As Scoble and others have shown, blogs are a powerful way to quickly react to negative publicity, to establish real credibility, and build lasting bonds with customers and the community. For all the millions upon millions of dollars that companies have poured into customer relationship management (CRM) systems, it is surprising more haven’t encouraged their employees to blog. Companies seem to willing to talk the one-to-one talk, but when it comes to empowering, and trusting, their employees to connect directly to customers on a mass scale, the commitment usually whithers away.
Isn’t it ironic that companies will spend big bucks to build “relationships” by compiling and cross-indexing information about their customers, without realizing that a relationship, by definition, is inheritently reciprocal? Does having a website greet me by name make me feel like I have a closer relationship with that company? No it doesn’t—in fact it kinda spooks me out. Why? Because it lays bare the fact that my “relationship” with said company is out of balance—they know a lot more about me than I know about them.
While CRM systems may help you know more about your customers — they don’t build relationships because they don’t help your customers know more about you.
And that is the beautiful thing about employee blogs. It is one way to bring some much-needed parity to the customer relationship. All companies are ultimately organized collections of people. And by getting to know some of those people a little better, we (the customers) get to know the company better.
I can think of no better example of this than the Channel 9 site at the Microsoft Developer Network. I feel like I know infinitely more about Microsoft now because of this site. Getting to listen in on interesting conversations between people who have built and are buliding tools I use everyday is very valuable to me. I am so glad Microsoft decided to do that instead of making sure I see a “Welcome, Mason Hale” message everytime I visit their website.