I have a lot of wonderful friends in the world of CRM. It's been good to me and I hope I have contributed something to it. But I have had a nagging feeling that a lot of the people I've been reading every day and even some that I know personally, are locked into what is now an inappropriate "old world" or "traditional" CRM - a term that's astounding to me just for the fact that something can be as newly evolved as CRM and become "traditional" in a matter of years - not decades. "Old world" in this case means the classic siloing of CRM into sales, marketing, support or operational, analytic, collaborative or whatever boxes - mostly cardboard - we all have been using over the past several years. Most of the approaches have been aimed at achieving a zen state often called "customer-centric" as opposed to, say, "sales centric" or "corporate." Rightfully so. Part of the battle has been to redefine CRM from its original perception as a technology to more of an ongoing programmatic strategy that centers around giving value to and getting value from customers. That redefinition is now deeply rooted and has largely succeeded - more in lip service than actual practice but it has been a huge step forward for customer advocates in the business world.
But we CRM pundit-types still look at CRM with its "people, processes, technology" mantra as the technology of automating tasks and exposing pipelines to management and the processes of managing purchases and order histories and doing what we have to with a "single view of the customer." The "people" part is relegated to the changes in corporate culture that need to happen to make a company customer-friendly. And that's all good. But only to a point. And we've now reached that point - a demand for change in the way that CRM does what it does because the world has been undergoing a sea change in how the customer works and breathes and thinks and behaves.
The problem is that the Zuboff-labeled "standard enterprise logic" that I briefly referenced in Thursday's post is so deeply embedded that it operates as an agent of fundamental resistance, even when all this change in the world of the customer is going on. It is a logic that was forged in the crucibles of Henry Ford's smelters and mass production, not one that's lodged in the mesh of the worldwide web and self-actualization. This becomes meaningful as the changed nature of the individual customer becomes increasingly apparent in this striking exciting new paradigm - the customer ecosystem (see slide - hard to miss isn't it?) that I've been pounding away at in presentations for the last couple of years. The discontinuity between the new customer's psyche, demands and actions and the old style corporate logic is both blatant, and, if recognized, a helluva business opportunity for the progressive thinkers out there in the world of contemporary capitalism.
What is ironic is that while some economists are tentatively but actively trying to embrace or at least address this new customer's outlook and the new models that are required - the CRM community/industry is so tentative that few even seem to be acknowledging the deep changes going on.
I can't believe that they don't see it. They are really intelligent people, some brilliant and frequently insightful to the point of "wow!" The only explanation I can come up with at this moment (though I'm sure that I'll come up with others later) is that perhaps the CRM community members are trapped in the same logic that permeates the corporate structures they have to earn their living working in and with.
That logic is a powerful regressive force. Some of my clients (not all) are companies that are often resistant to doing anything uncomfortably different. It could be adamant refusal to changing some of their time-honored processes, even if they intellectually realize the processes' times have passed. It could be not wanting to doing something impacting the budget because its THE BUDGET whether the expenditure makes sense or not. They are used to working a certain way and that's that. Those resistances can be immensely frustrating and negatively powerful. They are seductive because there is comfort in doing things the way they always have been done. It's easy. I have to be on alert all the time to just stay away from that internal Siren-pressure.
So imagine, even as an outside consultant or someone that is a change agent, what it is to work inside that environment day in and out. The CRM consultant/thought leader is subject to pressures that say with sultry voices "why change anything? All is good. All is just soooo sweet." If you resist, the Siren turns into a nasty, ugly Harpy, trying to bend you to its indomitable (but still eventually beatable) will.
When you get directly into the logic of the enterprise, you are at the beating heart and transforming this is a bigtime PITA. What are you going to do? Redirect an auricle? Retool a ventricle? No you have to replace the heart and that is nightmare central. But it has to be done. The enterprise logic has to be replaced so that there are new ways to deal with the new customer that is already out there.
The Social Customer
Value now resides in the customer and it is the company's task to get some of that value from the customer by collaborating with the customer to exchange a great experience with the company for some cash - in effect.
What is interesting is that this customer is now a social customer, with access to millions of other social customers who are engaged with each other without ever necessarily knowing their name. There is a sense of community nonetheless. For example, look at MMOs - massively multiplayer online games that are PC or console games that involve the player logging into a network - a "world" of sorts - and playing with and/or against potentially millions of other players. World of Warcraft, the most popular of these subscription-based MMOs, has 3.5 million subscribers who work in "guilds" of typically anywhere from 10 to 100 players to build powers, defeat enemies and wander the world. In today's NY Times, Seth Schiesel writes about the emotional high that defeating an enemy through a "social experience" with your guild can bring.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Take a trot on over to Epinions and see what your unknown buddies are saying about some product they are using. You need to know what merchant to buy that product from? Well, check with your anonymous new friends at Bizrate to see not only what the wisdom of the crowd quantitatively rated the merchants selling the products, but what some of your freshly discovered pals in Morocco, the UK, China, and Peru personally said about that merchant. You may always know their email 'handle" and you may never know their name but it feels personal and the knowledge you gain is real. That kind of global wisdom can be individually empowering.
The desire for self-expression, for individuation, for carving out a personal niche in an increasingly available global mesh - and the desire for self-control of the "I wanna be me" variety is deep in this generation of "social customer." Technorati, the premier online all-things-blog agency, does a state of the blogosphere report twice a year and the report's main man, David Sifry, just came out with these absolutely phenomenal numbers.
A blog a friggin' second!! Over 10 blog postings per second!! That certainly supports the idea that people want to be personally heard and they are willing to put themselves out in the wilderness. If you take that 55% active number and do some math, you find that at leastl 7.8 million blogs are more than detritis on the web - they are real and busy with those 10.4 postings each second. And that's just the ones that Technorati is tracking!! Amazing.
So the customer is now social, global, knowledge aware, ready to take control of their lives, and the repository of value. This is a new era - and we've only just begun.
A Challenge to the CRM Community
Okay, my CRM friends. I'm calling you out. I love you and you're my buds and I want to hang out with you, but we need to get off our butts and start addressing the deeper changes that go with the new social customer. We are supposed to be thought leaders and we should start talking this up - if you agree with what I'm saying. Let our clients, readers, friends and others hear this or we're doing a disservice to the people who have honored us by listening to what we say. That also means that we should be paying attention to some of those who have figured it out. Check out my blogroll for some of the better ones out there and somewhere among my next posts will be some names from all walks that I think are worth paying attention to.
If you don't agree with me, bring it on. Let's engage in a battle, debate, spirited discussion about these fundamental issues. We have been foresighted and progressive in the way we thought in the past. Let's let the winds blow through the trees and let's get moving on what should be an exciting new era that brings us collaboration with these neo-customers, and new business models and fresh air.