Getting an insight into customer management
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CRM Forum has a new look and feel as part of a wide ranging set of changes that will roll out over the coming months. It’s a new beginning and the man driving through the changes is Insight Exec CEO Tony Rice.

Rice is well qualified to lead a customer management service. “I’ve spent my entire career in IT in a variety of roles, at IBM for 16 years and then at BT for the past ten, but always in roles that were customer facing,” he says. “I’ve been in customer service, in sales, in market, various roles in the B2B environment. If there is one single thread, it is passion to solve the customer problem. My forte is the art of responding to customer needs and in the building of relationships with customers that leads to their gratification.”

So how is CRM Forum/Insight Exec going to achieve this? “Our vision for Insight Exec is to provide the place to go for business people across all walks of life to get access to support, help, expertise, advise on the subjects that are important to them,” explains Rice. It is in the area of business process and change. So, how do you manage your customer relationships, how you work with suppliers and partners and how to become an agile company.

“Insight Exec is a service, not a web site. It’s about online and offline services. I can evisage three major communities - one covering customer side, one covering the supply side and one covering the way that an organisation works within its own infrastructure. In popular terms, that will be CRM, SCM and business agility - although we want to steer clear of acronyms that mean little to man in the street. CRM and SCM are terms that would mean little to sole traders or not the same as it would to a major corporate. Under the Insight Exec umbrella we envisage a number of specialist groups. We want to be intensely customer focused. We don’t want to go out and do anything unless the customer tells us it is important to them.”

But CRM is one of the most potent acronyms in the industry - surely that’s one acronym that has to stick around? Apparently not. “Over time, the names of the areas we cover will be driven by the customer,” he insists. “As for CRM, we may drop the ‘R’ and call it Customer Management. Industry sees CRM as a technology issue, whereas Customer Managment embraces all things that happen around an organisation, from customer service through people change to the final outcome which is the project that implements the scheme. CRM is about the project, customer management is about the whole thing.”

Given that Insight Exec is a BT venture, how can CRM Forum’s traditional independece be maintained,l especially since other parts of BT have a commercial interest in selling or consulting on CRM products and services? “This is not a BT site,” says Rice. “We are owned by BT. Our research shows that there are advantages and disadvantages to putting the BT name in there. We need to demonstrate that this is a robust and solid place to go. The BT backing does give that level of assurance and credibility to what otherwise might be seen as ‘another dot com thing’. This has substance behind it in terms of people, technology and marketing budget.

“The downside might be that people think that all routes lead to BT. BT is a partner like Accenture is, like ATOS KPMG Consutling is a partner and like a lot of boutique customer management consultancy organistions. They’re all important partners of equals. If we were strguggling to get an independence message across, we wouldn’t be sitting here with 50 signed up partners, many of which you would typically not expect to see together. We will also not be carrying advertising which will be a demonstration of our independence. If it was seen that we were not operating at a level of neutrality, we will soon have failed.”

But who will the ideal CRM Forum/Insight Exec reader/member be? Rice argues: “We need to have the people who are able to implement the technology, but you need the leaders in business to understand how technology can bring about changes. In the middle you have things like people in finance, who sit there today believing that CRM projects don’t produce ROI. There’sa role there for us to play in educating them and in educating people in HR and in marketing. The new world of customer management demands cultural change. So the starting point is the people who understand the technology. Our partners are close to that particular area.

If we play this out to its full potential, we’ll build up layer by layer covering topics, functionsand geographies so that we can service people around the world and cover all functions and roles within organisations big and small. SMEs don’t necessarily have the technology or expertise to make decisions about customer management and they would like to get access to the information on that, but not spend a lot of money getting it. We want to give them the ability to tap into that information in a pick and mix way. A major corporate with call centre needs last year spent a million pounds on consultancy but came through us and was happy with £150 worth of first cut consultancy. Meanwhile a sole trader was able to come to us and get access to people and advice for £75 that he couldn’t otherwise afford.”

Rice concludes: “What we’re really keen is to ensure that CRM Forum is not seen as a web site, but as a service. We want people to get advantage of the community services. What will also happen is that we will have a genuine blend of the physical and the virtual. Regular readers can expect to see a lot more events, opportunities for people to get together and network. This is going to be much more than just another website. There are plenty of places to go on the internet to get information about CRM. This is much more about being a community.”

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