Get a Better Backend the Multichannel Way
The Oz Effect
When technology is implemented as a way to reduce labor costs and increase profit, Harris says, "It has nothing to do with enhancing the customer experience." Still, that sort of cost reduction immediately is attractive, because it provides visible, short-term benefit to the bottom line. "It's hard to put a tangible number to offering a service that costs 5 percent this year but will yield intangible benefits," says Ellis, who sees this emphasis on short-term growth as a sacrifice of future growth and sales, and all too frequently, immediate customer satisfaction.
"I've gone into huge, household-name companies expecting to see something special, and even feeling kind of intimidated," says Kuipers, "and [CRM] turns out to be the fat man behind the curtain." On the other hand, he says, "A lot of companies get by without state-of-the-art warehouse management systems, and they do that by being clever, explaining inventory management to the lowest person on the totem pole, using kanban methods on pallets." (The kanban method of order fulfillment is a card- and container-based system that moves specific product to the processing area only as needed; it also helps companies efficiently manage inventory and labor.) Still, he cautions that target marketers "must have a direct commerce system, period; or at least direct commerce functionality, and the best way to get that is to at least base it on an order management system."
One of the basic steps toward keeping customers satisfied, says Harris, is to staff and fund your fulfillment operation adequately, noting that a salary of "$50,000 a year doesn't cut it for people who can lead with imagination and attention to detail." Beyond that, Harris advises, keep the lines of communication open between all segments of the business, from vendors to warehouse workers. "Your fulfillment people need to know the phone numbers and the fax numbers and the e-mail addresses; they need to know the names of people and the rack rate; they need to know what the factory level of engagement with other members of the market is."