Rotman, Microsoft team up on social CRM education

One of Canada’s best-known business schools has formed a partnership with Microsoft Canada Inc. to fund research and develop courses on developing business strategies and integrating social media with customer relationship management software.

The Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto this week announced the Rotman Executive Programs Centre for CRM Excellence, which will kick off with a three-day course on CRM in November. There course will have an emphasis on “social CRM,” or using bringing in data from social media platforms into the CRM tools that companies use to better manage relationships with their customers.

Dilip Soman, who holds the Corus Chair in Communications Strategy and is a professor of marketing at Rotman, described the centre as a lab of sorts which will not only provide education but cultivate a community of professionals who demonstrate CRM expertise.

“The first thing we’d like for the centre to do is pull together everything we know about social CRM from the people who don’t always talk to each other – academics, folks in the business and so on. Even in academia, we have folks in strategy, computing, et cetera. It’s about getting all the right research and people into a conversation.”

Social CRM is a critical area, said Soman, because it reflects what experts at Rotman and elsewhere have been saying for years about people acting as complex social organizations. Those social interactions have already had an impact on areas such as behavioural economics, he said.

“People have goals, different motivations, sometimes irrational thought processes,” he said. “If you don’t really listen to them, it’s hard to stay on top of the marketing game. That’s why you can use social media as a listening device.”

Microsoft Canada CRM lead Frank Falcone said the software vendor will tap into its focus groups to help identify topic areas of interest to executives and contribute “the intelligence behind the courseware” that may be rolled out through the centre. The goal is to build a board of advisors who will contribute content, ideas and time to CRM-related research.

“A lot of our customers and partners are trying to bridge CRM and social media. There’s potential data where it has only has so much value if it lives in a social media. If we could inject that (into CRM), you could finally get a true 360 degree view of the customer. It also becomes more of a two-way conversation.”

While CRM technology has been associated with high failure rates and misspent dollars, Soman said the tide is shifting as adoption becomes more mature. The first goal of CRM was to automate processes, but the second was to access transactional and behavioural data.

“We tended to focus on the first area and ignore the second,” he said. “We weren’t spending as much time asking basic questions like, ‘Is this the right data?’ A lot of people thought of CRM as this magic wand.” It doesn’t work without the culture being there, without the marketing programs being in place.”

Falcone said Microsoft may also fund some of the centre’s research. The partners have also been reaching out to organizations such as the Canadian Professional Sales Association, which he said may let those who take courses through the centre use it as credits towards professional accreditation.

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