Collaboration: The ''C'' in CRM

CRM is doing pretty damned well as an industry right now. Forrester Group predicts a $7.4 billion expenditure on CRM-related activities by companies this year and continued growth for several years after. Gartner Group and other analyst firms are equally optimistic.

But make no mistake about it, CRM is changing. It's not the operational, transactional, design-the-right-processes, pick-the-right-technology plan it was as recently as four years ago. It is also no longer merely a strategic component of a plan to manage how a company interrelates to its customers. While all those elements remain, the business ecosystem's ownership has changed.

CRM is no longer based on a corporate ecosystem. The customer controls the business universe, and companies are now required to collaboratively meet the demands of that empowered customer.

Beth Comstock, president of NBC Universal, put it well when she told Fortune magazine, "You have to give up control to your customers." In the same interview, John Jacobs of Nasdaq said, "The customer is designing your services, products, and even platforms."

Think about what this means for CRM: Corporations that once unilaterally controlled how they worked with and treated customers are now figuring out ways to engage the customers to successfully create those services, products, and platforms themselves --- which is something the customers want to do, because it enhances their personal experience with the company. Not incidentally, it also creates a viable customer-generated revenue stream for that company.

What does that mean for you? Not only do you have to understand the strategies, programs, processes, best practices, and technologies for CRM implementations and customer-facing interactions, but now you have to learn to be conversant with the strategies, programs, processes, and technologies that drive collaboration with your customers and their continuous engagement.

And that is another thing entirely because it means having some knowledge of user-generated content, blogs, podcasts, social networks, user communities, and other various and sundry Web 2.0 properties that affect how customers act and interact with companies.

That creates two opportunities.

You're probably at least familiar with Facebook or have avidly either uploaded or watched videos on YouTube. That means you are conversant with the new tools of peer-to-peer engagement. CRM has to translate this to Enterprise 2.0 and how a company can develop this to converse with those same peers you already do --- their future customers. You can absorb and dispense valuable knowledge about the classic operational requirements and methods that remain important to CRM, but also with the newer collaborative tools that capture and maintain customer attention.

That's opportunity number one. Opportunity number two?

Simple: Use the tools to land a job. There are several social networking sites that can support you getting a job in CRM. For example, you can go to myCRMCareer.com, which is based on the use of these social tools and you can participate in communities there while learning how to blog. Or you can go to Facebook and find groups of likeminded individuals, such as the Salesforce.com group. Join a group, make friends, and get a job. Maybe it's not quite that simple, but the opportunity is there.

Fundamentally one of the principles of the social CRM we're now seeing is that it is truly personal. Information that people are willing to provide about their own existences is truly personal --- and that's a good thing, on two levels:

  • You get closer to the networks that you have to understand in order to collaborate or get ahead, and
  • the matrix of customers whose thinking you're figuring out might be the same people who give you that first job or better opportunity in the first place.


About the Author
Paul Greenberg is president of The 56 Group, a consulting services firm focused on CRM strategic services and a founding partner of the CRM training company, BPT Partners. You can read his blog at the56group.typepad.com. The fourth edition of his best-selling book CRM at the Speed of Light will be out in December 2008.

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