The Internet in general has become the ubiquitous answer to greater efficiency across professional and personal channels.
Those in the list industry who are using the Internet to automate sales and provide their existing base of repeat customers a self-service tool are single-handedly removing roadblocks that cost many of us business. And they are seeing some new profit-building trends to boot.
It is especially true in the traditional list count and order process.
One list brokerage firm determined that its brokers and customer care teams were running an average of four counts to each order. Not anything out of the ordinary. A count had to be “touched” more than seven times within the organization — customer care, sales, information technology and more before it even got back to the customer. The time it took to run these counts — especially on minimum orders — cost the list broker money in wasted internal resources. And the small orders — even at the set minimums — were costing the company even more.
The firm used Internet automation for its count and order process, giving access to its sales and customer care staffers and to its repeat customer base of both profitable and what the firm considered repeat but unprofitable customers. Once implemented, two trends happened.
More and more customers started running their own counts and orders, and the firm's overall count-to-order ratio actually increased to seven counts per order. But internally, the sales and customer support staff were not doing the work. What's more, sales from this outside user group also increased substantially over the nine-month adoption period of launching the automation program to internal and external users.
The firm found that customers who might not have asked or even thought of running additional counts and selection variables were now doing that work for themselves. And these customers — specifically the unprofitable ones — were ordering more. One small printer who brokered lists here and there found that the firm's Internet-based system helped her close more clients on lists because she had more flexibility in providing them count variables. With the firm's online count and order system, she had more control and more information for her own clients.
The list industry slowly is seeing what other industries have seen with the Internet — a new synergy is created when you can further relate with customers on their own terms.
Here's another example. A data compiler of consumer, business and specialty data Web-enabled its internal sales and customer care staff with the count and order process, eliminating the majority of work the IT department had to do with its traditional main frame environment.
Within months of implementing the automation program, the data compiler saw improvements to the bottom line across multiple departments. Now that the count and order information was at the fingertips of sales and support, the compiler saw its sales cycle shrink — the existing sales staff was supporting more sales with the same amount of resources. And the IT department was tackling critical corporate information infrastructure projects that it previously could not get to. Again, the compiler was now doing more to move business forward across multiple channels with the same resources.
Other list industry professionals have seen the number of credit memos they issue decrease because their new Internet-based count and order process takes much of that unknown that often comes from cryptic faxes and phone calls out of the equation.
In situations where there has been an opportunity to upsell or cross-sell a customer on new selections and list information, the Internet has helped sales get information to decision makers faster and more efficiently.