Customer information

I remember being at a conference some years ago, when I was asked “Of all the things that are being hyped right now, what do you dislike most?”I replied “Customer Relationship Management”, arguing that the models I saw were more about Customer Exploitation Management than about Relationship Management. You don’t seek to exploit people you have a relationship with.

A couple of years ago, in conversation with Doc Searls, we touched on similar themes. He recounted a tale of the time he spent in Africa, and how markets there worked on relationship first and transaction second, in terms of the way the conversations flow. Something along the lines of “How’s your uncle’s wisdom tooth doing?” “Did your son-in-law finally learn to drive?” “Did you hear about Nathaniel’s adventure?”

Doc posited that the relationship-then-only-when-called-for-transaction route was the way conversations should go, and that we had somehow lost our way in the West. Having spent half my life in India, this resonated with me.

The next day, I heard Dick Hardt do his Subterranean Homesick Blues bit with Identity. For those who haven’t seen it, it’s a must. You can find it here. And I walked away loving it. Yes, why can’t I share my Amazon buying profile with other booksellers? Why can’t I share my airline and hotel information more usefully across multiple providers? Isn’t it my information in the first place?

And rattling around in the back of my mind was some of the stuff in Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point arguments. [Wow. I was wondering how best to describe the book and the arguments. Of course. Wikipedia, what else?]. There was a sense that connectors, mavens and salesmen demonstrated weak-interaction behaviour in terms of soft-hands non-exploitative relationships with their network of influence. Which worked so much better than the MLM and pyramid selling techniques we are all more used to.

I’m posting this for a very simple reason. Trying to gauge what people are doing about this, the need to give customer information back to the customer. Who’s doing it rather than just talking about it?

Identity and authentication and permissioning are critical to the buildout of 21st century enterprise applications.

Let me know what you think