What About the Physical Channel?

Editor’s Note: To kick off our blog, we thought it would be appropriate to publish a couple of posts that were written earlier this year by our CEO, Anthony Nemelka, as he was joining us at Teleplace.  These posts were originally published on Esteban Kolsky’s blog, “crm intelligence & strategy“.  You can find the first post here.  Here’s the second post…

In my earlier blog post, I asserted that in order to really transform how businesses operate, social business collaboration faces one more big challenge. I called it “The Last Mile of Social Collaboration” and described it as follows:

“At the end of the day, business is all about getting the right stuff done. If the right work doesn’t get done, you really haven’t accomplished anything–whether it’s shipping a product, closing a sale, or fixing a bug. Making sure the most important work actually gets done is the biggest challenge for social business today. It’s the “last mile” in enabling social collaboration to transform the way businesses operate.”

After coming to this conclusion several months ago, I began to think about the skills, processes, and technologies needed to pull this off. Somewhere in the back of my head I kept hearing two voices. One was the voice of that delightful Yankees fan (yes, I know that’s an oxymoron), Paul Greenberg, who time and again has pointed out to all of us that the social part of CRM is all about engagement—engaging with the customer on his or her terms. The second voice I kept hearing was that of my Argentinean friend, Esteban Kolsky, the esteemed host of the crm intelligence & strategy blog. Esteban’s voice kept drilling into my head that online social collaboration is nothing more than a channel for CRM, not a replacement for CRM. To do CRM right you need to be effective across all channels, not just the so-called social channel.

(See, Paul and Esteban, I do listen to you guys, despite being a Dodgers fan—God help me–and preferring Chinese over Spanish)

These two critical insights led me to wonder that if the social side of CRM is all about engagement, and online social collaboration is simply one channel for that engagement, what’s going to happen to the physical channel?  You know, that’s the face-to-face, voice-to-voice channel that in the old days was considered the only social channel. Somehow we’ve forgotten all about that channel, yet it’s the one that defines what it means to be social.

Is the physical channel doomed to extinction, permanently replaced by Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Wikipedia, YouTube, and Sharepoint? Are we going to find a way to integrate the physical channel with what we describe as social business? Or are we destined to abandon the very core of what it means to be social—live face-to-face interaction?

The answer lies in a comment made by @CobraA1 (whoever he/she is—how social is that?!?) in response to one of Paul Greenberg’s recent posts:

“The best CRM is a friendly smile and a great attitude.”

Wow, @CobraA1 is a genius!  And if he/she is correct, then the physical channel is alive and well. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that as long as we’re human it will always be the primary channel.

So what does all this mean, and how does it relate to the questions I posed in my previous post?  Where is all this social business collaboration activity taking us, and how are we going to address The Last Mile of Social Collaboration?

I believe the answer lies in going back to the roots of what it means to be social and applying some proven tools for effective management. From a methodology point of view, that means

  1. enabling face-to-face engagement,
  2. embracing and extending physical means of communication,
  3. integrating online social collaboration with how people work in the physical world,
  4. modifying how people interact with existing computer systems and business processes, and
  5. making it possible to constantly deliver “a friendly smile and a great attitude.”

From a technology point of view, by far the most promising technology I’ve come across that’s capable of addressing each of these requirements is commonly referred to as immersive technology. The goal of immersive technology is to pull people into virtual environments that mimic the physical environment they’re accustomed to. And, after spending a lot of time looking into it, I believe we’re on the cusp of seeing immersive technology do for business what James Cameron’s “Avatar” did for the movies. We’re about to enter a whole new world. If you want to begin to understand what that world will look like, I strongly recommend reading Rainbows End, by Vernor Vinge. This book has quickly become the blueprint for immersive technology innovation by companies around the world (and will forever change the way you think about your retirement).

After reading this book you’ll easily understand why I’ve decided that my next big venture will be in the immersive technology space. And today I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve accepted the position of President and CEO of Teleplace (www.teleplace.com), one of the leading immersive technology vendors in Silicon Valley. Together with other immersive technology companies like Proton Media, VenueGen, On24, and others, Teleplace has been quietly engineering the underlying technology required to enable large enterprises—both in the commercial and public sectors—realize the efficiency and effectiveness gains derived from integrating immersive technology with the people, processes, and technologies they depend on to effectively run their organizations.

As a veteran of the social business software community, my vision—and passion—is to apply this same technology to the challenge of bridging “the last mile” of social business collaboration, enabling enterprises of all shapes and sizes completely transform the way they do business and deliver “a friendly smile and a great attitude “ to every customer they serve. Thank you @CobraA1, whoever you are.

Yes indeed, it’s great to be back!

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One Response to What About the Physical Channel?

  1. Soumya says:

    I really liked and agree with Esteban’s definition that online social collaboration is nothing more than a channel for CRM, not a replacement for CRM. I also agree that all CRM = engagement. It is my belief that social CRM will enhance the physical channels of CRM. Social channels will add more quality, and reduce the number of physical meetings.
    I would like to add one more point to your 5 point methodology:
    companies that listen, respond and provide appropriate social channels will find the other 5 pieces of the methodology automatically fall into place.

    thanks for the great and highly relevant article.

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