• July 1, 2008
  • By Paul Greenberg, founder and managing principal, The 56 Group

A Company Like Me

Article Featured Image

I recently started a conversation on my blog, PGreenblog (the56group.typepad.com), a conversation that should be had by any firm interested in its customers: At this point, a CRM practitioner needs to get into the minds of those customers -- and, after figuring them out, needs to take the necessary measures or risk losing them to someone who did.

Today’s most common trusted source is "someone like me": I trust those who are most similar to me. That’s easy enough to handle on a person-to-person level. But what about person-to-company? I’d need to see that the company’s persona is "like me" and that it is able to institutionally reproduce that state -- meaning that if the employee with whom I feel a kinship leaves, I might miss him, but my relationship with or feeling about that company wouldn’t be damaged at all. How can a company achieve this? It ain’t easy to operate with all the necessary day-to-day processes, technologies, and decisions, and still come across as a peer to the customer.

A combination of CRM and personalization might do the trick. CRM 1.0 has been a series of processes, technologies, and methodologies organized around the operational tasks that were designed to institutionalize a way of managing customer-company interaction.

CRM 2.0, while incorporating what CRM 1.0 does, also incorporates the personalization of those interactions and the integration of the customer into the planning, strategies, and direction of the company through the use of tools, products, services, and experiences so that the customer feels a sense of participation in the process.

CRM 1.0 concerned itself with the customer as the object of a satisfactory sale. CRM 2.0 concerns itself with the customer as the subject of a satisfactory experience.

Both attempt to institutionalize practices to improve customer-company interaction. Their respective visions are driven by the expectations of the social forces guiding the contemporary business ecosystem of each era. In CRM 1.0 that was the company and the associated enterprise value chain. In CRM 2.0 -- right now -- that’s the empowered customers and the associated peer-to-peer social networks.

Yet there’s one facet that can’t be ignored for CRM 2.0—to wit, that we’re not just talking about personalization; we’re talking about humanization. Because today’s empowered customers are enmeshed in some way with a network of peers, their expectations are dramatically changed:

  1. Customers expect that they can interact with a company the same way that they interact with a friend or a peer whom they trust.
  2. They expect a personal relationship with the company, not just with a person in the company, though that’s how the relationship often manifests.
  3. They expect that interactions with the company will have the attributes and traits of that deeply personal connection they have to a peer.
  4. They expect trustworthiness and transparency to permeate the company’s DNA.
  5. They expect that the company is, by some measure, distinctive.
  6. They expect the company to converse with them, not push corporate hype at them. Marketing needs to aim for word of mouth -- engaging customers in conversation through use of social media like blogs, or engaging internal customers in a conversation through a wiki.
  7. They expect coolness and style to be factors in that conversation between customer and company -- because they’re intimate factors in conversations between friends.

This level of humanization may not be defining for all companies. Customers will still make some purchases in a utilitarian fashion from a plurality of companies they deal with. (And the shoe is now on the other foot: Those companies are now seen by customers as the objects of a purchase.) The result to be desired is not just a repeat buyer (though that’s certainly good), but an advocate who’s going to say, "This company loves me the way I love it." You have to gear your strategies toward that kind of customer -- and settle for the one who merely returns to buy. Your performance as a peer has to meet or exceed your customer’s expectations of that performance. Or you lose. 

Paul Greenberg is president of The 56 Group (the56group.typepad.com), a strategic CRM consulting services firm, and a cofounder of CRM training company BPT Partners. The fourth edition of his best-selling book, CRM at the Speed of Light, will be out in December 2008.

CRM Covers
for qualified subscribers
Subscribe Now Current Issue Past Issues

Related Articles

Managing Social Customers for Profit

A new paradigm calls for a reassessment of an industry metric.

Life in the Fast Lane of Context

Providing an experience requires a better understanding of your customers.

Gather the Tools for Customer Engagement

Social media is changing the face of CRM. Are you prepared?

CRM 2.0 and "The Customer Module"

destinationCRM 2008: The customer module is based on the idea that united we stand, divided we fall -- and it's what CRM has been missing.

Calling All Social Customers

CRM Evolution '09 — Day 1: KEYNOTE: Customers may control the conversation, but they do not control your business.

Social Customers Want to Engage

But are you prepared to let them?

4 Rules to Recession-Proofing Your Brand

Search Engine Strategies NYC '09: In the current economic climate, even top-shelf brands need to be wary. "Marketing must move from passion to compassion," according to a presenter.

Customers Want Productivity, Not Products

Microsoft Convergence '09: They've got the technology -- that was the easy part. Now customers are eager to learn how to use it to succeed.

The 2008 CRM Market Awards: Influential Leaders -- Paul Greenberg

The Herald: Paul Greenberg -- chief customer officer, BPT Partners; president, The 56 Group.

Everything Is Social

The word is everywhere now: social networks, social frameworks, social platforms.