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November 24, 2017

Customer relationship management (CRM) and customer experience management (CXM) initiatives have been useful tools to improve customer service. But they only operate as linear systems between the enterprise and customers – they don’t take advantage of the myriad business opportunities that exist within an ecosystem. Inter-customer relationship management (ICRM) is a way of super-charging data you already collect and making it more valuable for all the customers you serve. ICRM goes beyond establishing and facilitating connections among customers on an ad-hoc basis.

 An effective ICRM program has the potential to change the game, but pioneers need to be ready to tackle several challenging questions:

  • Make sure your CRM and CXM systems have the capability to correctly identify customer needs your company cannot fill but which other customers might be able to. Second, automate this process of identification with technology that has robust capabilities to gather and analyze unstructured data. Get a grip of how you wish to administer the entire implementation process –including the level of automation and amount of human involvement required.
  • Data-driven retention marketing technology has become a must-have. For better visibility into the products and services your customers can provide other customers, you need to understand their habits at a deeper level and react to them in real-time. In other words, extend your customer journey analytics to provide insights beyond what people are doing, and start figuring out why they are doing it. Use social media monitoring and text analysis. The average adult is connected to the web by 4.5 devices, so those connections provide a wealth of valuable data as 2017 sees strong investments in retention activities with greater emphasis on social influence and sentiment analysis, social ICRM will thrive.

Building ICRM into the DNA of your company.

ICRM can create significant value for your customers and in turn, increase the profitability of your business. As you benefit from the first mover advantage, you must also be ready to deal with questions that don’t yet have any clear-cut solutions. Do you want your customers to participate in your ICRM program only after they actively express such intent? If they do, what will be the role of your ICRM operator? To what extent will it facilitate connections between your customers? How will he respond if the identified customer connection falls apart, and turns not just unproductive, but also hostile? To what extent are you ready to salvage such situations?

Other considerations: Will you be open to bolstering the value of your customer-to-customer recommendations with analysis presented by outsiders and non-profit organizations? Will you be unreceptive of external review? Will you create a new mechanism to help your customers assess your recommendations? How do you want to receive feedback? Will you make that feedback available in public space? Or will you keep it restricted to the top management of your company, and open it up to other ICRM participants in the later years? How will you assess the benefits?

As with any new initiative, ICRM trailblazers will need to experiment to find their feet and plot their path. To gain insight into how you can build a robust ICRM program and face challenges in this journey read my article What Comes After CXM? Helping Customers Help Other Customersin the latest edition of our management journal, Perspectives.

Anthony is an Engagement Director in the TCS Global Customer Experience Practice. Prior to joining TCS, Anthony had 20 years of experience at traditional and digital agencies, plus 7 years with IBM Interactive as one of the leaders of their Design Thinking Practice. Anthony completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Sydney majoring in Media Theory and US Politics. He earned his Masters from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology School of Communication and Design.


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