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 / Spring 2004 / Issue 34(originally published by Booz & Company)


A New Window onto CRM Success

  • The Open Self is the most widely available information — information the individual sees and shares with the world, such as the color of his or her own hair.
  • The Blind Self is information that the individual cannot see but that is apparent to the world — say, a “kick me” sign surreptitiously stuck on one’s back.
  • The Hidden Self is information known to the individual but kept private from the world, such as the personal contents of a safe-deposit box.
  • The Unknown Self is the set of information unknown to both the individual and the world — one’s vote in the next national election, for example.

Communication between parties typically “moves” the Johari panes by shifting information from one quadrant to another. By revealing a personal secret, an individual expands the Open Self to include information that was previously part of the Hidden Self. Similarly, when feedback is communicated that increases a person’s self-awareness, the information moves from the Blind Self to the Open Self.

Beyond the Black Box
The Johari model of information exchange offers an opportunity to go beyond the black-box approach to data capture, to improve the health of customer–supplier relationships. The window encourages people and institutions to consider the information available in a relationship, and the actions that each member can take to improve mutual understanding and build trust.

In a customer–supplier relationship, there are two central opportunities: (1) Create an environment where both parties can share information more readily; increasing levels of trust and reciprocity will encourage increased sharing of the “private self,” just as is true in interpersonal relations. And (2) Give customers information that can improve their position — feedback, education, and other information currently unknown to them that might enable them to increase their self-awareness.

Take the relationship between a retail customer and a bank. Information readily maps to the four quadrants of the Johari Window. Open Self information — data shared and known by both parties — includes account numbers, transaction histories, and balances. Both the customer and the bank put information into this domain through transactions, statements, and other actions. The relationship also has a set of private or hidden information that is not revealed to the other party. This closely held Hidden Self information might include the customer’s other banking relationships, life events, or aspirations.

Within the relationship there is also a Blind Self, consisting of information known to the bank but not to the customer. Examples include customer profitability, credit history, and the bank’s view of the customer’s needs. In some cases, banks might have better knowledge than the customer of, for example, the customer’s financial potential or opportunities for improving the customer’s use of banking services.

The final quadrant, the Unknown Self, might include the optimal product solution set for the customer or the customer’s own as-yet-undiscovered needs and desires.

Characterizing the information available within the relationship in the four Johari categories allows bank executives to analyze the professional relationship the way they would a personal relationship. The benefits of this simple, human approach become evident when one contrasts it to the ways financial institutions have typically used CRM systems, which have focused on capturing information from the customer’s Hidden Self. In the course of service or sales interactions, customers are encouraged to reveal information, which is logged and stored by the system for later use. Typically, information goes through a complex set of inference algorithms, with the objective of adding meaning. These processes are hidden from the customer, and the resulting output — assumptions about the customer’s value and needs — is not directly shared with the customer. It also may be incorrect. Customers have even become conditioned to expect that their own bank won’t know or remember them.

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