COOs Reveal Current Challenges & Strategies (1,317 words)
Reported by Alicia Orr Suman
All direct marketers are faced with the same ongoing challenge of fulfilling customers' orders in a timely, accurate and cost-efficient manner.
Today, that challenge is coupled with the increasing pressures of a difficult economic environment. To succeed now requires operations executives to keep one eye focused on controlling or even cutting costs in the warehouse and customer service center—while keeping the other eye on providing customers with ever-faster and more accurate service to stay ahead of the competition.
Four chief operations executives from different types of companies—a seller of industrial clean-up products, a vitamins manufacturer and marketer, and two consumer home and gift catalogers—recently shared their thoughts with us on the challenges they face for 2003 and how they are addressing them.
Dick Randall, COO, Lillian Vernon Corp.
TM: What have been your big-gest operations challenges in recent months?
Randall: Satisfying our consumers with deliveries in time for Christmas gift giving was a challenge. With the shortened time span [between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year] and consumers' increased penchant for ordering closer to the holiday, we were challenged to satisfy their demand, especially in light of their increasing desire for our exclusive personalized products.
TM: What influence has the current economic slump had on your investment in operations systems, equipment and technology?
Randall: Although we are certain to review financial commitments of all kinds more carefully at times of economic concern, we are mindful that system enhancements (people and technology) are essential in this marketplace. This is especially true of our Web site (lillianvernon.com). We've experienced significant growth in this area, and we will not allow technological advances to pass us by.
TM: Do you believe the back-end of your operation impacts the front-end?
Randall: Our customers are entitled to not only the best value that we can offer them with product but also the best handling by our telephone representatives and the quickest and most efficient delivery of our products. If we can satisfy them properly on the back-end, we're more likely to see them on the front-end again.