Whos on First? Stakeholder Differences in Customer Relationship Management and the Elusive Notion of Shared Understanding

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Publication Date

Fall 2004


After first demonstrating that definitions of customer relationship management (CRM) vary widely, we build upon stakeholder and network theories and argue that there are two fundamental categories of participants in any CRM initiative: (1) "core" stakeholders (i.e., the firm selling its products or services as well as its customers), and (2) various "noncore" stakeholders (e.g., CRM consultants). We then develop a process-based framework and related propositions capturing the various stakeholders involved in a CRM initiative as well as several important mediating and moderating relationships yet to receive attention in the literature. Next, we highlight the specific frame of reference and inherent biases of each type of CRM stakeholder, with particular emphasis on how each attempts to sell its offerings, services, or wares. At the core of our framework is a little-commented-upon mediating construct that we label "Shared Understanding of CRM." The paper next offers an additional, and perhaps more pragmatic, framework for managers to garner a better understanding of which specific stakeholders are at work in any given CRM initiative, which type of customers might be involved, and which outcome variables or metrics might be salient. The paper's conclusion offers insights into how the elusive goal of shared understanding of CRM might best be achieved.



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