A Publication of WTVP

Some readers have asked me to explore the subject of my last column, customer relationship management (CRM), in a bit more detail. Let’s step back a bit and talk about the influence of the Internet and the Web browser, or what we call "the telephone of the 21st century." Then, over the next few months, I’ll focus on the different aspects of CRM and the new technologies that will make it an everyday part of the business process.

Business is done by people, for people. People buy and people sell. The efficiency of business is, therefore, dependent on how easy it is for people to communicate and collaborate. This is the reason the telephone has been the primary relationship tool for the last 100 years. Everyone has access, and no training is required. However, as we speak, the Web browser is rapidly replacing the telephone. The reasons are the same-easy access and no training. Our children are learning to use a mouse before the telephone. Teenagers can’t exist without instant messenger and chat rooms. And, yes, businesses that want to survive have implemented an industrial-strength Web presence. We’re trapped.

The Web is allowing-or should I say requiring-us to manage relationships in new ways. Customers now browse our site to check us out before beginning a relationship. If they like what they see, they’ll surrender the CRM information that will enable us to target their likes and become more responsive to their needs. As the relationship grows, we can turn our site into a portal to give them direct access. Why have someone else wait on them when they can serve themselves?

We can offer the same feature to distributors and suppliers. Forget the telephone and customer service; let them go directly to the source data and see for themselves. HR also can extend the digital dialog capabilities to employee relationship management with on-line benefits enrollment and browser access to 401K administration. Relationship management will never be the same.

So what does this really mean for our business? We’ve all heard the expression, "You are what you wear," or "You are what you eat." In today’s Internet environment, "You are your Web site, your portal, your CRM process." The quality of your Web site and the depth of your CRM will define your business. Your site will be used to establish relationships and convert them into opportunities. As the relationships grow, you may soon know more about your trading partners than they do themselves. It works both ways. They can learn more about you as well.

There you have it-the magic ingredients for building relationships and fostering collaboration in today’s fast changing world: CRM, your Web site, and the browser-the "telephone of the 21st century." IBI