Just as standardization was one of the cornerstones of the industrial revolution, or the reengineering efforts of the 90's helped companies get back to the basics by streamlining their processes to reduce costs, and improve profits, says Katcher, customization will enable organizations to prosper. "One size no longer fits all," says Katcher, who cites examples like:
• Dell Computer Corporation, which allows customers to order exactly the type of components they desire in their computers;
•Yahoo and other portal sites that allow users to customize the information they receive so that they can view their stock portfolio, the weather in their local area, and the news only on the topics they request; and
•Burger King and other fast food restaurants that allow their customers to "have it their way," by customizing what they do and don't want on their sandwiches.
According to Katcher, there is a challenge associated to customization -- offering customization without sacrificing the bottom line. Toward that, Katcher offers these eight suggestions:
• Find out what is most important to your customers.
To do this, says Katcher, conduct telephone interviews, surveys, and focus groups to identify what is most important to your customers and what kind of individual attention they desire. Also, he suggests, scout out your competition to learn how they are customizing their services.
•Tell your customers that you can and are willing to customize.
Many organizations lose business because they never tell their customers that they really can "have it their way," says Katcher. So it's important to communicate this message often using multiple methods of communication such as newsletters, telephone calls, email, and visits.
• Leave no aspect of your business uncustomizeable.
For example, if your customers request it, says Katcher, consider customizing these procedures: ordering; proposals; quotations; order fulfillment, product configurations; service enhancements; bills; payment terms; delivery methods; and the like. For example, many companies now allow their customers to order their products and services via telephone, email, fax, and in person.
• Train your employees how to customize.
They have to be taught to ask questions such as, "how would you prefer we serve you?" or "how can we make it easier for you to do business with us?"