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Enterprise 2.0: Rethinking Customer Relationship Management

Author and consultant Paul Greenberg urges companies to find ways to engage with their customers.

Businesses that are unwilling to acknowledge the significance of the social computing revolution are "stupid."

So says Paul Greenberg, author of CRM at the Speed of Light and the president of the 56 Group, a consultancy. Speaking at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference on Wednesday, Greenberg did not mince words. The convergence of communication technology and social networking has changed the way that companies relate to customers and customers relate to companies, he insists.

This is not a new trend. It's been accelerating since 2002 or 2003, Greenberg argues. "It's a communications revolution," he said. "This is a social transformation that has impacted businesses."

For Greenberg, customer relationship management, or CRM, has become customer partnership management. The change in the way people communicate, now heavily reliant on social networking tools, demands a new approach to the way businesses interact with customers.

"The customer now controls the business eco-system," he said. "The customer is now in command of the conversations going on out there. ...The customer can impact your brand, positively or negatively, without your permission. They're operating and communicating in channels that you don't own."

CRM is no longer just a model for managing customers but one for fostering customer engagement, says Greenberg.

Engagement, as described by Greenberg, means listening to customers and allowing them to participate in the product design process. Great customer experiences historically involved a seamless enterprise value chain that functioned efficiently. Nowadays, he says, it's a different story. It's about looking at customers as partners.

As an example of the way businesses should operate, Greenberg points to consumer goods giant Proctor & Gamble, which has used feedback from social community Vocalpoint to reengineer its supply chain and solicits product innovation through its Connect + Develop portal.

"We're looking at something dramatic here," concluded Greenberg. "The opportunity is gigantic. Ignore it at your own risk."

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