Order Entry and the ‘Net: The Fruits are There for the Picking
How can companies take full advantage of the Internet revolution in the context of order processing? The answer lies in the understanding and implementation of value-added services to provide customers with a true competitive advantage.
Forms processing, item processing and archiving-These activities have been exploding and growing exponentially in the last decades of the 20th century. The advent of the Internet makes it feasible for such major vertical markets as Insurance, Healthcare, Government and Financial services to actually cope with the volume through the use of key software applications. However, finding ways to cope successfully with the increase in order processing volume is not sufficient to guarantee business success.
THE IMPORTANCE OF A LONG-TERM
To deliver competitive advantage, businesses must enable rapid processing of and ready access to every kind of business document . They must start putting into place a communication strategy to build a long-term, integrated, knowledge-based service system.
The future demands that companies use integrated databases and networks to provide a seamless web of customer knowledge, and make it very accessible at the same time. The ability to combine order processing with order routing and routing management in general can give a company a real competitive edge. An example of this is a product developed by Computershare for use in financial markets called ORMS (order routing and management system).
THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY
Even though communities on the Internet are tangential to order processing (there is no group ordering); It should be noted that real value for businesses of integrating the Internet into their way of doing business, will come when they provide people with the ability to interact with one another-thereby being able to satisfy their multiple social needs as well as their commercial needs. This is the new key to generating unheard of levels of customer loyalty in the coming years.
EARLY INTERNET EXAMPLES OF SUCCESSFUL INTEGRATION OF THE INTERNET IN COMPANIES’ OVERALL CUSTOMER COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES.
First Union National Bank
In the past, First Union Bank used to lose 80% of its customers who moved. Today, customer retention is up significantly because First Union has figured out how to help the customer stay put even when they move. They find out through a variety of service providers which customers are planning to move to anther city. They then contact them and offer to set up or move accounts or handle an array of other financial services. Customer service on demand exactly when it’s needed and the specific service needed-That’s what Union National Bank has learned how to do.
Recently, Pontiac GMC created a communication strategy to build long-term relationships with end users through its dealer network. Beginning in 1998, the GM division will publish customized magazines three times a year for individual customers based on a variety of owner lifestyle profiles. This program is unique in that it creates an opportunity for dealers and the manufacturer to open a dialogue in order to lock in customer loyalty. A web based form will allow customers to update their profile information at any time.
There are 22 million possible versions of the magazines, which are designed to build owner loyalty and increase lifetime value by driving more traffic to the dealerships.
* The GAP (http://www.gap.com).
In 1997 the GAP took a significant step towards developing interactive relationships with its customers by launching a new on-line shopping site, GAP On-line (http://www. gap.com). The service differs from traditional retail sites in that it is a shopping organizer. The organizer enables customers to store shipping and billing information so they can pick up where they left off in future visits to the site. In addition, GAO On-line gives customers the option to store the names and addresses of up to 10 friends and up to 50 different occasions. Customers are sent gift reminders via email 14 days before each selected occasion. Inside the site, customers can also preview outfits using “Virtual Style) a scroll bar that puts various outfits together using multimedia shockwave technology. This on-line strategy opens up the opportunity for the GAP to use this platform to create one on one relationships.
Fruit of the Loom
Fruit of the Loom is actively using the Internet to streamline and enhance its entire chain of supply and distribution. All this points to the continued demise of the middle man, and the rise of networks of value-adding companies.
Chemstation: The Delivery of Tailored
By using technology to remember individual needs, Chemstation has been able not only to cut costs, but also to lock in customer loyalty.
Chemstation is a $25, million detergent manufacturer. The company now provides its customers with refillable containers. This has helped their customers reduce the high cost of ordering, storing, and disposing of chemical drums. By providing its customer with the necessary container, the Company Haas helped some of its clients eliminate half their inventory.
Chemstation is using a computerized system that forecasts when a client’s container needs to be refilled. This is achieved through the use of datamining software which is capable of locating and analyzing usage patterns. This means that the technology can take over managing the inventory.
If one thinks of all Exxon’s car wash facilities. ChemStation can now formulate detergent for each car wash, accommodate any regional water restrictions or chemical compliance that necessary in different parts of the country. Mass customization has become as cost efficient as the traditional production process and the new process requires no additional time.
EFFORTS TO ASSIST ORDER PROCESSING ONLINE
InConcert Inc. (http://www.inconcert.com) This company (a Xerox new enterprise company) recently won a large contract to supply Worldcom with its workflow software technology, InConcert. What Worldcom was looking for was a way to facilitate, manage and track all their customer order processing activities while allowing users to access legacy systems at the same time. What they gained was the ability to integrate customer service.
A company called Computershare has built an order routing and management system which routes orders to environments or points of execution in multiple markets simultaneously. The key advantage of this system is that it allows for ongoing decision-support. Not only is the entire order processing cycle integrated, but the system allows for ongoing re-engineering of processes for efficient operation.
Qualpro has created an MVT methodology.
This methodology allows for experimentation in such areas as catalog sales, grocery sales and acquisition of new accounts by a credit card issuer. This is done by testing a special subset of experiments and extracting the most important information that those tests would obtain in advance. Qualpro helps clients NOT be afraid to experiment and to choose from many experiments which ones are most likely to be successful.
EDS has taken the view that the processing of cheque remittances should be viewed as part of a much larger process. They now combine value-added services such as information management with their remittance processing functions.
When we think about what is meant by good service today, it’s not enough to make order processing more efficient. It’s not enough to have better hardware and software. Good service is moving towards a far more personal and individualized touch. Functionality and mechanical efficiency need to be allied with qualitative participation.
The key is to be found in figuring out how to put into place a communication strategy to build a long-term, integrated, `just-in-time` knowledge-based service system. Improving efficiencies in order processing must be viewed as part of this communications strategy and not a challenge to be solved in isolation.*
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A 25-year veteran of the publishing and research industries, Christine Maxwell is now focusing her extensive research, publishing and Internet expertise on creating a new information retrieval and publishing vehicle for high value intellectual property. Her new enterprise is called Chiliad of which she is President and Publisher. She is still President of Research on Demand (http://www.researchondemand.com), a former document delivery company, which now specializes in Internet research. Ms. Maxwell has extensive experience in online order entry and in working on innovative research projects to improve order entry within the context of an Internet business strategy.
As a co-founder of the Magellan online directory, one of the most visited directory sites on the Internet, Ms. Maxwell has been the publisher and creative visionary behind the McKinley Group, owners of the Magellan directory, which was recently sold to Excite another major directory service.
Recognizing early on the need for a clear, concise guide to the Internet, Maxwell coauthored the original “New Riders Official Internet Yellow Pages” in 1994. She has since brought out the third edition of this work under the revised title of “McKinley Internet Yellow Pages.” A best seller through three editions, the work has achieved critical acclaim as an essential Internet reference tool.
Maxwell also has a wealth of first-hand experience in the educational arena, both as an elementary school teacher and as the developer of educational material for grades K-12. A sought-after and accomplished speaker, she has lectured extensively at major conferences in the US and Europe on educational, publishing and Internet related topics.
Prior to launching The McKinley Group, Maxwell held senior marketing, strategic business and development positions with Pergamon Press Publishers, Science Research Associates (SRA) and Macmillan Publishing Company. She holds a teaching credential from Lady Spencer Churchill College of Education, Oxford, England, and BA degrees in Sociology and Latin American Studies from Pitzer College, Claremont, California, USA.
Ms. Maxwell serves as a trustee on the board of directors of the prestigious Santa Fe Institute, a private, independent multi-disciplinary research and education center, founded in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1986 by Professor Murray Gellmann and Professor George Cowan. She has just been nominated as Candidate to the Board of the International Internet Society.
Copyright Association for Work Process Improvement Apr 1998
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