Esteban is another one of my favorite CRM Thought Leaders and he recently took the time for this interview.
Q. Esteban, you spent some time at Gartner, what did you focus on in that role? How has that shaped your current opinions of CRM?
I came to Gartner with the idea of creating a research agenda for eService (keep in mind this was in 2000 – very little existed). I spent 2-3 years building the research agenda, the main documents (market and vendor briefs, magic quadrants, best practices documents, presentations) and rode the growth in the market from a few million dollars in revenue to over 2 billion at its heights. Careers at Gartner are cyclical, once a market is mature you can choose a new one if you have the expertise.
Back in the days of high school and early college years in Argentina my father had a consulting practice to which he added a market research arm, including political polls. It eventually became one of the largest ones in Argentina. I used to work there in the summer and after school learned the art of surveying.
24 years later I saw a necessity for businesses to complement the empty promises of holistic customer knowledge that CRM attempted to deliver by complimenting it with Surveys. I wrote the first paper on Customer Feedback Systems in 2003, and later renamed it to Enterprise Feedback Management for wider market acceptance (working with Jeffrey Henning at Perseus, a pioneer in the EFM world). The next three years were spent growing that market from few million dollars in revenue to what today is the hottest opportunity for organizations. Feedback is the future, even if they still don’t see it like that.
When I came to Gartner my experience with CRM was from running projects and creating strategy (the end user version of strategy) for a couple of companies. Gartner amplified that by giving me access to vendors, practitioners, and end users in quantities I could have never imagined. My understanding of CRM changed dramatically from being a technology that you implement with some business needs attached to becoming a strategic discipline that can make or break an organization. The Job at Gartner was the most amazing experience of my life and would recommend to anyone to work there if they can.
Q. How do you see Social CRM evolving in the next 3 – 5 years?
First, I don’t fully support the concept of SCRM. Let’s just say that I am going along for the ride. There are two ideas behind the concept.
First, multi-channel CRM that has been maturing for some time and is beginning to show results. I expect we will see some cross-channel measurement and tracking deployments that will create justifications for cross-channel deployments.
Second, the concept that Paul Greenberg calls Generation C (generation connected). Getting people to connect to each other and to corporations – the S in SCRM. I expect to see a quiet societal evolution that will culminate with a radical change in the way customers interact with organizations and with other customers.
Communities are the basis for it. Organizations will migrate from the current 1-M (one-to-many) or even 1-1 (one-to-one, personalized) setup to a M-M (many-to-many) architecture where organizations, partners, and customers will engage in common platforms to interact
It is going to be very cool what we are going to accomplish. Before you laugh me off, remember that I predicted in 2005 that collaborative customer service was going to be a major force for CRM in 2010. It is printed somewhere.
Q. If you could do anything else with your career, something that is not technology focused, at would it be?
Medicine. No doubts.
The only thing more complicated than a computer is the human body. The intricacy of the fine balance of protein chains that are supposed to react to each other if off balance is something your body does every day in millions of combinations with infinite accuracy. Can you imagine being able to control that computer? Or work with the brain? Fascinating!
Q. I know you earned a minor in economics when you went to college. What was your interest in economics at that time?
I had it in my mind that I wanted to be an investment banker, and read somewhere that the best place to work doing that was Wall Street. And the best way to get to Wall Street was through economics. In addition, I grew up in the wild economy of Argentina (we were the first country to have a currency of 1,000,000 australes – the name back then – and that is worth about 1.E26 cents now), and economics was a very intriguing thing.
I started to read and learn and realized that what is not a guess is a wild-guess in the world of economics. The only thing that I found interesting back then was that people move economies with their beliefs. An early version of wisdom of the crowds, and I still believe in the power of the crowds to move mountains.
Q. When you are not working, what do you like to do to relax?
I don’t have any hobbies per se, but technology always interested me. I picked up my first computer when I was 16 and to me technology is a hobby. I am a tinkerer, always looking for new ways to do things with technology, always trying new things. I have to have the latest toys as soon as they come out and figure out how they work without the help of a manual.
Q. Are you interested in sports? What’s your favorite sport? Favorite team?
Of course, you expect me to say Soccer (Football to the rest of the world), but I hate that sport. The only time I watch it is during the world cup or they would take my citizenship away. I don’t really enjoy watching sports, which is ironic if you knew some of the events I attended in my life.
Q. Have you read any interesting books lately?
Let’s see. I just finished re-reading the first six books of Harry Potter before going to see The Half Blood Prince. II also have a kindle with about 10-12books all the time and jump around between them. I am now reading 1984 and Treasure Island on the kindle, and just downloaded a new book from Dr. Joseph Michelli (The Ritz Carlton Way), which I am browsing through.
My ultimate goal is to have my own book in my own kindle and read it. Someday.