CRM Needs To Be Turned On Its Head

    September 26, 2006

Doc writes:

We need an instrument of demand that works from the demand side, outside of any of the media’s own systems. We need something that works in a free-range way, by and for individuals. Something independent. We need something that expresses the user’s or the customer’s intentions.
Think about it as Vendor Relationship Management – and the reciprocal of Customer Relationship Management. It’s what Drummond Reed calls CoRM, for Company Relationship Management.

It’s vigin territory. And you can’t get to it from the sell side. You have to approach it from the buy side. From the customer’s, or the user’s, side of the relationship.

Obviously, this is a development project. In fact, it’s the project I’ll be working on with the Berkman Center over the next year. I was thinking in that direction during this interview, but we made a lot more progress in just the last few days. I’ll be writing more about it this week, mostly in Linux Journal and IT Garage. Naturally, I’ll be looking for help.”

In June of 2005, I wrote:

“What’s been broken with so-called ‘Customer Relationship Management’ systems so far is that, well, they don’t really focus that much on the customer, do they? Under the rubric of ‘CRM,’ there have been three primary classes of systems: sales force automation, customer service and call center automation, and marketing automation. All of these look at the world from the seller’s point of view. And all of them focus on how the vendor can crank more customers through a particular process in a given unit of time. They don’t necessarily help to truly build relationships between individuals. In fact, they are more likely to commodify it.

There has been a considerable amount of research done in this area, and there in an increasing body of data that suggests that building this kind of ‘enterprise social network’ has measurable benefit for both customers and vendors alike. Perhaps the cornerstone of recent work in this area was done by Lichtenthal and Tellefsen, and is called ‘Toward a Theory of Buyer-Seller Similarity.’ L&T write: “These findings suggest that internal similarity [perceptions, attitudes, and values] can increase a business buyer’s willingness to trust a salesperson and follow the salesperson’s guidance, and therefore, increase the industrial salesperson’s effectiveness. In contrast, the literature also indicates that, under most circumstances, observable similarity [physical attributes and behavior] will exert a negligible influence on a business buyer’s perceptions or a salesperson’s effectiveness. Thus, the key finding is that it is more important for buyers and sellers to ‘think alike’ than ‘look alike’.”

To date, there just haven’t been tools like this aimed at the enterprise, that take this idea of creating real relationships between individuals and providing a means for customers to explicitly state their case, and determine with whom they want to do business at a real, interpersonal, non-synthetic level. So, we built one.”

Of course, what we built to address this problem is now widely known as Haystack networking.

So, it’s not quite virgin territory, but we, as both customers and as an industry that connects customers to the people and things they need, certainly have many miles to go before we sleep on this. Doc, greatly looking forward to the work you’ll be doing on this at Berkman.


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Christopher Carfi, CEO and co-founder of Cerado, looks at sales, marketing, and the business experience from the customers point of view. He currently is focused on understanding how emerging social technologies such as blogs, wikis, and social networking are enabling the creation of new types of customer-driven communities. He is the author of the Social Customer Manifesto weblog, and has been occasionally told that he drives and snowboards just a little too quickly.