New technology and external communications

Technological change affects the ways in which organisations communicate with:

  • customers
  • suppliers
  • the media
  • the community in general and lobby groups in particular

Organisations can now build and maintain sophisticated databases which enable them to segment the market more effectively. This means that they should be able to dovetail perceived customer needs with potential solutions.

The fastest growing channel to market is direct marketing. Whilst this medium once suffered from a 'junk mail' image, better applications of information technology can facilitate a two-way dialogue between customers and providers of goods and services.

By adopting a 'rifle' rather than a 'shotgun' approach to marketing, organisations can focus their efforts on communicating only relevant information, reducing the incidence of 'hit and miss' blanket campaigns to secure sales. Perhaps one of the more vivid illustrations of this is the development of loyalty cards by the large supermarket chains.

Information can be gathered on shopping patterns and synchronised with orders and deliveries. Individual customer preferences can be logged and used to channel future mailshots.

Customers can now communicate with product and service providers through the internet. This has the advantage of more efficient order processing but can also facilitate feedback. On the downside, it reduces the personal contact between those customers who are technology-orientated and the providers of the services.

New technology undoubtedly has the potential to improve communications between businesses and their suppliers. As well as the speed and accuracy afforded by modern communication devices, much of the routine verbal and written communication necessary to fill orders can be dealt with through just-in-time order processing and EDI technology.

Technology also enables better stock management and quality control within the company, enabling managers to provide reports to suppliers backed by hard information. In former times, suppliers would be told about changes in customer tastes and preferences as well as common complaints. This information can now be generated automatically.

Businesses can provide accurate information to the media on new product developments and financial results. They can also produce their own copy at a fraction of the cost of buying in print and publishing services.

In respect of the community at large, better communications are facilitated by the broadening of channels. In an age of increasing consumerism, empowerment of the individual and strengthening of lobby/pressure groups, it is vitally important to gather market intelligence and manage external communications pro-actively. The Shell oil company learnt this to its cost during the Brent Spar controversy during the 1990s.