Relationships Can Flourish by Going Online
Within six months, the system should be in place and operational. But how does improved workflow efficiency impact the distributors role within the value chain?
While the '90s environment was process driven and focused on improving manufacturing, Cutler noted that the focus is now shifting to public relations and marketing education. With a trust-based relationship already established, the distributors, as consultants, can help customers reexamine what's working and what isn't and offer solutions for meeting objectives.
Said Cutler, "Teaching and educating clients about techniques for greater response rates, multiple response mechanisms, cross-channel promotions, public relations integration, client referral discounting and customer satisfaction assessments will greatly expand the core print order to a wide variety of other products and services needed within the industry."
It will be important for distributors to fully understand the nature and culture of the customer. "For instance, said Cutler, "some people will be fine waiting a week for a product while others will say, 'I need it by 5 p.m. today.' The more high-tech the company, the more emphasis there will be on tracking and internal goal-setting.
This is personal—culture cannot be programmed in. This is where technology may fall down—and why the distributor and customer relationship is so critical."
Cutler observed that people have gotten over much of their initial skepticism concerning e-commerce and technology. "Technology is axiomatic," he said. "It saves time and money and allows for a level of customer responsiveness heretofore unknown."
Cutler acknowledged that automation is essential in a competitive marketplace and stated that manual operations will keep companies so mired in simple production that they won't be able to provide added value to customers.
According to Wakefield, while the world isn't moving toward electronic business at the pace predicted during the dot com hype era, it is happening.