This obviously can’t be achieved through personal relationships, but IT’s substitution of impersonal contacts can be highly effective. Most people have used call centres by now: so managers know from personal experience that the centres are an excellent and fast-spreading example of improving customer relationships by remote techniques. What customers lose through impersonality, they more than regain in 24-hour availability and in better information and improved consistency – which they actually value more highly than personal contact.
Call centres and, to a still greater extent, new sales and delivery channels such as the Internet are the direct children of the IT revolution. Dynamic Websites and other interactive electronic media, such as multimedia kiosks, offer business new levels of sophistication. Customer and supplier can achieve a dialogue going beyond the dreams of yesterday’s managers.
Different information strategies are needed to focus on rising intensities of customer focus. Are impersonal relationships enough? Or are personal ones obligatory? Is the customer so large and profitable that intimate relationships are essential? IT can enhance even those relationships that still require personal or intimate contact. The technology makes feasible and economic the otherwise impossible: like enabling customer and supplier to work in harness to create shared success.
Several of the new advances are already in wide use and making money for many users. This is the era of teamwork, not just within companies, but across the boundaries between supplier and customer. IT as facilitator for teamwork, and for interactions between teams, internal and cross-frontier, is indispensable. The end-result can be a unique and unbreakable relationship.
Airborne Express is a case in point. It provides customised express air services for business customers world-wide. For large-volume customers, Airborne developed bespoke systems. When Technicolor challenged a long-standing monopoly in Hollywood film distribution, Airborne and its subsidiary, Advanced Logistics Services, worked with Technicolor on a new system using two warehouses, an easy return airbill system and electronic links to customers. Development teams in each company interacted constantly to get the service operational in 1993. It rose to 40% of the market.
Mass customisation, another way to strengthen the customer relationship, is set to become the norm in many sectors. The idea of customised sales tactics is to choose, via a ‘sales tactics system’, the sales approach most likely to work for each individual customer or prospect. A potent example is ‘event-oriented prospecting’ or EOP. One US financial services company has identified nine ‘life events’ (out of a total of 29) that give it selling opportunities – for instance, a birth in the family.
In such ways, customisation can satisfy unique customer needs at costs which need no longer be prohibitive. IT is lowering the premium for mass customisation [url=http://www.hx-crusher.com/ore_beneficiation.html]ore beneficiation[/url]. Not surprisingly, the lower the premium, the greater the proportion of buyers who choose the customised product or service.
Motorola, as an example, found it could afford to make one-off pagers -customers were able to choose from a million-plus combination of features [url=http://www.hx-crusher.com/impact_crusher.html]impact crusher[/url]. A tailored Personal Pair of Levis jeans, costing only extra, had obvious attractions for customers. Bank of Scotland’s Personal Choice mortgage allowed them to vary payments – and write cheques on the mortgage account. There’s a personalised US newspaper that adjusts content to the individual subscriber’s expressed preferences. Websites offer similar customisation possibilities.