Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Here at Supernova 2007

After some challenges getting online, I am now wifi-enabled here at Wharton West, the venue for Supernova 2007's pre-conference "Challenge Day."

I'm parked in the "Markets & Relationships" track...mostly because it's moderated by Jerry Michalski, who I enjoy.

The opening session was a discussion between Jerry and Cluetrain Manifesto co-authors Doc Searls and Dave Weinberger. I have to say I didn't think the format or over-arching topic served these guys well. We got caught up in a discussion or definition of CRM inverted.

If both of those acronyms are Greek to you, as best I understand it, CRM or Customer Realtionship Management is how companies often define their efforts to organize sales, service and support around customers. VRM or Vendor Relationship Management is inverted...asking what it would look like if vendors behaved as only one of the customer's many choices, and if customers took an active role in managing their vendors. I dunno. Here are some links, you figure it out. Project VRM Wikipedia on CRM

The point is heard a lot of talk about language. I'm a writer. I think words ar important, but seriously, do we need a discussion about whether it's better to say one "manages" an online community or "serves" it get the idea. "Customer" vs. "consumer." The evils of the term "user generated content." The conversation around language just seem tired.

Why don't we stop talking theory and language and talk action? Project VRM is so new it's a buncha talk, but I can guarantee you that there are companies out there doing cool things...even if they don't qualify as "Web 2.0", and there are customers out there making vendor decisions and managing all the companies or organizations that sell them products and services without realizing there's a new "project" behind it.

And I also think there was a lack of elasticity to the perpsectives I heard. How much relationship I want with a company, how much service I expect, how much value I derive, how much interaction I expect, how much I'm willing to pay, how annoyed I'm willing to get differs wildly based on the kind of company/product/service we're talking about. It is not one size fits all.

I will say this: I appreciated the lack of company-bashing that sometimes accompanies cluetrain-style conversations.

Companies, after all, are comprised of people. And every ad deal you mock, or customer service experience you rant about, or strategic decision you came from people, just like Soylent Green.

And I can assure you no one sets out to make a colossal blunder, or to piss off and alienate a customer or create an inane or even offensive ad. (OK, sometimes companies think it will work in their favor to do the latter.)

You and I are not better than the people at some company that makes a loser move. We've made our loser moves in other parts of our lives, I am pretty sure. I can live without the superiority that creeps into similar panels I've attended on this subject...and it was refreshing to only get a leetle bit of company0bashing, instead of a whole lot!

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