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Relationship Management – Sustaining A Competitive Advantage

IntroductionThe management of relationships has been a facet of business for as long as business transactions have existed. On the most basic level, Relationship Management is about interaction with customers. From a broader perspective one can consider employees, suppliers and consumers as customers, the employees being the internal customers of the organization. Relationship Management deals with the treatment and management of partnerships, connections, linkages and chains between business entities.For the purposes of this paper, we view Relationship Management (RM) as a conscious and planned activity. It would be misleading to suggest that there have not been relationships in business or any focus on relationships by companies. However, the thrust of RM, as expounded in recent times, points to a more tactical and strategic approach to focusing on the customer rather than a relentless focus on the competition.After the economic downturn of the 90s, many companies started to examine the possible benefits to be gained from less negotiation strong-arming, closeness to suppliers and the establishment of constructive relationships with strategic stakeholders. This does not suggest that RM was founded in the US, or has not existed before then; the Japanese had perfected RM and value-concretisation into an art form on the basis of social structure and communal creed.RM itself has not just many types but many levels. The manufacturer has his suppliers and the end users as his customers; the retailer has the manufacturers and the end users as his customers, and manufacturer, the supplier and every organization with a tactical or strategic agenda have internal customers.Literature ReviewThere have been several different sub types of Relationship Management introduced by writers, marketers and business pundits, starting from the most widely known Customer Relationship Management (Buttle, 2004; Kracklauer, Mills & Seifert, 2004) to Customer Centricity (Gummesson, 2008); Collaborative Customer Relationship Management (Kracklauer, Mills & Seifert, 2004); Supply Chain Relationship Management (Kracklauer, Mills & Seifert, 2004), Integrated Supply Chain Relationship Management (Kracklauer, Mills & Seifert, 2004), and so on. Hines (2006) delineates three types of relationships: the strategic alliance, the functional partnership and the one-sided partnerships. Donaldson & O’Toole (2007) outlines four types of relationships: partnership, friendship, adversarial and detachment. Our discussion here centres on four components of Customer Relationship Management: Customer Identification, Customer Attraction, Customer Retention and Customer Development; all of which, for the purposes of this paper, we shall consider all of these under the blanket term Relationship Management; Relationship Marketing, the management of, not the cooperation with customers; the latter being the job of relationship management, is not within the scope of this paper but since from a conceptual perspective, the difference between the two may not be as simplistic and marked, it may be mentioned or discussed in passing.Traditionally, RM was an activity (or non-activity) that involved an electronic customer database of an organisation’s customers or consumers,which reports on consumer buying behaviour. Contemporarily, RM delves much deeper than this: undertaking intensive research on customers and customer behaviour and using the result of such research to (re)design business culture. RM, at its strategic level, advocates for a business culture with a concentrated focus on the customer rather than on the products or the sales, but what seems to be the biggest trump card of and in RM is loyalty. The customer-centric concentration in business relationships in recent times has forced a move towards shared goals and shared benefits, and for this to work there has to be commitment; each party being committed to their personal objectives but also to the shared goals; each party having the competence to carry out their responsibilities and believing and relying, having a confident and positive expectation that the other party will act within the ambits of the agreement.The focus on the customer (which is the basis for a relational existence) runs across certain concepts: price, quality, innovation, reliability of product, reliability of associated service and brand reputation. On the proven premise that it is easier and cheaper to retain a customer than to attain a new one or regain a lost one, customer RM on the concepts already discussed should be the goal of the contemporary business.Different types of RM have been identified, ranging from the transactional, the collaborative and the formation of alliances, which is also known as partnerships or value-added exchanges. The alliance is a partnership with suppliers that involves a mutual beneficiary arrangement where cost-cutting ventures are jointly addressed by both buyer and seller, the seller being considered an extension of the buyer’s organization. The business relationship between Japanese suppliers using JIT is a good example. For example Toyota holds a strong alliance even with its 3rd tier vendors. The result of such partnerships means added value, reduced production and transport costs, a more seamless supply and delivery network, and maintenance of exceptional quality, as per TQM considerations.Traditionally, companies were preoccupied with rigorous competition, firm-induced and firm-controlled business strategies, focus on short-term profits and strategies and independent decision-making. This transactional existence meant a focus more on the competition than the customer, a concentration on short-term profits rather than long-term strategic gains and likelihood to be blind to opportunities for expansion and change. Today’s strategically-minded companies are pre-occupied with partnership with other firms, collaboration and coaction, boundarylessness, joint decision-making and a focus on long term benefits. With today’s business climate, one can easily foresee a rapidly changing business environment where manufacturers will have the most fruitful partnerships with every member of the supply chain and the consumers, a scenario where the manufacturer will run a ‘virtual factory’ with the effective and efficient use of value chain networks unlimited by geographical location or consideration.RM functions on a strategic, a tactical and an operational level. Businesses that are product-oriented ensure effective performance of their products, in the design, the features and output; the production-oriented business (not to be confused with the product-oriented) believe in mass production at a cheap scale on the notion that the customer uses low-price as a singular consideration; sales-oriented businesses put a lot of stock in advertising, promotions and public relations while the customer-centric enterprise strives to understand its customers preferences and purchasing behaviour and models its business activities to suit this. This is considered strategic RM. The operational level deals with automating the customer management process using computer applications and devices across market, sales force and service categories. Tactical RM deals with using the data from customer management computer applications to add value both to the customer and the company.While it would be immensely useful to run a customer database to keep the organization in sync with full information with its customers, RM especially from a strategic perspective delves deeper than mere software; it deals with a ‘pull’ strategy, letting the wants and needs of the customer dictate what products and services are offered, rather than the other way round, using a production-oriented strategy to ‘push’ products and services that the consumers may or may not need, but which does not ultimately satisfy the customer.Companies generate more revenue when they satisfy – and because of this retain- their customers. It is hereby propounded that the simple economic fact that customer retention is cheaper than customer attraction provides the customer with an intrinsic importance to business performance than anything else.The CustomerDiscussions on RM, or even relationship marketing, cannot be possible with the exclusion of the word ‘customer’. The customer is the object – and sometimes also the subject – of RM. Attainment of an effective RM is consistent upon customer satisfaction, customer retention, customer loyalty and a host of sub-concepts preceded by the word ‘customer’.But while it is known what the customer represents, it is not always known who the customer is or how many different representations of the customer we have.A vehicle manufacturer for example will have its suppliers of raw material in tiers, its distribution partners, and the actual end users. From a business point of view, all these are customers and even though there is only a single set of consumers. The basis of the RM between these different customers (and even between different sub-levels of customers – supplier tiers for instance) could be immense. Customer Relationship Management in its true sense may refer only to the end users or consumers in this case, for the attraction and retention schemes may not apply to first tier suppliers, though development will, albeit from a different perspective.In business, the customer therefore is not someone who pays for goods and services; it is evidently a unit that has some considerable stake – not stock- in the business and whose input contributes in one way or another to the bottom line. By the same token, the employees in an organization are customers; internal customers. Paradoxically, so are senior management; and middle and junior management. On the concept of ‘keiretsu’, the Japanese takes the word ‘customer’ to a disparate level. Kaoru Ishikawa, one of the top five Quality Management gurus, supersedes that when he suggests that ‘the next process is your customer’ as an appropriate maxim for the drive towards customer satisfaction. For Ishikawa, the customer is not merely an object, it becomes an activity, a process, a goal.Supply Chain Relationship ManagementFrom a supply chain management perspective, RM is centred on the chief players: the manufacturer and the supplier. There may be several suppliers, several tiers of suppliers and several types of suppliers (retailers, resellers, etc). There would obviously be the end user. Of major importance is the relationship between manufacturer and principal suppliers.Three major types of relationship types in the supply chain are hereby identified: the adversarial, the transactional and the strategic. Both sets of authorities on the subject hold that the transactional relationship (as opposed to the relational variety) has a transactional rather than a partnership focus; is competition rather than collaboration-oriented; is firm-benefiting as opposed to being partnership-profitable; is independent and therefore myopic rather than interdependent and is viable only for the short term.Strategically, it is the relational type that is considered a partnership. The traditional partnership is that between the manufacturer and its principal supplier(s). There are also lateral partnerships, between competitors; buyer partnerships between firms and eventual and/or intermediate customers; internal partnerships which refer to the concept of the internal customership within organizations and across functional departments.A relationship is considered adversarial where there is fear, threats (whether tacit or overt) and coercion (whether esoteric or actual). In the automotive manufacturing business for example, a manufacturer can have an adversarial relationship with suppliers if the bargaining power of the manufacturer is considerable in a case where a good percentage of the supplier’s products are purchased by the one manufacture or a chain of them. In such cases, the manufacturer attempts to attain value by pursuing only its own interests; being strategically independent (rather than interdependent); communicating unilaterally; influencing decisions using force or the threat of force; using competitive bidding rather than establish strategic relationships with few suppliers; and entrench all discussions, agreements, terms and conditions in detailed formal contracts.For the most part, RM in the supply chain is vertical, as partnerships are built with firms along the value chain. Some companies do not realize any value because their customer/consumer RM is kept separate from their supplier relationship management; for supply chain networks to thrive effectively, establishing partnerships is simply a means, not the end itself. The mere establishment of partnerships does not suggest a collective move towards a shared goal. For that to be existent, the partnerships must be collaborative. Collaboration involves significant investment of those involved incorporation mutual understanding, shared vision, shared resources, united goal achievement, trust, trustworthiness and complete functional interdependence.Culture and Relationship ManagementCulture refers to the way things are done and have been done in an organization or social setting for a considerable period. Culture determines behaviour patterns; it is integrated into the behavioural framework of a person or a group of people; it is the result of not only learned, but acquired behaviour patterns, and it is a collection of behaviour, attitudes, character traits, convictions and belief shared by a group of people.Cultural differences could not only limit the functional success of relationships, it could derail the effectiveness of RM, or terminate it completely. Cultural differences cover personality traits, gender differences, geographical, social and business disparities. Social culture defines how people manage relationships, and effectively therefore, to what extent relationships can be properly managed. Corporate culture issues aptly capture the issue of RM and the extent to which relationships can be successful across two or more firms: The essence of corporate culture is an organization’s conviction about how its business is to be enacted. Then there is culture based on geography; Country culture determines corporate culture(s) to a large extent. One of the main determiners of country and corporate culture may be the extent to which people treasure personal relationships. While the long-standing relationship of two firms in Asia may be maintained primarily because of some earlier personal connection, the long-standing relationship of two firms in the US may be maintained primarily on the betterment of the bottom line of both firms. While using coercion as a conduit for good RM may be an effective negotiating strategy in the US for example, it may be considered grave disrespect in many parts of Asia and may lead to the premature severance of a good business relationship.From a country culture perspective, it has been suggested that the French are not interested in whether they are liked; the Americans are impatient and negotiate to tie up every loose end, as opposed to the Chinese who negotiate solely to build a better relationship, not to tie up loose ends all at once, since as far as they are concerned negotiations never end; the Italians and Germans never offer praise before they criticize; the Indians feel that interruptions during discussions is a way of fostering more understanding; the Americans are said to talk too much and would ask personal questions which people from other cultures may find distasteful. These classifications may be too generic and type-casted, but if they are to be accepted (or even tolerated) as factual, then it is but natural that customer relationship management with have different results and outcomes in different countries with disparate cultures and different people. As a prerequisite to effective management of relationships therefore, a useful understanding of personal and social attitudes and expectations of the other parties may help the partnership.’Guanxi’ is a Chinese cultural way of interacting and managing relationships in business. It encourages supply chains and networks based on interactions and negotiations between family members, friends and people of trust. Anyone outside this circle of trust is likely to be treated with suspicion at best, and hostility at worst. In the management of relationships between international firms for instance, a subject who does not fall within that circle of trust is likely to have zero limit to manoeuvrability in negotiations and discussions. The giving of gifts which is an essential element of ‘Guanxi’ may be viewed upon as unethical or improper by another party or potential partner.It may be easy to suggest that the establishment of relationships should not in any way be affected by culture. However, if cultural issues are likely to limit the organizations ability to manipulate or manoeuvre in business relationships, it means that realization, identification and modification of the cultural issues should be a valid point in the establishment of set objectives for the effective management of meaningful business relationships. Capon (2004) seems to concur when she says that ‘everyone lives culture, but only the clever are able to manage it’.For RM to be successful, there has to be a constant supply of reliability between and among all parties. Every party to the relationship should have the confidence that the other party is in a position to deliver as promised, and will. This is where the issue of trust comes in. Trust is one of the most important antecedent to a successful business partnership; in the realm of retailing, many repeat purchases and purchase considerations are made based on product trust, store trust, brand trust or a combination of these.Trust and Relationship ManagementMany attempts have been made to define or (failing which, to) describe the apparently elusive concept of trust. Plenty definitions have been offered, some have been markedly different, but most have been consistent on the central issue: that trust is the anticipation by one that the other will not take undue advantage. Trust is an expectation that another will not take undue advantage; it is the chosen susceptibility of one party to be vulnerable to the possible unfairness and selfishness of another; it is the belief in the integrity of another person and party; it exists only where there is risk and uncertainty which connotes that the concept of trust is linked with the likelihood of opportunism by one or more parties. Undertaking to trust therefore is synonymous to undertaking the management of risk.The thrust in all of the definitions are basically the same; that trust is an anticipation of behaviour or actions based on stated or tacit agreement that another party will not act in its own interests. While the definitions are consistent, the treatment of the concept, the construct and its relationship to management theory and practice seem to differ. There has been very little empirical research to verify how trust functions in business or what determines trust.Models, Types and Constructs of TrustThere have been myriad views on the models, types and constructs of trust. There are three types of trust: deterrence-based (trust that exists on the basis that opportunism will have dire consequences); knowledge-based (trust based on predictable actions) and identification-based (trust based on emotional association between the parties). Similarly, there are 3 sources of trust: process-based (trust which is based on an exchange relationship of considerable longevity); characteristic-based (trust based on social or other group characteristic) and institutional-based (the inducement of trust by social institutions.Trust is based on 5 cognitive processes: the calculative process; the prediction process – which is the same as calculative except that the analysis here is more qualitative than quantitative; capability process; the intentionality process – the assessment of the motives and intentions of the other party; and the transference process – situation where trust is based on a trusted reference from a third party.The processes outlined here do not necessarily challenge the conceptual theories of; rather they represent disparate viewpoints based on environment and whether trust is being viewed as a social or a business construct, and whether these are mutually exclusive. It would seem that the intentionality process is a little redundant; the interpretation of the intentions of the trustee could be analysed under the calculative or the prediction process.The deeper the examination of trust as a concept and as an intrinsic integer in business practice, the more elusive it seems to become. If the contracts, agreement or legal implications, which we can call ‘governance devices’, do exist, then it follows that these devices were created because one or both parties do not trust each other. This does not refer to distrust, but an absence of trust. Nascent literature has propounded that an absence of trust by a trustor could be based on the fact that the trustor knows nothing about the trustee and has decided therefore not to take the risk of trusting. Since this does not mean that the trustor’s absence of trust was based on knowledge and/or experience of the trustee’s actions, it is not distrust, but an absence of trust.Relationships and TrustThese two concepts are not the same, but in today’s business environment, the discussion of one brings out the other. Unlike relationships which just exist, trust is not a given. Trust, like respect which it incorporates, is earned; thus trust cannot exist without trustworthiness, which is the ability to earn trust, the capability of being trusted. Trustworthiness is rooted in the believer’s trust that the other party possesses integrity, values and a good sense of ethics, and therefore can be trusted. Trustworthiness has to be fathered, to be engendered by firms and organizations themselves, and this, by running the organization using a visible set of values and ethics. Trust and distrust are to be understood as one ‘bipolar construct’, diametrically existing in a continuum.Areas for Further ResearchAs a firm that claims to live on customer satisfaction and successful relationship management as its key to competitive advantage, Toyota does not expect the total absence of errors though it continuously drives towards it. The Toyota Production System does provide several modes of detection and fixing of errors as they occur, but not all errors are fixed, mainly because not all errors are readily visible or apparent.The cases of the sticky gas pedals, obstructive floor mats and the Sudden Unintended Acceleration (SUA) are cases in points. A gas pedal as a component may not have been sticky up to when the car is driven and tested at Toyota’s plants, nor would any unexpected acceleration show itself. Nonetheless it is a manufacturing error that Toyota has addressed and has recalled vehicles to replace the faulty components at Toyota’s own cost. This does not mean that customers may easily forget or that their trust goes unaffected, especially since the death of an entire family in a Lexus crash after SUA occurred but these mishaps may have dented (not destroyed) the brand loyalty and trust of the world’s foremost car maker, if the customer assesses that the satisfaction considerably outweighs the errors. The recall of vehicles and Toyota’s promise to replace all defective gas pedals may suggest an innate concern for customers.ReferencesButtle, F. (2006) Customer Relationship Management – Concepts and Tools. Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann, UK.Capon, C. (2004) Understanding Organizational Context – inside and outside organizations. FT Prentice Hall.Donaldson, B. & O’Toole, T (2007) Strategic Market Relationships, from Strategy to Implementation 2nd Edition; John Wiley and Sons Ltd.Gummesson, E. (2008) ‘Customer centricity: reality or a wild goose chase?’ European Business Review, 20 (4), pp. 315-330.Hines, T. (2006) Supply Chain Strategies, Customer-Driven and Customer-Focused. Elsevier Butterworth Heinemann.Kracklauer, A. H., Mills, D.Q., and Seifert, D. (2004) Collaborative Customer Relationship Management: Taking CRM to the Next Level (Kindle Book), Springer.

Free Online Games – One Activity With Many Benefits

With a huge advancement in the world of technology, more and more people today prefer to spend their time over the web doing different kinds of activities. Going online and playing free online games is one of the most favorite activities millions of people across the world love to do when they have some vacant periods to enjoy. Whether you are a kid, a teenager or an adult – online gaming world has a lot to offer to you.

The availability of countless relaxing and brain-stimulating games has made it relatively simpler for everyone to make the most out of the online gaming world.

Although there is also a misconception about these games that they are addictive, this is also true that users can get a chance to enjoy unlimited benefits if games are played by them in moderation. When it comes to children, a kind of extra supervision is required. Here we have mentioned several major benefits of playing free online games.

• Many experts have already agreed on the fact that playing game is a finest way to relax your mind. You can play online games during your break to relax your mind or go with it at the eve after completing all jobs of the day. Many people love to get themselves involved in such games to beat the laziness of the boring hours.
• Playing such games also comes as a wonderful method to promote your learning and stimulate your brain while providing you with an excellent way to have fun. The proper usage of the formulating tactics to win the game helps online gamers to enhance their mental alertness. You can also spot several games designed with educational information like geography and history.
• The development of thinking and creativity skills can surprise you and the people around when you play an online game on regular basis. It also boosts the curiosity, which is known today as one of the most crucial factors in the brain development. You as a player get a chance to find out the solutions of the problem and make your way towards the final destination.
• The promotion of social interaction is another important benefit you will be able to enjoy. With online free games, you get a chance to connect with people from different age groups and nationalities. Yes, with this alternate, it’s easy for you to exchange your ideas with others. This will make your gaming experience more enjoyable than you have ever thought.
• The spirit of teamwork is also cultivated in you when you play free online games with your friends or people with same interests. You would be able to solve a problem collectively while playing multiplayer online games. You as a player get a chance to learn how to work in a team by sharing your ideas with each other.
• Playing free online games is also seen as a viable way to build a close relationship with your friends and family members.
• A sort of competitive spirit is also developed in the online gamers. Yes, the developed habit of winning and succeeding in the game helps you keep ahead even in your real life.

We as a fastest growing online gaming platform helps individuals

Why Online Games Are More Popular Than Offline Games?

Online games refer to video games that you play with the help of the internet. Now you can see that online games are very famous and prominent these days. The unique designs and colors of these fascinate the individual to play the game. The internet is full of online gaming that are smooth to play on which you can freely play any kind of game which you like most. These are more innovative and creative in its own terms. As you see there are lot of free online interesting like shooting games, fighting games and action games etc. These sorts of games mostly people prefer to play on leisure time. Players can easily pass their free time while playing these. One can appreciate and enjoy by staying at home or free time in office while playing these. Most of the youth, kid’s even oldies also like the games. There are many advantages of online gaming and some of the pivotal factors are described as follows:-• Decision Making- All the games you see it absorbs the sudden turns and decision making capability. Players can gain or they can improve their decision making skills.
• Creativity- These are the products of the human constitution and you know well about its designs and creativity.
• Elevates Thinking- As you see that a good game concentrating on the specific skill tests and it also figure out the player according to it like planning thoroughly, reactions, sharper memory and the quick actions elevates the thinking of people one who plays on good mind.
• Escape from reality- You see that a lot of people have several reasons to why they play this. In this, the most pivotal part of it is an escape from reality that helps lonely to understand that why people want to play the online games.
• Entertainment- It is very simple to find a game that perfectly suits your interest because as you see there are a lot of options available online. Nowadays, these sorts of games are made user friendly. These games accommodate us with the right amount of entertainment you need in your life.
• Confidence- These games access your confidence because of the feeling that you are in control of something. The acknowledged online gamer may feel a sense of achievement and fulfillment that he is able of accomplishing something. This is also a one way of practicing your communication and cooperation skills.There is an explicit difference between online and offline games. The world of online gaming is fixed new too many nations in according to offline games. In offline games, the user will be asserting the artificial intelligence which has estimated into the game and in online games you see the players will be essentially challenging the other players.Moreover, this is one of the comforts and this happens to be one of the initial reasons for online gaming being much elevated to offline gaming. In offline games, as you see firstly an individual have to download the game then only they can play that game but in the case of online you can go online and directly you can play the game of your choice. That’s why online games are more pleasing and lovable than the offline games.

Play the Hottest Free Online Games to Pass the Time

In today’s era, games are a very good form of entertainment for people from all walks of life. As a matter of fact, it continually grows as time passes by because of the presence of the worldwide web. It is already undeniable that online games are booming in terms of popularity. There are actually numerous websites which offer games online Furthermore, there are some websites which can provide free online games Such sites can give us an unlimited time for playing awesome games online. Thus, many online gamers of any gender tend to choose by now games online which are for free.

Game developers have been undeniably very successful in launching games online This is a one big step in the gaming world. This is due to the fact that games online can be easily accessed as well as downloaded by way of the worldwide web. In addition, more and more people are being attracted to free online games Well, this is very much expected since playing games for free would mean an easy way to be entertained by way of games online with no cost at all. Hence, websites which are intended to provide online games for free are inevitably gaining their traffic every now and then.

There are lots of sites which we can visit if we want to look for an awesome online game. As a matter of fact, we can get tons of results once we type the keyword ‘free online games’ on the search tab. Indeed, we do have a wide range to choose from. Some of these games have something to do with sports, strategy and mind games In this way, we are not only going to be entertained by games online but we can also have the opportunity to showcase our motor and mental skills as well.

When we speak of computer games or games online we mean that we are going to play against the computer. This is actually a good way to play the game well in our own little strategies and ways. Making computer as our opponent is a good choice if we want to learn the techniques and tactics of a new particular game online. Nevertheless, there are times wherein we can play against a particular authentic player in any of the free online games This is actually possible in today’s modern age. This is being done through the LAN connection. In this way, we cannot only play but meet and befriend new buddies as well.

Therefore, free online games can give us a lot of benefits. Such games can give us the chance to escape from the realities and pressures in life even just for a while. Also, we can have an exciting experience through cool games online Whatever our reasons may be, we can surely play games online any time we want to. We just have to get first ourselves a computer and an easy access to the world of internet. In addition, we also have to choose the hottest and coolest games online After all, there are so plenty of those in the worldwide web.