In some instances, companies are giving customers access to CRM tools. The British Broadcasting Co. has set up an online developer community, called Backstage. The site encourages viewers to submit ideas about how the network can improve its programming and the delivery of that programming. Toward that end, the BBC provides content that people can modify, recombine, or otherwise play with. “It enables us to work with early adopters and people at the bleeding edge of technology,” explains Matthew Cashmore, a BBC development producer.
Backstage visitors, for example, indicated they wanted more weather information from the network. In response, the BBC devised an online system enabling programmers to access the data directly from the BBC weather center. Backstage has yielded other audience-conceived innovations as well. “We’re seeing people taking traffic information and matching our data up with Google maps,” says Cashmore. “This is all built by our audience — not us.”
One viewer created a “BBC World News Widget” on Backstage, taking news stories from a network feed and putting them on a revolving earth. “That is such a fabulous way of contextualizing where a story is [taking place],” says Cashmore. “To see a story in Africa that pings to the part of Africa that it’s about — all of a sudden it makes sense.”
The experience has been surprising — and humbling. “Big organizations like to think they know how things should be done,” Cashmore says. “But when you make your bare data available and people do something with it, it makes you wonder: ‘Why didn’t we think of that?’”
Esther Shein writes frequently about business technology.
Where in the World Is that Lead in San Diego?
When designers at Entellium began creating the latest version of the company’s sales-management software, they looked long and hard at who would actually be using the program. What they found: the average salesperson is highly competitive, highly educated, and in his or her twenties or thirties. Not surprisingly, they also share a similar hobby. Says Dave Scott, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Seattle-based Entellium: “The consumption rate of video games in that particular demographic is huge.”
So Entellium decided to create a customer relationship management (CRM) application that would mimic the look and feel of video games. Even the name of the application, Rave, is geared for the PS3 set. Activity maps in the software, which is aimed at small to midsize businesses, offer visually intuitive ways to manage client data, rather than a more typical grid-based view. Global sales rankings look a lot like player rankings in multiplayer online games. And so-called bragging-rights stats for each salesperson are somewhat similar to the “achievements” displayed for Xbox players.
The approach seems to be paying off. JobMonkey.com, an employment specialist also in Seattle, rolled out Rave in December. Kevin Lutgarten, vice president of the site, says the company had been keeping track of its sales leads with a mix of tools, from Excel spreadsheets to paper files. “It became more and more difficult to track who our good leads were and who had actual sales as opposed to prospects,” says Lutgarten.