Companies are putting their primary focus for new technology implementations on improved processes that foster strong customer relationships and systems that improve efficiency and effectiveness in dealing with customer problems. One method of improving customer service is to understand better how a company currently serves customers and then seek ways to improve those processes. Companies improve by ensuring the consistent application of successful processes, asking customers how they can be better served, and eliminating processes that fail to serve customers well.
The Internet provides both challenges and opportunities for improving customer relations. It is easy for a customer to comparison shop or switch to a glitzier vendor when all it takes is a few clicks of the mouse. One company that understands how the Internet can help retain happy customers by effectively marketing products is Ticketmaster Corp., which sells tickets for performances, sporting events, and travel packages over the Web.
This convenient method of electronically purchasing tickets to a Kid Rock concert or an Atlanta Braves baseball game also gives Ticketmaster a chance to cross-sell t-shirts, CDs, hotel bookings, and other related products to the same customers. And not only does Ticketmaster know more about customers who buy, it can collect information also about the unlucky people who don’t succeed in purchasing tickets to a sold-out performance. The Web site can suggest other dates, performers, or venues that might appeal to these disappointed folks, or re-contact them when another show is scheduled in their area. “One of the realities about Springsteen is that 200,000 people want to buy tickets when we only have 20,000 seats,” said Tom Stockham, Ticketmaster.com’s president. “We used to know nothing about 180,000 of those people.” Ticketmaster is careful to mine this data in ways that will not alienate their customer base by keeping close tabs on who has access to the data.
Surprisingly, these improvements in customer services are expensive. It costs 20% to 50% more to sell a ticket online than offline. Cross-selling and targeted marketing aid in offsetting these costs by increasing revenue from the same customer base.
Stockham anticipates future enhancements to the Ticketmaster.com marketing plan that will take advantage of the seamless integration of several technologies. He predicts that customers will soon be able to buy seats at a Los Angeles Lakers basketball game, and then pre-order hot dogs and beer online. Fifteen minutes after the tickets are scanned by a bar code reader at the gate, the refreshments will be delivered to the fans’ seats. Now if they can only do something about the lines in the rest rooms!1
In order to compete effectively, companies must learn to collect, analyze, and feed back customer data. The integrated data within enterprise systems provides a clearer understanding of the current customer base and a company’s operational processes. This knowledge can be used to improve internal processes, provide customers with better information about sales, and enable better levels of customer service.