Table II Explaining the overall influence of the internet on the firms ability to manage customer relationships

Independent variables

Parameter estimates

(listed in order of importance)

(t-value)

Intercept

0.002 (0.038)

Encourages customer feedback and dialogue

0.378 (3.93)*

Customers can propose prices

0.256 (3.59)*

Reduces customer service costs

0.243 (3.46)*

Customers' search costs are reduced

0.237 (3.4)*

Permits customization of marketing messages

0.111 (1.2)

Prices can be changed quickly

0.065 (0.96)

Enables customers to conduct auctions

0.056 (0.85)

Expands set of competitors

0.029 (0.44)

Increases channel conflict

0.007 (0.11)

Increases "stickiness"

- 0.001 (-0.02)

Customers can form buying groups

- 0.013 (-0.17)

Facilitates customers switching

- 0.017 (-0.25)

Customers can custom-design products

- 0.021 (-0.3)

Facilitates linking customer contact points

- 0.024 (- 0.24)

Customers can learn from one another

- 0.074 (-1.05)

Notes: RADJ = 0.473; *= p < 0.001

weren't exactly what they needed. Then, they would have to call back (during business hours, of course) to request more sheets.

Now, with Dow.com, 24 hours a day, customers can log onto the site, search spec sheets and print and/or download all those that interest them. No longer is the information gathering process a multi-day task which may involve several iterations. Instead, when a customer needs information, it is immediately available and accessible. During 2000, Dow estimated that they were saving approximately S1 million per month in printing and mailing costs by having customers serve themselves.

[email protected] provides more personalized account servicing and is being piloted and developed with a subset of customers. The account allows customer specific information to be accessed by the customer and Dow. For instance, [email protected] allows secure internet monitoring of customer chemical tank levels. When tanks reach predetermined levels, reordering can be automatically triggered.

weren't exactly what they needed. Then, they would have to call back (during business hours, of course) to request more sheets.

Now, with Dow.com, 24 hours a day, customers can log onto the site, search spec sheets and print and/or download all those that interest them. No longer is the information gathering process a multi-day task which may involve several iterations. Instead, when a customer needs information, it is immediately available and accessible. During 2000, Dow estimated that they were saving approximately S1 million per month in printing and mailing costs by having customers serve themselves.

[email protected] provides more personalized account servicing and is being piloted and developed with a subset of customers. The account allows customer specific information to be accessed by the customer and Dow. For instance, [email protected] allows secure internet monitoring of customer chemical tank levels. When tanks reach predetermined levels, reordering can be automatically triggered.

For some firms the personalization of interactions and communications is a step on the road to using the internet to help customers to custom design products to their specific requirements (Wind et al., 2001; Pine, 1992). Despite the appeal of "mass customization," only 14 percent of the respondents saw this as a major opportunity, while 35 percent viewed it as a minor opportunity. What explains this hesitancy? Another question in the survey found that 57 percent of B2B respondents thought it was very or somewhat difficult to tailor or mass customize the product or service offer in their market. Perhaps this is a reflection of the difficulties of designing a manufacturing or service operation with highly flexible processes that can cost-effectively produce individualized offerings.

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