Month: July 2007

The VRM Vector

What makes VRM (Vendor Relationship Management) distinctive is that its perspective is anchored with the individual — the person, the user, the customer. It is not something that vendors do for customers. It’s something customers do for themselves, and for each other, including vendors.

VRM is not opposed to vendors. Quite the opposite: it supports vendors. It is independent of vendors, but also able to engage vendors in ways that work for both parties — far better than any vendor-side-only CRM (customer relationship management) system can today.

All this comes to mind for two reasons. One is that we’re having a meeting on VRM in the morning here at Oxford. The other is that Dave Winer posted some fine VRM stuff right here. Sez Dave,

The next evolution of the web is to deconstruct social networks into their components. I’m tired of building networks of friends, over and over. Next time I do it, it’ll be for keeps. It’ll be the “real” social network, the one all future social networks build on, just as the format and protocol designed by TBL was the one we all built on for basic machine-level networking.

The “arcs” — the lines connecting people — will need to have better labels. And like the Internet, be subject to innovation by anyone, without anyone else’s permission. Small pieces, loosely joined.

And the arcs will connect groups of people too. Big pieces that act just like the small pieces. ;->

And there will be an easy way for an app to authenticate someone, and access data private to the app, and data that the user has let the app have access to. That way when I register to be part of a new community I don’t have to re-enter all my data again.

Note how Dave declares his independence here; and how he offers ideas that can work for everybody — far better than the your-choice-of-silo system works now. He offers constructive ideas that are not just good for individuals, but can serve to improve the offerings coming from the likes of Facebook, from which Dave and I (and many of the rest of you too, I suppose) are getting a torrent of invitations these days.

Right now I have 35 friend requests on Facebook, on top of the 15 I’ve already approved. I’d like to approve many (or hell, all) of these requests at once, but instead I have to go through this silly stage where I have to say how I know each one of these people. Like it matters. There’s a rectangle of checkboxes with choices like,

– Cut in front of me in the dining hall line
– Frenched my sheets
– Got me stoned
– Gave me a hickey
– Screwed on sight
– Brought the wrong appetizer, but it was cool
– Took my parking space

You can “request confirmation” or “skip this step”. I always click the latter, but it’s never quick, and always a pain in the pants. LinkedIn, Pownce, Orkut and all the ‘sters (that were big several years ago) have their oddball routines as well. All are a little off in what they assume about me and people I might know.

We don’t have the way to fix this yet. But we have the will, the talent, and a growing set of ideas about how to build something that works for each and all of us out here in the real world.

And every new invitation to join yet another social silo only motivates us more.

Customer Divorce Mismanagement

Sprint gives needy customers the boot, Terrence Russel reports. The gist:

“These customers were calling to a degree that we felt was excessive,” explained Sprint spokeswoman Roni Singleton in an interview with Reuters. “In some cases they were calling customer care hundreds of times a month for a period of six to 12 months on the same issues even after we felt those issues had been resolved.”
In all fairness, the figure of 1,000 is relatively small compared to Sprint’s total user base of roughly 53 million, and the company is covering the termination fees and final bills of its jilted customers. But even though the company cites the customer service gridlock as the real problem, I’m led to wonder if this has more to do with Sprint’s obvious desire to overhaul its user base.

I always like thinking of myself as some company’s “base”, don’t you?

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