At the beginning, most companies’ websites provided little more than one-way information, known as brochureware. As companies began to use their sites to create dialog, customers told the companies what they liked about them, what they didn’t like, and what companies could do to improve things. For example, companies began to realize that faster download time is more important than flashy graphics. They noticed that they were losing visitors due to complicated online forms. They simplified the experience for the customer and placed more emphasis on structure and navigation efficiency than they had before. You can learn a lot from your customers when you empower them, and the Internet is the place to start the learning.
Web communication is not just about commercial messages. The Roman Catholic Church uses the Internet to webcast papal addresses live from St. Peter’s Basilica. A company named Medtronic has developed a customer-based initiative to save time for physicians and patients by enabling “virtual office visits.” The product, called Carelink, is an Internet-based service enabling patients to download a full range of current “condition data” relating to their use of a cardiac device, such as a pacemaker or defibrillator. A small mouse-sized receiver captures current heart and device function information and transfers it over a standard phone line to the Medtronic Carelink Network, enabling the physician to evaluate the patient’s condition without the need for an office visit. Carelink is a great example of a company empowering customers with value-added services. Not only does it save the customer’s valuable time, but it also helps make his life less stressful.
Bill Millar, “Getting to the Heart of CRM,” INSIDE 1to1, February 10, 2002, pp. 8–10.