Understanding the needs of customers as individuals can often spell the difference between success and failure as the plastics industry moves into the information age. An increased emphasis on relationship marketing has led to a refreshing rediscovery that customers are not faceless organizations, but rather people with human needs.
Despite fears to the contrary, advances in technology have not depersonalized business. If anything, the ability to better understand the individual needs of customers and deliver targeted products, services and information to meet those needs, has made the plastics industry a personal business.
Regardless of an organization's size, having the capability to collect, access and interpret information about customers is a necessity for future competitiveness. Knowledge gained from interpreting this information is a valuable resource for developing marketing and sales strategies. Furthermore, technical response capabilities can be enhanced if driven by customer relationships, needs segmentation and expert technical databases.
Customers want information at specific times, in specific ways and through specific means. To meet those needs, new information and communications technology is not only available, but affordable and being used more than one might expect. Emerging technologies make it possible to deliver information and technical support faster, and at much lower cost.
With the understanding that leveraging customer information to drive customer offerings can be a source of competitive advantage, Dow Chemical recently achieved ISO 9002 certification for its Customer Information Group.
To assist in managing the flow of customer information, we have entered into an agreement with Plano, Texas-based EDS Inc. to co-source this task.
The communications and customer inquiry response disciplines should be examined with the same cost/benefit rigors as any other function.
Managing the communications and customer inquiry response discipline for improved productivity is central to that challenge.
We are beginning to calculate, in economic terms, the added value derived through the harnessing of information management technology.
Understanding customers as individuals has never been more important.
This knowledge allows us to provide them not only with the right products and services, but also the information they need to be successful.
Butcher is director of marketing communications and customer information for Midland, Mich.-based Dow Chemical Co.