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


A New Window onto CRM Success

Compare this with interpersonal relationships, in which trust is built over time, and in which parties come to expect mutual sharing and retention of knowledge over the course of the relationship. When viewed through the Johari Window, the CRM challenge is no longer so much persuading or tricking a customer into revealing his or her Hidden Self; it is, rather, expanding the Open Self — increasing the amount of shared information that is valuable to both parties. For example, many banks conduct initial needs analyses when a customer first opens an account. Instead of filing the results of these interviews in a drawer, the bank could share them and make them available for continuous updating (e.g., through an Internet channel) throughout the bank–customer relationship — quite the opposite of hiding information away to be used (at best) in internal bank processes. Qantas Airways Ltd. has successfully implemented user-updatable profiles, which are mailed and e-mailed to customers. The open approach both improves information quality and reduces the privacy concerns that are increasingly voiced in response to more hidden CRM data collection.

Companies can also seek to reduce the customer’s Blind Self. The strength of a personal relationship depends in no small part on the degree to which individuals can sensitively offer one another feedback that increases self-awareness and deepens the feeling of sharing between them. The same is true in customer–supplier relationships.

In banking, for example, the organization can help shrink the customer’s Blind Self by sharing information (such as amount of home equity available), creating a simple personal balance sheet for the customer, or suggesting ways to improve returns or decrease fees. As in personal relationships, the bank’s role in throwing light on the blind quadrant needs to be approached with sensitivity, in a context sympathetic to the overall relationship. Successfully done, this type of feedback has the potential to allow the bank’s data to be available and open to its customers and allow its CRM processes to become integrated with individuals’ personal budgeting and financial management approach.

Relationships Recast
Increasing feedback between the individual and the institution supports customers’ own efforts to understand and develop their Blind Selves. Indeed, as consumer choice increases as an option or necessity in many spheres — in health care, finance, and retirement planning, for example — the mutual benefits of rich, open, and shared spaces become even more clear. They can help suppliers better determine the next logical product for the customer and aid the customer in recognizing and articulating needs for his or her current life stage.

Recast, the CRM challenge shifts from capturing customer information to enlarging the shared/revealed space in the customer relationship, delivering both greater intimacy as customers share their private selves and greater engagement as the institution leverages its available information to help people expand their Open Selves. The imperative for CRM is to shift from a focus on capturing information to a concentration on building a truly shared space that supports communication and increased customer engagement with the institution.

The new approach to CRM requires a mind-set change for many companies. Viewed through the Johari Window, customer relationship management requires that a culture of reciprocity replace the cult of secrecy that prevails at many institutions. Moreover, next-generation CRM requires the institution to invest in the customer as the customer invests in the institution, by helping customers realize value from revealing the Hidden and Blind Selves. Consistent with the objective of building an environment of reciprocity and trust, such investment must support customer empowerment, and it must manage the privacy concerns inherent in traditional CRM applications.

This newly constituted “Open CRM” should begin with an analysis of where increased information sharing and deeper relationships could add most value for customers and suppliers. Suppliers must react by realigning the capture of information and developing new, shared information channels. The U.S. bank Washington Mutual, for example, has developed “teller towers” where customers and staff stand side by side, jointly viewing the customer’s account information. This shared information must then be leveraged to demonstrate the value to customers of increased openness and closer relations.

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