Crowdsourcing - Customer Relationship Management

Over the past three years, the wisdom of the crowd added frameworks and structure and has become crowd sourcing. This is a business model that takes something that an expert was typically hired to do and outsources it to a group or the general population with the assumption that the cream will rise to the top. In effect, this is mass collaboration. I’ll be bringing it back home in the discussions later on social networks and strategy.

For example, in the past, high quality photographs were taken by professional photographers. They were very expensive to license often thousands of dollars for key photos to keep them royalty free. Now you can go to There you’ll find hundreds of thousands of royalty-free photos uploaded by an amorphous mass of professional and amateur photographers who are adhering to the iStockphoto terms of service. The pix, which I’ve used for several presentations, are bought with prepaid credits. When a purchase is made, the photo’s (or video’s) owner gets a royalty. There are several ways to assure the quality of the photo, including downloading watermarked comps to see what they look like and, of course, standards that iStockphoto expects of their photographers, mateur or professional. What you have is a marketplace that is available to people who ordinarily wouldn’t have had the chance to break into this kind of closed market. The quality of the photos is good because it’s in the interest of the provider that they be good. Their price is cheap because of the incredibly large numbers millions of photos available. This is crowd sourcing the way it is supposed to work.

But we’re going to concentrate on wikis. Prior to the invention of wikis, there were whiteboards both digital and (with Sharpies) analog. But wikis are quite different and are built from the idea of ground-up crowdsourcing. Wikis answer the question of how to capture the wisdom of the masses. They are a social media tool that is based on collaboration, whether collaboration among total strangers (Wikipedia) or specifically designated communities (CRM 2.0 Wiki) or employee-based (Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein).

You all know the story of Wikipedia, so I’ll just mention the numbers as of April 2008 so you can see how incredibly important wikis and crowdsourcing can be. Wikipedia attracts 683 million visitors annually. It has over 10 million articles in 253 languages, comprising a combined total of over 1.74 billion words combined.Even more recently in August, 2009, the English Wikipedia had 2, 982, 662 articles. Staggering. The greatest compendium of human knowledge probably ever produced.

The first question that comes to mind for you tech-savvy older readers is, I presume, why wikis? What does a wiki do that makes it so important? The second question is how does a wiki workie with Social CRM? Finally, I’m sure you all want me to prove it with some stories.

Why Wikis? A Conversation with Ross Mayfield
Ross Mayfield, who, you will hear more from at the end of this chapter, had a chat with me that was exceptionally enlightening. He identified the larger trends that are leading to the success of wikis.

There are a lot of converging trends that make this a very good value proposition. The cost of forming new groups is falling to zero. Where it used to require expensive infrastructure, the tools that are available to consumers and, to some extent, the enterprise make the cost almost nothing. The cost of publishing is almost zero too.

But what makes this particularly cogent, is also a massive demographic shift. The Net Generation is already in the workforce for the last one to two years and the older generation is leaving the workforce. The Net Generation has consumer interests that border on activism. That makes these tools and their cost even more interesting.

This is leading to a transparency of customer thinking too. The quality of interactions is improving;the edge of this is the extranet of customer/partner. In fact we’re seeing business development, vendor management and supply chain management being impacted by this transparency. Conversations turn into content and best practices.

Just Plain Wikis:Simplicity Is the Norm
The plainer the better when it comes to a wiki. Think of it this way. You have an editable digital white space with rules and edit tracking that can be accessed by anyone or in the enterprise, by anyone you want to access it. You can do what you want on that white space. It’s pretty much got a text editor with Word-like tools, though not nearly as deep. It’s got the ability to embed rich media such as audio or video or photos. In the enterprise, the wiki can be controlled by administrators who can open it or limit it as they please and can integrate it with multiple systems, including CRM. Anyone who participates can, if permitted, edit the entries of anyone else who participates.

That’s the easy way to look at it.

Here’s what one looks like. This is my CRM 2.0 wiki that’s been used by the industry to define Social CRM. It’s powered by PBworks, an excellent hosted wiki service. A couple of screenshots should give you the flavor.

Social-Crm wiki home page

The Social CRM wiki home page

Now a comment page that shows a bit of the ongoing discussion on Social CRM.Now let’s piece it all together and see a diagram, courtesy of Socialtext, that actually shows you what a wiki does with some actual explanation.

Social CRM + Wikis=Collaborative Knowledge, Customer Support
While wikis clearly have value when it comes to both internal and externalcollaboration and can lead to inventive solutions, how can they work in the more traditional realm of CRM? Ross Mayfield, who is not only the founder of Socialtext, our Superstah! winner in this chapter, but a true thought-leader in social media, didn’t hesitate when he had to answer the question:“It can create a participatory knowledge base for service and support organizations.

The CRM 2.0 wiki discussion on Social CRM:A comment pagediscussion on Social CRM:A comment page

This is what you can actually do with a wiki(source:Socialtext)

For example, Microstrategy, one of the few surviving independent business intelligence vendors, uses their site to showcase their IVR products. There is an IVR wiki on the site whose stated raison d’être is “When we set out to create a website to publish and share best practices it was high on our mind that we don’t have all the answers. In fact, we’re here to learn from others. So we decided to create this wiki, where each webpage can be modified by anybody. That way, we hope we can support the community of people involved with voice automation.”

This means that creating IVR solutions or solving IVR-related problems is not just in the hands of technical support but involves the members of the community who might be partners, suppliers, vendors, representatives of the phone carriers, or, best of all, most of the time, customers.

By looking at Figure, you can see what’s being worked on. Among the types of things that this wiki has been successful at incorporating are:

  • Documents as works in progress
  • Conversations among the various IVR community
    The IVR wiki (Source:Socialtext)
  • Meeting agendas
  • Project plans

The value to Microstrategy is incredible because of the concrete and always dynamic information contributed by external resources who have some expertise in IVR or who have been involved in fixing a problem. Best practices are available to all comers. Additionally, it fosters a spirit of “we’re working together to solve this, ”and that spirit goes a long way toward reducing the anxieties that customer service issues cause and increasing the bond among the participants.

This constitutes a social benefit for CRM strategy. But there are also some benefits to integrating the wiki information with your traditional CRM system applications and even your traditional CRM roles.

Ross Mayfield mentioned collaborative intelligence as a CRM benefit in our discussion, which means he really gets how wikis and CRM work:“Marketing gets the opportunity, when using a wiki, to communicate with field sales and get immediate feedback. This means that there is shared learning with customers and prospects. The field sales rep is the customer interface and the wiki captures the information.”

But this isn’t the only benefit that companies derive. When a business has an extensive customer support operation, wikis allow them to capture and integrate the approaches they’ve taken to solve customer problems. As a particular problem is solved and then as the solution is continually refined by multiple customer service representatives (CSRs), they are able to update and revise the solution without massive procedural, technical, or administrative issues in the way.

Integration with CRM Systems
While these are cool, very 2.0ish features, there are still a lot of traditional CRM systems around with a great deal of sunken investment. Does using a wiki mean that the operational CRM systems have to be replaced by something newer and more contemporary?

Absolutely not. There have been wiki and issue tracking systems based on wiki sites integrating with CRM systems such as Siebel, Oracle, NetSuite,, and at least one instance of SugarCRM. All that I’ve found have been done with Atlassian’s Confluence wiki system and their JIRA issue tracking systems, which makes Atlassian a shortlisted choice if you’re looking at enterprise-grade wiki platforms.

In fact, Vtiger CRM has a JIRA and Confluence plug-in that integrates the Vtiger (owned by the stalwart fellows at Zoho) CRM customer data and customer communications (such as e-mail, phone, and audio logs of the phone calls) with the various Atlassian products. It can pass the CRM data such as names, e-mail addresses, phone numbers, and titles in other words the basic fields to the wiki. While not highly sophisticated, it is a proof of concept that wikis and traditional CRM data can be integrated.

The Trouble with Wikis
That doesn’t mean that wikis have no issues and are the ideal collaborative workspace all the time, always driven by innovation and good will. There are a significant number of human factors that have little to do with wiki technology and more to do with human resistance to change. Some of what constitutes trouble is just ordinary human behavior;some is unfamiliarity with the technology;some of it can be related to the corporate culture and this new form of collaboration.

Here are some of the typical problems that you run into with a wiki in a corporate environment especially when you allow customers to participate in the project.

Participation Inequality
Jakob Nielsen, the web interface design guru, now a Microsoft UI lead, wrote an article in October 2006 entitled, “Participation Inequality: Encouraging More Users to Contribute” Nielsen claimed that in studies done on multiuser communities and social networks, including wikis in this category, you consistently find a ratio that’s now called the “90-9-1” ratio.

  • 90% of users are lurkers the ones who mostly read you know, like you. Hey!I didn’t say stalkers. We all lurk.

  • 9% of users contribute from time to time, but other priorities dominate their time.

  • 1% of users participate a lot and account for most contributions:The way Nielsen put it was, “It can seem as if they don’t have lives because they often post just minutes after whatever event they’re commenting on occurs.”That’s pretty much everyone on Twitter.

Needless to say, should this be entirely true, the wiki contributions are going to be disproportionately those of the 1 percent. Despite the numbers that seem to validate this, it’s a somewhat flawed idea. For example, the most often quoted case is Wikipedia. Jimmy Wales, the creator of Wikipedia, once said that 50 percent of the edits were done by 0.7 percent of the people. But with a deeper dive, in his (wiki) article, “Who Writes Wikipedia?” Aaron Swartz writes:

When you put it all together, the story become clear:an outsider makes one edit to add a chunk of information, then insiders make several edits tweaking and reformatting it. In addition, insiders rack up thousands of edits doing things like changing the name of a category across the entire site the kind of thing only insiders deeply care about. As a result, insiders account for the vast majority of the edits. But it’s the outsiders who provide nearly all of the content.

So this shouldn’t be taken at face value. While the rule of thumb does hold in a surprisingly large number of cases with social networks and user communities (which also define a wiki), it can be changed with a deeper knowledge of what you’re doing and some smart adoption practices, which I’ll go into below.

Always the Culture
Top-down cultures still predominate in the enterprise world. Wikis are truly bottom-up. The most enthusiastic users are usually not managers, but staff employees. This creates the issues that you would expect. Managers want control. Cowboys want to dominate the wiki use. As we have stated throughout the book, we are seeing a Gen Y move into the workforce, and they are expecting collaboration tools like this to be part of what their employers are offering.

Technical Issues
Security always seems to be a concern if the wiki is offered over the corporate intranet. This is a particularly false concern since the enterprise wiki platforms like Socialtext, Atlassian Confluence, and so on offer strong security and administrative controls.

Where technical issues can be a little more difficult is when you invite your customers in, because they are likely to be using different technologies than you. It could be as simple as Firefox versus Internet Explorer versus Safari browser or more complex if you’re capturing and integrating the information into our CRM system and you’re getting some of that information from outside your own corporate framework.

Content Issues
This is always a problem for wikis and has been highlighted by some of the early problems that Wikipedia had with inaccurate content that bordered on the libelous. But one of the marvelous things about enterprise wikis are that not only are editorial controls possible if needed, but, as in all wikis, the users of the wikis are vested in its accuracy and use and will almost always self-police. If something egregiously false is entered, someone is likely to edit it out. If something borderline is not supported, there is bound to be someone who asks for supporting proof. The success of the wiki depends on its members, and the authenticity of the information is vital.

Again, the place it gets more complex is when your customers are part of the collaboration. You have to rely on much more of the level of user investment in the information’s accuracy than the document management or content management rules you impose. Your customers have every bit as much investment in the wiki collaboration working as you do, and the loyalty capital you gain by allowing them access is significant.

Wiki Adoption:As Hard as the Wiki Looks Easy
I’m going to spend some time going through a program for wiki adoption, not because I think that it is something that you have to follow step by step to make sure that your collaboration effort is adopted, but because it reflects the somewhat different adoption standards that Social CRM has in comparison to traditional CRM. While some of it overlaps, of course, there are a few differences well worth noting because they will impact Social CRM adoption, which we’ll be discussing more in the strategy chapter. The reason I’m using wikis to highlight the differences is that wikis have the most well-articulated adoption strategies of all the social media, and in fact, have a comprehensive site devoted to a deep understanding of the practices and cultural issues for wiki adoption Wikipatterns. Of course, it’s in the form of a . . . one guess . . . right . . . wiki.

Organic Growth
This is the number one wiki adoption practice that tends to differ from the more traditional practices that we’re all used to in CRM though when something is available and freely encouraged, it tends to have an audience that’s going to want to use it.

There certainly have been precursors to this one. York International, the HVAC provider, implemented Siebel Field Service in 2003. One of the features of this particular application was the ability to create a knowledge base that could be used to accumulate best practices, for example. When the technicians heard that it existed and that they could add to it, they organically (and virally) added 1, 200 best practices within a week. These could be accessed by other field service technicians who used them in lieu of the manual.

This is carried forward into wiki adoption. For example, by rolling out tools and training and pre-opulating the wiki with valuable content, the most-studiedwiki, Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein (DrKW), was able to lure businessprofessionals within the company to the wiki. Initially it was used for three things:

  • Managing meetings Coordinating times and dates, compiling agendas, updating status, distribution of meeting minutes.

  • Brainstorming Back and forth discussions on new ideas and the development of documentation to support those ideas. This is where order is created out of chaos. Usually it’s a few comments and discussions that are random, but it self-organizes. It becomes a concrete document made available via the wiki to the members. Another example of this is the aforementioned Wiki- Patterns. The amount of discussion around wiki adoption and the practices and impediments became substantial enough to become a published book on wiki adoption. Additionally, the ideas generated by the CMR 2.0 wiki community (around 200 strong) are a major part of this edition of CRM at the Speed of Light.

  • Creating presentations The content was created on the wiki and then often made into a PowerPoint presentation, making for much more compelling content. More steak, less sizzle. Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein peaked at around 2, 500 users in 2007 and stabilized at that number in a two-year adoption cycle.

Wiki Leadership
This is a tried and true principle one that I advocate in my discussions on “natural leaders” for improving CRM adoption rates. When a team forms to collaborate via a wiki, there is often someone who is more interested than the rest in how the wiki works and he or she takes on the role of informal caretaker. Give that person administrative privileges. That way they can formalize their caretaking. Make sure that the teams working on the wiki trust that person before you do that, though. One alternate possibility is suggested by several wiki administrators. That would be to have any team about to start on a wiki nominate a champion who is their elected leader. On the one hand, this person is the support contact and the contact to management. On the other hand, he or she is the wiki evangelist beyond the team itself. This will support enterprise-wide adoption.

Simplicity, Simplicity, Simplicity
Simplicity is the rule of wiki-thumb. You don’t need extensive guidelines on use. In fact, Figure shows the (noncorporate) acceptable use terms from my CRM 2.0Wiki, which could mirror a corporate acceptable use policy in the beginning of the wiki’s life.

The best way to think about this is that it is content management’s good twin. Wikis are focused on the content. Content management is focused onadministration. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t integrate into your contentmanagement system in time, but it doesn’t have to on day one. Additionally, if you want it to integrate with your CRM system, that doesn’t have to happen on day one either. Make the creation of content easy for your teams or your wiki CRM acceptable use policy simple but concrete

Social CRM acceptable use policy:simple but concrete

Engage Customers from the Beginning
Wikis are valuable tools for both improving the sales opportunities with your customers and for collaborating with them directly. If the latter is your goal, and there is a collaboration project that you think would be best served by working direct with your customers, then create a group for that project and invite the customers in at the beginning of the effort not somewhere in between. Their input can be invaluable in helping you evolve the wiki policies and increasing wiki participation and it engenders more loyal customers because they are participating in something of value to them and the company.

A Look at Wikis that Worked Well
There are hundreds of wiki case studies that show its value for CRM and interaction with constituents. Companies like IBM and SAP,, and others use them routinely to communicate with customers and, of course, with each other. I’ve chosen three short examples two private sector, one public sector each of which is a lesson unto itself.

Intellipedia is not only one of the most famous U.S. government wikis, it is one of the most celebrated wikis, period. It was created after 9/11 by the director of national intelligence to share intelligence information as much as possible among the entire intelligence community, not just a single agency. Because there would be classified information involved and 16 agencies, it made the effort particularly complicated.

It is not only a place to coordinate and collect intelligence data, but also has become a best practices repository for the intelligence community. Because there are national security concerns, only cleared employees can participate in the wiki.

Intellipedia has been mindful of its public benefit too. They appointed, early on, Sean Dennehy as the Intellipedia Chief Evangelist, not exactly a typical government title. (I wonder how they handle his pay grade?) He has been speaking on Intellipedia at such venues as the Enterprise 2.0 conference, where he has been among the most well received. The idea of having someone who can handle public relations for your Social CRM programs is a good one and the title in any domain not a bad one at all.

One thing that has been notable about Intellipedia is their approach to its users. Organic growth is the route they’ve chosen and it has paid dividends. They’ve found that the contributors are not just the younger members of the intelligence community. In fact, as Doherty has often noted, the most active participant is a 68-year-old man.

Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe (FNR)
In Germany, the agency responsible for maintaining awareness of renewable resources, the Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe (FNR), is funding a three-year program to make sure that the German language version of Wikipedia, the best-known wiki/online encyclopedia, will be aimed at providing accurate entries on specialized renewable resources. The funding will not go to Wikipedia but to the Nova Institut, who are creating the entries and see that the information is accurate.

What’s important here is the outreach. One of the core lessons of the entire social media environment is that there are activities going on outside your business that impact your business. You have to be diligent in monitoring them as well as creating your own activities within the corporate walls. Communication through this kind of outreach is of vital importance. It follows the dictum that we’ve discussed already several times in several ways the conversation is going on out there. Not participating is a risky proposition.

Anyone who’s ever worked in a corporate office knows Polycom. If you’ve ever been on a conference call and were in a room with several people on that call, you probably noticed that you were talking to something resembling a black three-cornered hat. The three-cornered hat was a Polycom teleconference device easily the best quality in their industry at their varying price points.

That quality matters a great deal to Polycom, and to assure that quality, they have a highly structured, need I say it, quality assurance program. One of the corerequirements of that program is being able to track issues related to their equipment and then resolve them. They use the Atlassian JIRA program Imentioned a bit earlier around CRM integration.

They tracked the issues, and suggested solutions, routed it appropriately, and so on using the Atlassian JIRA program, but they also needed to make sure that this information was integrated into their help desk system which was Siebel.

While this might have seemed easy, it really wasn’t. One of the peculiar difficulties of this integration was that there were changes in data formats and types in the Siebel systems that needed to be replicated in the JIRA issue tracking system without the need for developers each time those changes occurred. Plus there was always the problem of how to handle the integration so that there were few issues if the data was bad or one or both of the systems were down.

A Polycom service provider, Customware solved the integration puzzles by creating a plug-in for JIRA that allowed a dynamic definition of messages from Siebel to JIRA thus solving the changes in data types and formats in a real-timeenvironment, without those pesky developers having to get involved.

Wikis are among the more mature collaboration tools available for Social CRM deployments, and the industrial strength versions like Atlassian and Socialtext can be integrated into transactional CRM systems as well. There is little excuse even for you traditionalists to not incorporate them into your Social CRM strategy.

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