Relationships are how you express them

At the recent VRM developers meeting, I posited an idea:

Relationships only exist to the extent that we express them.

Except for incidental relationships, every relationship that we care about manifests itself in our world in the form of expressions of that relationship.

Consider a potential relationship between two people, Bob and Frank, walking down the same street. If they just walk on by each other, without even noticing or reacting, the relationship of being on the same street is purely incidental, and not what we mean by “relationship” in the VRM context.

On the other hand, if they were to wave and say hello in a neighborly way, that would be evidence and expression of a “neighbor” relationship. If instead, Bob were to threaten Frank and demand his wallet, that would be evidence and expression of a “mugger” and “victim” relationship.

In fact, there may be a number of other relationships, incidental or otherwise, between Bob and Frank. They could be brothers, school mates, rivals, even vendor and customer. But those relationship only matter to the extent that they change their behavior, that is, to the extent that either one of them expresses themselves a particular way because of the relationship.

If your lover never smiles at you, kisses you, loves you in any way, are they your lover?

If your teacher never teaches you anything, are they your teacher?

If your customer never buys anything, are they your customer?

No. Our relationships are the sum of their expressions. They are defined by how we express them.

If we can enable rich expressions of relationships by customers and vendors, we can enable a wide range of technologies, services, and benefits that go a long way to realizing the hope of Vendor Relationship Management.

Chris Carfi over at The Social Customer posted our first pass at a community brainstorm of ways that we express ourselves in relationships. It’s a great start and definitely helped illuminate my own thinking on the matter. In particular, it expanded the concept of a Personal RFP to include a more organic process that enables a richer relationship between buyers and sellers. Rather than focusing simply on an Open Marketspace that turns buyer requests into seller offers, we need a system that helps people create, maintain, and engage in relationships with vendors. When we do that, everyone wins. Vendors get more loyal customers and higher profits. Customers get better service and more appropriate products.

So, that’s got me turned on to learning more about real-world relationships of all kinds, commercial relationships in particular, and how we can translate those relationships into a user-centric VRM system.

Good stuff.

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