Is CRM Different … When Customers Are in Charge?


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CRM is slowly changing. Ten years ago, CRM was about using customer data to better target vanilla offers to select customers in the hope that they would buy. And they did. In large numbers. Despite the oft-quoted success rates of only 25-45%, CRM worked well enough to be in common use pretty-much everywhere today. But CRM is primarily about companies, not about customers. And the company is very much in charge.

Then five years ago, Customer Experience Management (CEM) burst on the scene. Unlike CRM, CEM was about knitting all those independent CRM touchpoints together into an end-to-end experience that not only delivered the required sales, but also delivered value to customers too. And over the entire lifecycle from marketing to create the wish to buy, to sales to fulfil that wish, to service to pick up the pieces when something went wrong. CEM is about companies and about customers. It is CRM but it is much more than just CRM at the same time. But the companies are still largely in charge. And therein lies a problem.

The problem is that CRM, or CEM, are not standing still. Driven by the needs of the marketplace, they are continuously evolving (in the Darwinian sense). Today, customers are not only more involved in shaping their own experiences through customer co-creation, they are also starting to organise amongst themselves to deliver products, services and experiences to each other, almost by-passing companies entirely. The motor for this is two-fold; the Internet which provides unparalleled collaboration opportunities at practically zero cost. And mobile telephones which provide an always-on, always-with-you device to run the (mobile) Internet on.

The result is to extend Coase’s original thinking on the Theory of the Firm to include new, low-cost, highly collaborative, networked forms of productive organisation. We, common-or-garden customers, are now the market and the producing organisation, through smart mobs swarming in real-time to drive a hard bargain, through buying clubs organising to get a better deal when buying industrial energy, all the way to peer-to-peer banking lending money to each other through multi-sided markets.

Here’s the $64,000 dollar question. If we are now the market and the organisation, what will customer management look like in this brave new world? Will it be driven by multi-sided reputation like at eBay? Will it be driven by a small set of simple rules (and those who enforce them)like in Wikipedia? Or is customer management rendered meaningless in a world where we are both producers and consumers at the same time?

You tell me.

What do you think? Does customer management simply have to adapt as we enter the networked peer-to-peer era? Or is it going to become utterly irrelevant?

Post a response and get the conversation going.

Graham Hill
Independent CRM Consultant
Interim CRM Manager

Graham Hill (Dr G)
Business Troubleshooter | Questioning | Thoughtful | Industrious | Opinions my own | Connect with me on LinkedIn



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