PBWorks is launching a new version of their product today (see previous coverage of PBWorks here) that is aimed at solving the problem of traditional CRMs being siloed and closed to external customers. In the process they’ve invented yet another three letter acronym – Customer Relationship Collaboration or CRC. While I’m not enamored with the acronym, the concept is one that resonates with me. But first let’s see what this is all about.

The diagram below shows the siloing of data within a traditional CRM. As you can see, all of the external interactions with the customer are outside of the traditional CRM functionality – PBWorks contends, and I agree, that this creates a disconnect in terms of customer lifecycle management.

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PBWorks solution for this problem is to provide a collaborative, customer-facing environment that facilitates all parties to work together and this is what they’re calling CRC – the combination of Communications + Content + Coordination.

So what does this mean in real terms. Specific functionality that this new version offers includes:

  • a customizable prospect/customer interface
  • a shared collateral library
  • customer engagement monitoring
  • an automated custom workspace creation
  • workspace classification and filtering

The best way to understand it is to look at the diagram below – what PBWorks is doing is creating customer and project specific “microsites” that are skinned with the look and feel of the customer (or prospect for that matter). These sites are rolled within the master site so, in th example Chris Yeh from PBWorks gave to me, an advertising firm would have separate microsites for all it’s different campaign and prospective campaigns.

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Part of the gain from this is in the automatic nature of the process. Companies can set up specific  templates, and specific fields so that the microsites are both created automatically and, more importantly, customized to the task at hand – be it through customer names, logos etc.

The real value however lies in the oversight this gives into how customers are engaging with a companies content. PBWorks gives updates for specific customer actions (page viewed, file downloaded etc) and these appear on an activity stream for the site – in this way a company can build some visibility into how customers are reacting to their content.

Of course such a customer centric model really lends itself to a deep integration with a CRM. In an ideal world a company could set up an opportunity with salesforce for example, have a custom microsite automatically generated, and have specific actions as customers open specific pages in the site – it’s a similar model to that which sliderocket is offering for presentations – kind of a “watch and react, in real time and to real data” type play. I put this to Chris who agreed – apparently PBWorks is working on an integration with salesforce at the moment and the release of that integration is imminent.

Update – I just received this from chris – “We have just added Salesforce.com integration so that you can do 1-click customer/prospect workspace creation from within Salesforce.com.

This new functionality is slated for rollout in Q3 of this year and will be priced at $30 per user per month. Access to the customer/prospect microsites will be free. A video showing the functionality is posted here .

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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