miércoles, 26 de marzo de 2008

Customer Relationship Management in Virtual Communities

Last week we were informed that Basque Governement´s Industry Department, has approved a research proposal we made in the Saiotek program. This project is about launching a Industrial Marketing Institute, where collect all the knowledge generated about the topic. The project has two main objectives, 1) generate the knowledge, by means of a research and 2) create and develop a community, where people can share knowledge.

Speaking with David, who is researching about on-line communities, we concluded that it is a great opportunity to materialize the work we are doing separately. Related with this topic I have found a paper from MSI about Customer Relationship Management in virtual communities. In this study, professor Constance Elise Porter (Notre Dame University) and professor Naveen Donthu (Georgia State University) explore how companies can use virtual communities to build relationships with consumers.

First of all they define virtual community as "an aggregation of individuals or business partners who interact based on a shared interest, where the interaction is at least partially suported and/or mediated by technology and guided by certain protocols and norms". From here on, they propose a model where TRUST is the central concept. The authors hypothesize that customer perceptions about the companie`s efforts to provide quality content, to foster members embeddedness and to encourage interactions in the virtual community will foster favorable beliefs and trust the company. The resultant trust will motivate customers (relational outcomes),

- To share personal information with the company
- To cooperate on new product development
- To be more loyal

The main findings of this interesting research are:

1. There is a positive association between trust and customer behaviour, that is, customer willingness to share personal information with the virtual community sponsor, willingness to cooperate in new product development or customer loyalty.

2. Fostering member`s embeddedness has greater impact on customer beliefs than providing access to quality content. From 90´s "the content is the king" to "the embeddedness is the emperor".

3. Fostering customer`s embeddedness has favorable and unfavorable effects. Communitie`s members can see sponsor`s efforts as opportunistic even though has no significant effect on trust.

4. The mere facilitation of interaction does not produce favorable consumer beliefs about the company.

5. The study underline the importance of using new techhnologies to manage relationships with customers rather than simply generate transactions.

6. Web interventions engender customer trust. Even though managers tend to think that using a community can be seen by customers as a way to manipulate them, this is not completely true. Consumers tend to tolerate certain degree of opportunism in commercial relationships.

7. But companies must be very careful about the information provided to community members, too much emphasize on favorable information about the company can result on lower trust in the company.

And I wonder, are these findings valid to industrial customer-based communities?

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