Geof Petch's One-to-One Headache

The thought of getting intimate with a customer gives me a headache. Granted, Web-hosted, one-to-one customer relationship marketing sounds great on the lecture circuit and reads well in print. Yet, the hawking of a cool idea does not change the fact that attaining Internet-based customer intimacy adds a degree of technical and cultural complexity to the enterprise that has not been attempted before.

Here's the rub: The technological density required for a pure one-to-one customer relationship is not quite here yet. I'd say the significant realignment and optimization of discrete front-office process silos is about as socially workable as my dating a Victoria's Secret model: possible under a rare set of circumstances and only after a great deal of whining.

A brief list of barriers to pervasive customer segmentation and content management includes: engineering factors like the capability to construct content objects that can be morphed for unique process permutations; the ability to build business rules that recognize what content to bring forward and when; and the capacity to match targeted content and customer profiles in a reasonable time frame.

Add to these factors the distributed infrastructure required to capture, store and move customer information, the willingness of customers and governments to release dominion over classes of information and the ability to integrate a real-time multichannel customer data strategy in a reasonable amount of time. It is an ambitious vision, not a practical goal.

Call me a prude if you will, but I'd prefer to scale back and just get personal for now. An intimate relationship can come later.

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