The CRM Evolution in Japan


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This week I was honored to present to the annual conference of the CRM Association Japan, organized in Tokyo since 2003 by founder and Chairman Jack Fujieda. It’s quite a remarkable achievement, especially considering Jack is also quite active in the open source movement as Chairman of The Open Group Japan. Fujieda is one of those rare people that can balance discussions about business strategy and technology trends with ease.

This time I spoke about what I call CBM – Customer-centric Business Management — a holistic approach that integrates processes (CRM), experiences (CEM), analytics (VoC and more) and social/collaboration (Social Business). Attendees were quite taken by my characterization of CRM as a “left brain” and CEM as a “right brain” approach to customer relationships, as you can see in this chart.

The general feeling was that CRM was fairly well understood as mostly about how enterprises extracted value from their customer base, using marketing, sales and service automation. To illustrate CEM thinking, I gave a number of examples of where automation really wasn’t a factor in creating customer experiences that were memorable and likely to create the positive word of mouth associated with genuine loyalty.

Growing interest in Customer Experience Management

One attendee called my presentation “very inspiring” (always nice to hear) and found the “concept of CEM was eye-opening” — and then emailed me a link to this video about how Tesco launched the Homeplus Subway Virtual Store in South Korea. By creating a virtual store with displays of merchandise, shoppers buy with smartphones and the groceries are delivered directly to their homes. A great example of an innovative consumer shopping experience that boosted Tesco’s market position without building any new stores.

Of course, some might argue that is an example of what CRM should be — helping customers get their “jobs” done. At Panasonic’s Digital AVC Products Division (think cameras and such), they are taking a more strategic CRM journey that considers voice of customer and experience. Refreshing. Furthermore, the CRM manager considers their customer community Club Panasonic, which receives some 4 million visitors per month, an important part of their CRM strategy. What do you know, Social CRM really does exist!

I guess this goes to show that it doesn’t matter what you call customer-centric business, so long as you’re actually doing it.

It’s unfortunate that CRM has not lived up to the customer-centric vision I presented in the early days. Yet even then I remember writing articles about “Real CRM” because I felt compelled to differentiate from the tech-centric type. In recent years, Fujieda has taken to the term Customer Centric Relationship Management (CCRM) in much the same way that Social CRMers feel the need to modify good old CRM.

Social Business slowly emerging

Speaking of social, I probably received the most questions about this topic. In Japan, social networking is big, but Mixi is the most popular social network, not Facebook or Twitter. Earlier this year, the NY Times article Facebook Wins Relatively Few Friends in Japan called Japan a “big hole in Facebook’s global fabric.” Some attendees expressed concerns about how Mixi could be applied to business, and felt that Facebook would grow in popularity.

Social business adoption issues raised included the ever-popular ROI question, and sensitivity about security in financial services, which is understandable. But more than one person shared examples of where Japanese companies would monitor social media conversations but managers were reluctant to engage for fear of making a mistake or violating company policy. My theory is this will likely change with some positive experiences over the next couple of years. Or, after a United Breaks Guitars type incident shows that NOT acting on social incidents can be risky too.

All in all, a great visit to Tokyo. CRM, CEM and Social Business are in good hands with the CRM Association Japan. All credit to Jack Fujieda for taking a leadership role in expanding customer-centric understanding in the business community, promoting thought leadership and sharing best practices.


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