Collaborative CRM strategies and concepts

Collaborative CRM strategies offer firms unparalleled opportunities for establishing more meaningful relationships with their customers and clients.  Mobile CRM is closely aligned to collaborative CRM concepts. This research paper characterizes collaborative CRM as:

The notion of collaborative CRM is still in discussion and has two interpretations that are often mixed…The first is closely connected with communicative CRM and focuses on interaction channels (e.g. phone, fax, e-mail, self service portals) between a company and its direct customers. The second extends the CRM concept on the level of value chains and business networks. This approach consolidates concepts of networked organizations and marketing to enable the creation of customer relations and value at a network level by sharing or pooling of network resources and capabilities…It enables producers, distributors and service providers to extend their customer acquisition, retention and development beyond their company borders and even to involve the customer directly.

Fundamental concepts of Web 2.0 and the social web such as transparency, authenticity, trust, engagement, and listening underpin collaborative CRM concepts. Similarly, customers’ demands for immediacy and relevancy in communications further support collaborative CRM. And mobile technologies have the potential to be the catalyst to firms’ implementation of collaborative CRM practices. But as pointed out in the research paper mobile technologies are not a panacea for collaborative CRM. The researchers point out that to facilitate collaborative CRM goals, existing business processes must be redesigned so as to take advantage of the unique characteristics of mobile technologies while delivering additional value to customers. Many companies are simply using mobile technologies to deliver information in a one-dimensional manner (i.e., a messaging service) as opposed to a multi-dimensional manner.

The authors conclude with several recommendations to consider when setting up a collaborative CRM strategy:

  1. Set up appropriate customer segments, which allows firms to deliver individualized services
  2. The CRM system must integrate mobile data (mobile sales, mobile content usage, location based services, etc)
  3. Ensure customers understand that a firm’s mobile services offer enhanced value so they will make use of these services
  4. Firms should consider specialized mobile CRM data analytics platforms that integrate with core CRM systems because current core CRM platforms lack sufficient sophistication to account for mobile CRM data needs

Photo credit: The Lightworks

1) Set up appropriate customer segments, which allows firms to deliver individualized services
2) The CRM system must integrate mobile data (mobile sales, mobile content usage, location based services, etc)
3) Ensure customers understand that a firm’s mobile services of enhanced value so they will make use of these services
4) Firms should consider specialized mobile CRM data analytics platforms that integrate with core CRM systems because current core CRM platforms lack sufficient sophistication to account for mobile CRM data needs
Photo credit: The Lightworkshttp://www.flickr.com/photos/leonardlow/1142365603/

Innovation and competitive differentiation using idea management systems

This research report delves into how Microsoft used a grassroots idea management system to encourage individuals who do not routinely participate in “formal” product development processes to contribute their ideas to new product development initiatives. Out of 1,491 users, 315 ideas were generated, 100 prototypes produced, with six ideas absorbed into product teams.

Microsoft approached this process in four phases: pose a challenging business problem (Microsoft posed challenges on Peer2Peer advertising, identity-based systems services, and social computing), foster community ideation, filter/refine the best ideas, and launch/integrate qualified ideas into designated product pathways. Once an idea is submitted, community participants had a chance to vote, comment, and extrapolate on those ideas. Not so surprising was the fact that development and sales/marketing personnel participated the most. Nevertheless, the researchers cited several instances where other types of participants valued the exercise because it allowed them to informally break out of their silos and contribute to an overall corporate goal.

Despite the success of the system, the researchers recommended several areas for Microsoft to improve:

  • Foster meaningful participation across the broader corporate community by offering incentives that would allow individuals to justify deviating from their normal job functions
  • Use business relevant criteria in the voting process, not “popularity” voting
  • Measure and appreciate outcomes beyond revenue (the authors cite improved workforce ideation skills, cross-functional cooperation and pollination of ideas, and breaking down silos)
  • Structure the idea submitting phase so that it cuts off at some point; some ideas that were submitted towards the end of the process were not seen or voted on
  • Great ideas center around challenge problems (i.e., focus ideas around business critical issues to resolve)
  • Have ideas meet some minimum threshold so as to weed out truly frivolous ideas
  • Encourage product developers to review relevant ideas in the system that previously had not been acted upon; this ameliorates the perception that the system is an “idea graveyard”
  • Clearly label each phase of the innovation system/process so it enables users to fully understand their contributions within each phase
  • Create a support system for users whose ideas were not selected but nevertheless want to further develop them; some people are simply passionate about their idea and are willing to spend their own time developing such, and the idea management system should have a template for them to follow

A idea management system can operate as a competitive advantage for firms. By internalizing and facilitating an idea groundswell not only are firms harnessing internal talent but they’re creating valuable intellectual property assets that can potentially deliver a huge competitive advantage.