VRM: CRM's flip side
|Every non-profit now talks about needing to improve their CRM. But thanks to a post by Jay Deragon, I've been doing some reading this week about the emerging concept of VRM, or Vendor Relationship Management -- If CRM refers to software-based tools for organizations to manage their relationships with customers, constituents, and supporters, VRM is the complimentary set of tools, helping those individuals to manage their relationships with companies, organizations, and communities. The idea is appealing - but its actual application still seems quite hazy.|
The center of the VRM hub-bub seems to be Project VRM at Harvards' Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Their wiki states that
CRM systems until now have borne the full burden of relating with customers. VRM will provide customers with the means to bear some of that weight, and to help make markets work for both vendors and customers — in ways that don't require the former to "lock in" the latter.Any system that will allow particpation of both vendors and customers (or donors and fundraisers, or politicians and supporters...) starts to point toward the more collaborative environments that are being termed "social media" these days. And indeed, we find VRM being discussed on sites like "The Social Customer" blog by Christopher Carfi, which is trying to evolve models of customer service and marketing that assume a more empowered and participatory customer base.
We are all both customers and vendors. But what does a VRM/CRM collaboration look like? This still seems an open question. I'm not yet seeing anything much more concrete than Carfi's call for "a robust way for customers to manage their own online identities without getting trapped in any vendor's silo. " CRM systems today are offering concrete Return on Investment to their users. The VRM conversation needs to focus on how to provide concrete measurable benefits for customers if this paradigm is gain traction.