Technology – The Great Bridge Builder!

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Let me share my perspective on supplier-customer trust and the supplier’s responsibility to assist the parent company’s desire and business needs to resolve customer complaints. A half dozen years ago Muthuraman, Sen, Gupta, Seshadri, and Narus (2006), discussed the following: “tectonic shifts that we are witnessing on what it takes for suppliers to survive and flourish in today’s fast-changing business environment…described as competitor intensity, market turbulence, and technological turbulence make it imperative for the supplier firm to be market-oriented” (p. 5). However, I would submit that along with resolving and permanently fixing customer complaint, suppliers must incorporate market intelligence vis-à-vis their competitors and consumers before they can become successful.

My observation suggests that many traditional firms are ready to embrace market enhancing technology but their employees are somewhat reluctant to do this same. A large degree or segment of workers (from each generation group) reluctance toward technology is grounded in the fear of being replaced by technology and/or their inability to apply the technology to get their work done. Such an environment requires extensive change management. Leaders and managers must work feverously to eliminate unfounded “technology” fears. Employees at all levels within an organization, and education, and cultural backgrounds tend to require support and guidance when confronted with new and contemporary ways of doing their jobs – it’s simply marketing 101. When an organization’s leaders align their marketing strategies in a manner to change corporate culture and the firm’s culture is formed to value customer relationships, when applying technology, the total business environment will create a momentous competitive force to outperform competitors, create shareholder value, and long-term customer loyalty.

However, relative to customers and employees, poor communications and a propensity to over promise and under deliver do create a major customer-employee relationship management gap. Let me share an example. In a former job and region of the country, my directors and I met with the state’s director of transportation; an agency in which we provided operational and maintenance services. During a rare, but special meeting, my team and I spend most of our business luncheon discussing possible synergies, opportunities for seamless interaction, opportunities for B2B ecommerce, and prospects to enhance operational short comings and ways to improve working relationships. From the start of the meeting, my team and I knew that technological applications were the answer to our relational challenges. In essence, this one meeting transitioned our provider/client relationship from a ‘formal role’ relationship to a ‘close personal’ relationship (Beaton & Beaton, 1995). The meeting also allowed us to identify if we had a cultural fit between the two organizations (we did not but we at least wanted an opportunity to learned and understand our cultural differences). Muthuraman, Sen, Gupta, Seshadri, and Narus (2006), suggest that “The importance of good cultural fit between the supplier and the customer cannot be over-emphasized. Value in the context of customer value management can be created and shared only if both the customer and the supplier firms understand that together they are focused on maximizing gains to both of them…” (p. 8). Hence, our lunch meeting fostered an understanding of each other’s cultures, business needs, and operational capabilities; however, my team and I had no intension of mimicking our client’s culture. But where we found overlapping synergies and alignment came through the identification, adaption, and use of technology. Strangely, once leaders and employees from each organizations embraced cross-functional technologies, our business relationship flourished and value was quickly realized by both entities (reduced paperwork, 75% reduction in meetings, unprecedented ROIs, 40% improved productivity, and retrievable and explainable electronic documentations) – WOW, technology unites.

(Photo from public domain)

Dr. Johnny D. Magwood
Northeast Utilities Service Company
V.P. Customer Experience & Chief Customer Officer; Northeast Utilities Service Company. J. D. Power Smart Grid Advisory Council; Chairman- Housing Authority Baltimore City; Next Generation Utilities Advisory Board; Utility Knowledge Customer Service Council; CS Advisory Council; Magistrate Judge Seletion Committee. Marketing Executive Council; Mechanical Engineer - The Johns Hopkins University; MBA - Loyola University of Maryland; DBA - University of Phoenix; Doctoral dissertation; Mergers and Acquisition: The Role of Corporate Executives' Relationships with Stakeholders

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