A Definition of Collaborative CRM


1 October 2003

The term “Collaborative CRM” seems, like so many other phrases associated with customer relationship management (CRM) to be confused and confusing. We need to define what it means.

The least useful definition comes from several of the product vendors who want Collaborative CRM to mean customer service where the customer and the company agent communicate in real-time by some means other then telephone or face-to-face. So web co-browsing solutions (where the agent and the customer browse together on the customer’s desktop), chat, instant messaging, and various forms of application or desktop sharing have all been branded “Collaborative CRM”.

That is just plain silly. You would not call the boring old telephone Collaborative CRM but that is how most customer service interactions are handled. Why another name for the “new” channels?

To arrive at two more useful definitions we should consider who is collaborating.

In one scenario, which we may call Supply Chain Collaborative CRM (SC3), it is the extended enterprise that collaborates on solving the customer query. This enterprise consists of the company that sold the product (with which the customer has a direct relationship) and their partners, suppliers, agents and other entities involved in delivering the product or service.

So the customer may contact her travel agent who passes the query to the airline who in turn passes the request to the company providing the catering. “Can we have a nut-free flight?”

In the other scenario it is the customers who are collaborating. An example is Epinions where customers share reviews and comments about products and services. Any self-help community, frequently asked questions sites, and many discussion forums are examples of this scenario.

Forrester seems to prefer the term Emotive Networks for this type of Collaborative CRM. Emotions, and the investment that the individual user makes in terms of commitment and reputation to the network or community, is certainly a factor in their continued success, but the term probably puts too much emphasis on this aspect.

We might call this whole area Customer Community Management (CCM) if we were not so weary of introducing yet another three-letter acronym.

Suggestions on a postcard, please.