Companies have tried to focus on customers all through the 1990s, often with little idea of what focus demands or even what customers want. The IT revolution makes it far easier for everyone to understand those wants; to create customer loyalty through continuous feedback; and to achieve the elusive ‘customer focus’. IT has come to the fore in boardroom after boardroom as, consciously or not, top managements have reacted to fundamental, far-reaching change in their markets.
Reacting is one thing: acting another. Few companies are taking the decisive actions demanded by change – and those few will win in the Customer Age. Managerial mind-sets are still heavily conditioned by the Service Age, which saw the old production orientation give way to marketing. Now, before the imperatives of service excellence have been fully absorbed and applied, the customer is rapidly moving into the driver’s seat. Customer focus is not a new buzz-phrase, but a practical and inevitable transition.
To focus on the customer can only mean orienting all business processes to customer wants. The driving force of the company becomes meeting those desires to the fullest possible extent in the most effective possible way. The definition sounds vague. What do ‘fullest possible’ and ‘most effective possible’ mean? Information technology is answering these questions with an unprecedented precision about customer-focused ends and means.
Redirected focus at the top has profound consequences for the company as a whole and for information systems management in particular. The primary corporate task is to ensure that all functions (sales, marketing, manufacturing, service, even finance) and all line managements shift their focus from internal to external – with customer criteria as key success measures. Information specialists cannot be exempt from this imperative. Nor can other functions and other operations achieve their customer goals without intimate IT collaboration.
Leading-edge companies are using IT to achieve, not only future benefit, but a sharper customer focus now. That sharpness depends on proactive use of information resources to provide management, from the board downwards, with the ability to make better decisions and build operational superiority into the system by…
• obtaining detailed knowledge and understanding of their customer base
• manipulating the data to divide that base into meaningful segments
• ‘informating’ to achieve the effect of intimate customer relationships by remote means
• using information to provide customised products and services at prices that customers will happily pay
None of these four critical missions is IT-driven. Rather, top managements drive IT to obtain the support which is basic to strategic ambitions in the Customer Age. Some new developments are state-of-the-art, such as smart cards. In other applications, leaders are using IT to make easier what successful firms have always done: for example, exploiting the fact that a few customers contribute most of the turnover.
The technology is the key to understanding customers better: aiming to know everything about the customers and precisely what they want, and adjusting service to meet the customers’ desires and delight and make the supplier’s profit [url=http://www.crusher-machine.com/28.html]rotary kiln[/url]. That presupposes a depth of data acquisition and analysis which many firms surprisingly lack [url=http://www.hxjqchina.com/product-list_11.html]jaw crusher[/url]. Analysis of sales and financial performance by market and product may be sophisticated. Analysis by customer – in the same company – may be non-existent.