Most of the conversations around CRM and the social web are centered around the "tools of the trade" and how to integrate these tools into new CRM Systems.
The message about the influence of the customer is getting out and a rush to the "conversational rivers" with advanced technology looks like the gold rush of the 1800's.
Our friend and colleague Doc Searls writes: I just learned by the Ajatus Manifesto that sixty-five percent of all CRM systems fail. Ajatus blames companies rushing to implement CRM. I'm sure that's true. But I also think it's possible that CRM itself is flawed by the closed and silo'd nature of the "relationships" involved. As a customer I can only relate to company CRM systems on the companies' terms. Not on ones that I provide as well - for the good of us both. In other words, the base problem is that the lack of customer independence as a base condition for the relationship in the first place.
Is the Reverse Paradigm of CRM VRM?
The social web is empowering people, customers, to discuss everything about anything everywhere. We're already witnessing groups and entire networks being established to enable people to discuss specific products, companies, industries and institutions. As these groups grow they become influential and create "social markers" for other people to refer to as they seek out information about everything and anything everywhere. People migrating to swarms of influence are speaking out aggressively, honestly and without fear of retribution. The main stream media is picking up on these conversations and publishing them as headline news.
The next evolution is likely to be enhanced tools to enable these conversations to reach further and deeper thus creating even greater influence. Our friend, Doc Searls, serves as a Fellow with the BerkmanCenter for Internet & Society, HarvardBusinessSchool. At Berkman he runs ProjectVRM, which is developing VRM - Vendor Relationship Management - in the form of tools that help customers better engage with vendors and their CRM systems.
VRM, or Vendor Relationship Management, is the reciprocal of CRM or Customer Relationship Management. It provides customers with tools for engaging with vendors in ways that work for both parties.
CRM systems until now have borne the full burden of relating with customers. VRM will provide customers with the means to bear some of that weight, and to help make markets work for both vendors and customers - in ways that don't require the former to "lock in" the latter.
The goal of VRM is to improve the relationship between Demand and Supply by providing new and better ways for the former to relate to the latter. In a larger sense, VRM immodestly intends to improve markets and their mechanisms by equipping customers to be independent leaders and not just captive followers in their relationships with vendors and other parties on the supply side of the marketplace.
For VRM to work, vendors must have reason to value it, and customers must have reasons to invest the necessary time, effort and attention to making it work. Providing those reasons to both sides is the primary challenge for VRM.
Will VRM Create Yet Another Shift?
Imagine the influence of today's social networks to the power of one hundred. What we have today are millions of "conversational rivers" flowing throughout the social web but all in different directions. As more people engage about anything the river swells and picks up speed. Now imagine the initiator of these conversations having the tools and know how as to where to point, or steer, the conversations towards a specific end, the influential point of contact.
What would be the likely outcome if people were steered towards conversational intersections with brands, markets, institutions, governments? Many of the conversational rivers would come together and create a wave of change in the sea of business.
What say you?PS: Doc's ProjectVRM is supported by contributions from those who want to shape the future rather than be shaped by it. We encourage business leaders to contribute to these efforts.