I chaired the VRM stream at the ePortfolio conference in Maastricht this week which revealed real VRM applications being developed in Europe.
Peter Murton of PAOGA presented My Sorting Office providing individuals with fine control over spam. Using multiple email addresses, the individual can easily manage anonymity, temporary or persistent, and 'supplier or subject' specific inboxes. The 'Invitation' feature allows the individual to publish their 'interests' allowing suppliers to email relevant promotions (Permission Based Marketing) to self-declared hot leads. This is not advertising (attention economy) but lead generation (intention economy) driven by the user and, importantly, can be turned off by the user when their need is satisfied.
Bart Stevens of iChoosr is successfully providing communities, in his example a town comprising 500 heating oil consumers, with a simple and transparent RFP application to invite tenders from suppliers at bulk discount prices. 40% of the market participated and have benefited.
He posed the question "if e-commerce = capitalism, does VRM = socialism 2.0?".
Davor Meersman of Synergetics, following extensive research, sees VRM providing a channel for direct consumer feedback to suppliers innovation departments to address the 80% failure rate of Market Research projections.
John Power of Chill.ie is moving his insurance broker aggregation service to a VRM service in which the insured takes control and responsibility for accurate data entry and maintenance. This is in the interest of the user as innacurate data can not only affect premiums but can invalidate claims.
Caren Kunst has built a data repository to collect, update and share important medical information because her 8 year old son suffered Oesophagus Atresia and she was repeatedly asked to describe the symptoms to various medical specialists. She wanted this crucial information to be accurate and consistent at a time when emotions were running understandably high. She also wants it to be accessible over the long term as her son, now 16 and thankfully recovered, will need to refer to it throughout his lifetime. Her Good Care Support application is now being used by a number of patients and carers to not only record symptoms and treatments but also to build relationships and share their experiences with each other.
As you can see from these VRM examples, cost is not the only benefit. Peace of mind (security and privacy), convenience (write once – use many), quality and accessibility are all key drivers in managing relationships.
As Serge Ravet of EIfEL (European Institute for E-Learning) said "This is not limited to Vendors but, in the 21st Century, is relvant to ALL relationship management." Perhaps we have already moved beyond VRM to PRM (Personal Relationship Management), as I have previously proposed, or XRM.
The common thread between these proponents of VRM is the recognition that user 'trust' in the security and management of their personal information is crucial. As such, all are participating in the TAS3 (Trusted Architecture for Securely Shared Services) research initiative to deliver a platform providing increased trust in shared data (certified), transactions and relationships over the Internet to the benefit of consumers and businesses.
Luk Vervenne, CEO of Synergetics in Belgium, is the originator, technical and scientific coordinator of this important TAS3 project with the help of Danny Decock (KULeuven) and contributing partners representing a number of European Universities and key industry players including SAP and Oracle.
David Chadwick of Kent University raised a provocative issue in his keynote presentation. To paraphrase "Communities [cultures, nations, industry sectors] with a high degree of trust [he mentioned UK, USA] develop 'big' businesses. Communities with lower trust cultures [France, China, Sicily] tend to be more insular."
Peter Murton said "Trust is the foundation for all successful business ecosystems and it is fundamentally missing from the online environment. The success of the VRM movement will pivot around the development of system architectures that deliver mutual trust between the individual and business. Individuals should understand that this comes with responsibilities: to maintain accurate data about themselves and to work at establishing policies for the use of their data on a case-by-case basis maybe. Business should understand their role in complying with user policies and be prepared to invest in the creation of the biggest successful business ecosystem on the planet – the internet."
These assertions (and if I have misquoted them then blame me not them) is endorsed by the current financial crisis in which the banking sector has not only lost the trust of their customers but of each other, despite the financial support provided by governments (taxpayers), resulting in a loss of confidence and a downward spiral in the stock markets globally.
It is imperative that we provide individuals with the tools to manage their personal information – under their control, with their consent, for their benefit – with trusted 'user-driven' alternatives to the current public and private 'customer-centric' data silos which have demonstrated such scant respect for personal information in recent years.