Beyond CRM – ‘as if you cared’…

The following is extracted from a longer article I wrote for the financial services industry on the future of CRM... ...

July 23, 2003

The following is extracted from a longer article I wrote for the financial services industry on the future of CRM…

“So what’s up with CRM?….Well firstly, it focuses entirely on value and does not consider values, which are critical in this post mass-broadcast age. Secondly, it offers a static, present-time view of customer offers, rather than an evolutionary, future-focused perspective. And thirdly, existing CRM segmentation approaches still implicitly assume that value can be delivered ‘contamination-free’ to each customer segment simply by an appropriate understanding of the value-channel and perhaps a little product tailoring.

CRM fails to realise (and certainly fails to embrace) the new reality – that relationships between corporation and customer are not bi-lateral. All customers’ experiences’ are mediated within a delicately sustained network of stakeholder relationships. Selling to customers is just not the game anymore. Marketing for customers isn’t the game. Even marketing for communities misses the point, because many of these customers are not clustered in any meaningful communities. Marketing for stakeholder webs. That’s the new reality.

All three of these issues are merely syptoms of the wider malaise that we have identified above – the inadvertent confusion of transactions with relationships – and the belief, despite all protestations to the contrary that they are either the same thing (or mutually exclusive). The truth – they they are co-dependent brand realities – is just too much.

But actually this is the simplest thing in the world. When people talk to other people, they get this duality immediately. ‘I enjoy your company. It doesn’t mean I want to marry you’. When corporations market to people, this insight flies out of the window and they market (by which I mean sell!) as if repeat transactions actually indicated emotional loyalty.

Encouraged by the increased purchase behaviour, the marketing department simply elevates its transactional promises until they become more and more absurd. These promises diverge faster and faster from the relationships that dysfunctional corporations are actually capable of fulfilling. In response to the ever higher social expectations of their audiences, most businesses response is simply to promise more. This is an emotional arms race, in which CRM is the weapon of mass delusion (ho, ho).

With no balancing relationship-change and no balancing delivery, the trust gap (see Mind the Gaps – below) widens accordingly. The truth is that relationships and transactions are different – but they must stay in tune.

To paraphrase Robert Frost, transactions and relationships are two paths currently diverging in a wood. We should travel neither without a map of the totality.

The worst thing a corporation can do in response to this new challenge is to launch into a new bout of technology-purchasing to try and ‘engage’ with its customers. Job One is to change its assumptions about the way value is created and nurtured – by building customer relationships that support transactions and that acknowledge a wide relationship context, with all stakeholders.

This starts from the ground up. Citizen to citizen, one small step at a time. Start by ‘reviewing’ the advertising budget.

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