The e-business REVOLUTION
Businesses are being transformed, learning how to operate and compete effectively in a "connected" world. Welcome to the world of e-Business.
By Jodie Brown, Tom Hushen, & Tim Pope, Web Force International, Inc.
E-Business is the integration of Internet technology with optimized business processes, leveraging existing computer systems to achieve improved business results. To compete effectively in this new environment requires the transformation of fundamental business processes:
• E-Commerce — offering goods and services over the Web.
• Customer relationship management — providing world-class customer service, assisted by Internet technology.
• Supply chain management — streamline transactions with vendors, suppliers, and business partners.
So, what is all the hype about? In a world that never sleeps, the Internet enables you to conduct business around the clock. It opens global markets that would otherwise be impossible to reach. Used effectively, the Internet is a valuable tool to provide world-class customer service. Your staff can collaborate, share knowledge, and make informed decisions by using the Internet. It can help improve top and bottom line results. Keep your finger on the pulse of the business from any place on the planet — literally. And, here's the best part: technology that was unavailable a few short years ago has become an affordable commodity.
Where are you now?
What is your Web presence today? Most aviation businesses and airports already have a Web site. But most firms can only boast of a marketing Web site — an electronic brochure. Most sites are static, not capable of supporting online commerce. Some air charter services provide quotes, but they are highly qualified, subject to plane and crew availability. Even fewer firms provide any form of online, interactive electronic commerce for customers. How many use the Internet to manage internal operations — maintenance, scheduling, billing, purchasing, accounting, and personnel? How many are connected electronically to suppliers and business partners?
An e-Commerce presence can be established in a step-by-step fashion, according to your budget. Several companies such as IBM and Great Plains Software provide catalog-hosting services. You could begin by listing your most popular parts. As your Internet business grows, you may progress to other hosting techniques. The next step is to connect the catalog to existing order entry, inventory, and accounting systems for more seamless transactions, or to connect to primary suppliers to check parts availability and to order directly from them.
Provide superb communications with customers at each step of the transaction. Send an e-mail thanking them for their business. Track the shipping process and advise them when the part leaves the shop, or keep them advised of backorder status. Link to shippers (FedEx, UPS, etc.) for tracking once the product departs.
Define what will be useful. Don't even think about investing in e-Commerce unless you are confident about how it will work for and against your target market. Make the site easy to use. Customers new to a site take an average of 20 to 30 minutes to learn how to navigate and purchase. Work out "squawks" early on. Create a beta market first, query the customers, and refine any bugs.
Coordinate all technologies that touch the customer. The challenge is to integrate the site with already personalized communication and service capabilities. Prepare for a variety of responses. When developing ordering options, allow for varied preferences: phone-in, mail-in, and online.
Deliver appropriate follow-up services. This creates continual customer interaction.