do happen, but I do believe that when you do get reactions your getting some headway.

    Without giving a lecture i think from my observations the common denominator is human element that plays out in both ends. Social asks us to be more dynamic, where crm is more passive.

    There's chaos in scrm, not because of the tools but because of the conversation, so much “social” is going on that it's crm capabilities is not yet grapsed on how to make it a discipline that can be adapted throughout the entire organization.

    Let's be honest, s in relation to crm is managing alot of conversations, “lots of them” and what happens when you have so much chaos is we tend to try and put some order on it, which brings in the understanding that scrm is entirely human enabled, sure there's technology that supports some order, but the meat and potatoes of it is observation skills, making creative sense making, “reading between the lines”

    crm was and will always be about keeping a nice and tidy list of contacts and leads and processes of maintaining that relationship, where social is not that simple, and crm adding the s just threw off alot of people.

    as you mentioned both parties need to come together to share the best practices, that's where we will make a love connection.

    • http://www.thefutureorganization.com jacobmorgan

      Hi Spiro,

      I'm sure there are plenty of CRM folks who would disagree on how you describe CRM, all I can say is that when I first learned about CRM I equated it to nothing more than contact lists and databases but I've come to realize it's much more than that. Thanks for the support and glad you stopped by :)

      • http://www.spirospiliadis.com/ Spiro Spiliadis

        Hi Jacob,

        I don't disagree that “its much more than that” much respect to the crm'ers who dedicate time and effort to knowledge and best practices, Like Prem said, I am coming into this from the social part of scrm, others are coming into it from the crm aspect.

        This almost seems like a “turf war” and much respect to you for being the peacemaker. :)

        • http://www.thefutureorganization.com jacobmorgan

          It certainly does feel a bit like a turf war at times :)

  • http://www.estebankolsky.com Esteban Kolsky

    Jacob,
    (this opinion is not a reflection on you as a person, just a note on what you wrote)

    I think that this letter is an actual disservice to what you are advocating for two reasons:

    1) You are not resolving the issue of divisiveness but digging the wedge deeper. I would've prefer that you did not call the difference, that you acknowledge it existed but instead of calling attention to what is different that you called attention to what is complementary and what works when you put them together. Saying that one group knows one thing and the other one knows the other is not right or true. It is a generalization that grows the difference. I can point to some very intelligent marketers and SM people who totally understand business, and do the same for “CRM People”. Not to mention that pigeonholing people as one of the other is divisive and — well, I don't want to blow it out of proportion. Let's just say that you would've succeeded more if you would've called the similarities than the differences. We are not all different people vying for opposite tasks; we are all people with different skills vying for the same outcome. Don't divide us into camps and try to unite us later – that's not right.

    2) I think you are missing lots of elements in this discussion. CRM and SM are two cogs in a giant wheel that is the Enterprise. You are focusing on these two as if they were the ultimate or only solution and all that you need to know, but the majority of the processes in the enterprise do not pass, heck – don’t even touch, these two areas. You are not trying to bridge a divide, you are ignoring some of the hardest working people I the organization that are neither in CRM nor in SM; as a result you’re expanding the problem. This is a similar behavior to what I have noticed in the last few years when these new-found “Social Gurus” tried to teach enterprises how to operate by focusing on a 1/20th of their operations. You will notice that most of them are no longer around… nor will they come back. Lack of proper perspective will hurt your cause more than it will help it. You should’ve included all operations within the organization, not just CRM and SM.

    All in all, it is a good effort –albeit misguided and not focused on the goal: evolving into a social business does require (as most others have said here) SM and CRM to work together, but also requires much more than you are missing out on.

    • http://www.thefutureorganization.com jacobmorgan

      Glad to hear it's not reflection of me as a person and I always welcome your thoughts. I hear what you are saying and I actually have a post in mind that does talk about the similarities between the two areas of practice. Of course I can also point to some people that understand things outside of their field of practice but I wouldn't say this is always common. The post was just an observation of what I have seen, perhaps you don't see the same things happening but in my conversations and observations this is exactly what I see going on. I wasn't trying to divide anyone into camps or solve any problems in this post – I was actually trying to say that both social media and CRM people have very complimentary skill sets and that both would benefit by working together more closely perhaps this didn't come through as clearly as I had wanted as you didn't interpret it that way. This is all just opinion.

      Of course there are many elements that come into play here but if my background is in painting I'm not going to tell you or suggest how you should be building the house. I only speak to the things I see in the various fields that I'm involved in. Of course an enterprise has many things and pieces that all need to work together but I'm not suggesting that CRM and social media are
      the global panacea for solving business problems. The post is just meant to be an observation on how people with various backgrounds are interacting with one another. Perhaps it's not applicable to the entire industry but it's just my honest opinion. I definitely can't speak to
      ALL operations within an organization and I actually don't know anyone who can.

      I do agree that there is a lot more that needs to happen but again this was just a focus on the two communities or areas that I happen to be involved in and perhaps I should have talked about similarities more emphatically.

      Thanks for your comment and for the advice!

  • http://elevenfourteen.com 1114organic

    Hey Jacob,

    You said it very well. Everyone takes pride in their work and wants to have value. Your article points out how both the CRM and Social Media worlds need to meet in the middle and realize that both have value to add to a customer and their community. If you are looking to learn more about CRM – specifically Microsoft CRM – that's what I work with – here are some good people to follow @crmlarry, @crmlady, @tekoppele, @edwardsdna @ScottSewell

    Thanks for always putting out great content,
    Robert

    • http://www.thefutureorganization.com jacobmorgan

      Hi Robert,

      Thanks for stopping by and recommending some additional folks to follow.

      • http://elevenfourteen.com 1114organic

        A bit off topic but thank you for engaging your readers in a discussion. Surprising to me, I am seeing more and more bloggers treating this forum as a one way conversation. Thank you

        • http://www.thefutureorganization.com jacobmorgan

          but of course, and thanks to you for reading :)

  • http://www.mwthomasscrm.com/ Michael W Thomas

    As Eddie in Barbershop would say, “You know, this ain't nothin' but healthy conversation, that's all.”

    I wonder what the companies who are trying to get their arms around “Social CRM” are thinking when they see this sentiment.

    Our collective letter to them should be there needs to be a careful blend of both tailored for your company's specific needs. Let us not debate amongst ourselves but “Listen” to your needs and work on the best blend for your company's strategic initiatives.
    With that said there has to be a firm foundation of traditional CRM and some internal as well as external culture of Social Media needed to make it all work.

    Specific case studies where Social CRM have been successfully implemented with ROI results notating Social CRM practices.

    Regardless of what imaginary side there may seem to be you cannot apply CRM strategies without a Social Media component and you cannot have a Social Media discussion without a CRM component.

    At the end we all want better and profitable relationships with the Social Audience and of course each other:-)

    • http://www.thefutureorganization.com jacobmorgan

      Hi Michael,

      I think that's what Esteban was getting at in his comment above and it makes complete sense to me. Thanks for stopping by!

  • http://www.tanishaadjo.wordpress.com Tanisha Adjokatcher

    Thank you for posting this it really shows how socila media is taking over the industry of the world.

    • http://www.thefutureorganization.com jacobmorgan

      You are welcome

  • Blake

    Jacob

    Whether you are doing a service or a disservice to the CRM and Social Media communities is not my concern. I think maybe three people in our entire industry are making a pretty mint off this stuff. And I think the proof is in the numbers. If we were doing a better job of communicating this incredible business challenge, and the solutions offered, together we would all be laughing our way to the bank.

    But as it stands…none of us are laughing. We are yelling at each other…

    Aside from the commonly referenced case studies (Comcast, Zappos, P&G (#fail) and Dell) we don't have practitioners sharing social crm attempts/failures, successes. That is what needs to happen. It's not about us as thought leaders. It's about the fact that there is a health crisis in this country.

    What I am concerned about is we don't have case studies–and we don't seem to be that focused on the ailing organizations. We are more focused on which bloggers are cool and which are not. Which thought leaders have a savvier way to sum up this whole social CRM concept and which thought leaders are lame.

    Organizations are very sick and need to get healthy. The people leading them can't see that and don't know what specific treatment will work for their business.

    We need more action and less philosophizing among each other. Reminds me of a quote from a Richard Linklater movie “Waking Life.”

    A gang of philosophers are walking the streets and saying philosophical one-liners. They see an old man who was on a telephone pole for no apparent reason. One of the gang comments “he’s no worse than us; he’s all action and no theory, and we’re all theory and no action.”

    Is it more important that we organize ourselves into pretty, clearly-defined boxes? Or to get in the trenches and help ailing orgs?

    A closed mind is a good thing to lose.

    You have the opposite. A solid mind, a natural teacher and writer.

    Keep up the good writing Jacob. You are going to be one of the key people who change this industry.

    • http://www.thefutureorganization.com jacobmorgan

      thanks for the kind words and very well said! I think we will start to see more sharing in the near future (I hope). I think a challenge is that the industry is being pulled instead of being pushed by clients that actually want these “solutions.” People (myself included) talk about social crm but the reality is that that most companies in the world aren't there yet. We're just at the tip of the iceberg so to speak so we don't have a lot of specific case studies and methodologies that are out there yet. So we see ideas but not enough action. I think this will change soon.

      thanks for stopping by!

  • http://www.jesushoyos.com/ Jesus Hoyos

    Jacob, you can take out “social media” in your post a use “call center” or “marketing” – we still have the same issue no matter what. We need more posts like yours to bring social media and CRM together in communities and organizations.

    • http://www.thefutureorganization.com jacobmorgan

      Hi Jesus!

      Always good to hear from you and you make a very solid point, these types of things are not unique to any 2 fields of practice.

      thanks for stopping by!

  • robertbacal

    Interesting. CRM and “social media” are not of the same “thing” so clashes would be kind of meaningless. Social media, at least to me, refers to a set of tools. CRM, refers to a process within which one uses different tools. Different.

    • http://www.thefutureorganization.com jacobmorgan

      Hi Robert,

      Clashes are definitely meaningless, need to work closer together.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • http://pop-pr.blogspot.com Jeremy Pepper

    Have you actually ever worked in a CRM capacity?

    • http://www.thefutureorganization.com jacobmorgan

      yep, although my background is NOT in CRM

      • http://pop-pr.blogspot.com Jeremy Pepper

        I guess I should have been clearer in my comment: have you ever manned the phones in a call center, been at the front lines?

        The talk of #scrm amuses me. It's overused and usually misunderstood – if understood at all – by SM people and others. And the term is being diluted and will soon mean nothing beyond a buzzword, like “enterprise” has become.

        • http://twitter.com/tewksbum Marcus Tewksbury

          So… CRM = call center? Interesting.

          • http://pop-pr.blogspot.com Jeremy Pepper

            It's one of the things in CRM – and heck, I'll even call it SCRM because on the phone is social. As are customer service chats, and the multitude of online forums for companies.

          • Blake

            CRM does not = call center. The people who purchase CRM technology often never step foot in the call center. The call center people could give two **ts about the technology, they “just want it to work” (as told to me by countless call center directors).

          • http://pop-pr.blogspot.com Jeremy Pepper

            I guess I've been lucky to work with good CS departments, then.

  • http://twitter.com/tewksbum Marcus Tewksbury

    Not to minimize the positions, but to me it seems entirely a matter of semantics… and people with half the facts but “complete” opinions. That and the general human nature of the math geeks hating the creatives and vice versa.

    “Social CRM”, “Content Marketing”, “Engagement Marketing”, “1:1″, can anyone differentiate this terms for me? I'm not sure I can!

    • http://www.thefutureorganization.com jacobmorgan

      Hi Marcus,

      I don't think it's necessarily a matter of semantics yet as the disciplines are still quite unique from one another but we are starting to see the convergence happen rather quickly. I see your point though, it does seem a bit like we are talking about the same thing albeit using different terms.

      thanks for the comment!

  • Ray Brown

    Hi Jacob Thanks for the gutsy post. I'd make two points. One, there are other customer focussed folks doing great work under the banners of Customer Experience and Business Process Improvement. Everyone is working for the same end, longer, better and more profitable relationships with customers. I agree with Blake that we need many more “coal face” stories from the guys who are out there trying to make things happen. The second point is that the world is a fast changing place and it's maybe more about realising that our “toolbox” is only half full rather than arguing about which tool is superior or the most appropriate.

  • http://twitter.com/saintgoldie Goldie Davich

    maybe just say PEEPS instead of “guys” (and then don't point out you are also talking about gals – came off kinda rude)

  • Wu Jianrong

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  • Wu Jianrong

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