Most of the time when people think of information systems and online commerce they think of either back-end services or a web site that sells things. One of the things that many people are surprised to find is that these items barely even scratch the surface.
If you know me or have spent any time reading this blog, you will know that I am a strong advocate of an information-centric business strategy. I firmly believe that a strong information strategy is one of the single most important pieces in making your business successful.
I also talk a lot – an awful lot – about customer service. A lot of folks look at me like I have two heads when I make that jump. Most people don’t even realize there is a connection between information systems and customer service.
Perhaps I should take a moment to clarify what I consider an information system. It isn’t a computer or software program. It isn’t some maze of wires strung throughout your building. It is a strategy. A strategy for collecting the information you need either now or in the future, storing it, organizing it, understanding it and using it. The computer and the software are the mechanics that facilitate this flow, but the system itself is a strategy.
Jonathan Tisch, president of Loews Hotels, put it this way: “We believe that many hotels get too distracted by advertising, promotions and giveaways and lose sight of the basics. The only real way to differentiate yourself from the competition is through service. For instance, we believe in guest recognition rather than guest rewards. What’s more, we’ve found that our guests prefer it that way. The prefer to be upgraded to a suite, to be remembered by name, and to receive their favorite amenity rather than pay a higher room rate so that we can afford to send them on a free trip to Europe.”
There are a lot of “little things” you can employ as part of your information system strategy that make unmeasurable differences in customer service. It could be as simple as collecting your clients birthdays so you can send them a card or as crazy as storing the stats of their favorite sports team so your client service reps can make conversation. None of these things in and of themselves will win you the next big sale, but all of them combined can keep a customer for life.
At the center of it all though, has to be a sound information system strategy. One that is built from the outside in. Our experience is that companies who truly believe in being the best in their field do it this way. We’re also proud to say that these same companies are some of our our most successful clients.