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What If Your Customers Could Talk to Your CRM

I spend a lot of time talking to and about the stuff that we do to make it work now. So sometimes it’s a real treat to get to talk to someone that’s so far out ahead of most of us in their thinking that you pretty much just listen with your mouth open when they talk. (I would put my conversation with Kevin Kelly in this class)

Recently I had a chance to visit for a bit with one of those folks – Doc Searls. Doc is senior editor for Linux Journal, alumnus fellow with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University and co-author of the seminal work – The Cluetrain Manifesto with Rick Levine, Christopher Locke and David Weinberger. (Look for our conversation in a coming episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast.)

In 2000, Searls and company painted the road map for what was coming only to have it high jacked to some degree by marketers that misinterpreted the manifesto as a foreshadowing of social media. When Cluetrain told the world that markets are conversations, they meant, I fear, that we as marketers should have an actual conversation and not simply listen and react in ways that tailored our marketing conversations to the research we are now able to obtain via social sharing. (Click on this search for “markets are conversations” and you’ll get an even grimmer sense of this.)

In Searls’ latest work, The Intention Economy, he returns to the notion of conversations but puts the onus and control firmly in the hands of the consumer and not the organization. A great deal of the work that Searls was engaged in at Berkman surrounding the notion of something that’s become known as Vendor Relationship Management or VRM.

The idea of VRM is drawn from the traditional customer relationship language, but shifts the management aspect to the customer instead of the organization. In a VRM environment, the customer controls a great deal of the data and experience and is the determining party in how much or how little is tailored to their wants.

One doesn’t have too look to far out into future space to imagine a technology that enables customer to interact with CRM platforms in a way that allows them to decide what to share, what to update and what to request.

Can you imagine how powerful this type of true conversation could be?

The real hurdle is data trust, or lack of, but I believe we are sitting on a privacy bubble.

So, at what point do we rebel against being used as part of Facebook’s product? At what point do we start to demand the ability to control our own health records? At what point do we tell CVS to shove the little stupid rewards card and start to spend only with those that accept markets are conversations and that relationships are not data.

Enable true intentions in your customer relationships and open your organization to a world of commerce that does not currently exist.