Potential Barriers to the Implementation of Computer-Aided Direct Marketing Systems

By Ruzdic, A. Api | Review of Business, Fall 1989 | Go to article overview

Potential Barriers to the Implementation of Computer-Aided Direct Marketing Systems


Ruzdic, A. Api, Review of Business


Potential Barriers to the Implementation of Computer-Aided Direct Marketing Systems

Summary

Many firms have started to introduce computer-aided direct marketing systems to reduce costs of selling to the small customers, small accounts, or regular customers re-ordering their products or services. This article reviews a series of problems that occur in installing these kinds of systems. It is based on both formal interviews and first hand knowledge of 15 firms presently engaged in either testing or fully utilizing such systems.

This article provides, first, a framework for classifying problems which arise during installation of new systems. Three major categories of potential barriers to successful introduction are identified in increasing degree of difficulty and importance: technological, human, and organizational. Second, the article discusses the contexts in which these problems occur. Third, it proposes how best to address each of them.

Surprisingly, such traditional indicators of the future behavior of a firm as its industry, size, and style of doing business do not add to the ability to forecast which of the potential problems will occur, at what time, and with what intensity within a given firm. The other consistent finding revealed that some of the problems would in fact occur, and, more importantly, once they had occurred they must be dealt with expeditiously. If the problem festered, the entire system implementation might be jeopardized.

The article concludes by stating that the only direct path to successful implementation of computer-aided direct marketing systems lies in clarity of purpose.

Introduction

When Davetta Bills, a director of direct marketing at a major telephone company, signed the order for her first computer-aided marketing system, she had high hopes. She and her management were confident that the system would pay for itself within six months and that the promise of higher productivity would translate into immediate increased profitability and a significant increase in the size of their direct marketing center. In addition, she expected that by linking her system to the remainder of the company's billing and order entry systems, she would significantly decrease problems in customer relations which seemed to have become a perennial issue. Furthermore, there was a significant public relations value to the new system. Installing it would demonstrate to customers and the company's own regulators the marketing department's commitment to progress, not a small benefit given the losses the company had incurred in recent years.

Bills signed the order three years ago. Today, however, her attitude has changed dramatically. The new system has not improved productivity as well as expected, and it has become in the opinion of many an expensive way to write orders and put them into "the overall company system." Furthermore, everyone in her marketing department has a different reason to explain what went wrong.

This story is not an isolated case of a computer system gone bad, or of poor implementation. It illustrates more broadly a far more significant point. Many companies have installed new computer-aided marketing systems, but few have realized the benefits promised by vendors of those systems. At the same time, vendors point out that customers must also share responsibility for failures. On closer inspection, it becomes obvious that companies need to overcome a number of potential barriers to implementation before these innovations are successfully introduced. Until successful adoption of this kind of innovation becomes much more the rule than the exception, as it seems to be today, companies will continue to be reluctant to adopt it.

The basic premise of computer-aided direct marketing is that it aids in telemarketing; that is, selling over the telephone. It assists in the selling process on two basic levels. …

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