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WARNING: Vendor Relationship Management may make your company successful

December 9, 2006
When I worked at Microsoft over 5 years ago, one of the roles I had early on in my career there was as a technical leader for the product support group. We had a saying that was used a lot in the training we did for new support staff which was that "The customer is king". Whilst the catch cry didn’t always meet support staffs objectives in customer service, it was paramount to how the support people would interact with customers on a daily basis. It was a reminder that the reason they were being paid to sit in those seats was because of the person at the other end of the phone line.
It is a shame that in today’s electronic age with faster Internet access, multi-touch points to communicate and being an always-connected society, that it is still a surprise to me when I receive good customer service. How can so many businesses in this peer-rated world of ours, conduct interactions with existing and potential customers in so poorly a manner?
Even back then I felt that Microsoft was a thought leader in the systems they put in place, so that customers could interact with them. Whilst there were many failures, the important factor was that they constantly talked to the customers to see what was working and what wasn’t.
In this day and age, my brand loyalty is measured in how and if the vendor I’m dealing with makes me as an human being feel like an individual and have a positive experience. Once I feel like I’m either being slotted into a restrictive stereotype or being dealt with as an inferior, I enthusiastically rebel against that brand. I rebel by not just choosing to NOT purchase, but to actively verbalise to any and all who will listen about the negative experience with that brand. Thereby letting others I am in relationship with share the experience.
Businesses today have only two choices in their chosen markets and that is to quietly ignore or openly converse with your markets.
If you are a business with an online presence today, then you better have employed people who are managing those entities who know that today’s Internet is about proactive interaction not passive dormancy. Do you have services in place that foster conversations between you, your potential and your existing customers?
Doc Searls has a post about an initiative he started called "Project VRM". The VRM stands for Vendor Relationship Management which is a reciprocal of Customer Relationship Management (CRM). The site describes accurately how "relationship" in CRM have become an oxymoron today and there needs to be a new approach in how companies have the potential to have real relationships with both potential and existing customers. (Something I present & consult on is that a company can have a relationship with an individual who is not a purchasing customer. This individual may purchase OR may influence someone else to purchase. A lot of companies today have no idea about this)
I’ll be keen to see how this project evolves and will highlight further progress on this blog.
Posted by Shane Williamson.
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