Cutting Costs Across Your Enterprise
For many businesses, the value of the Internet is not increasing revenue, but in optimizing and automating operations to save costs.
Optimizing Your Purchasing Power
The Internet is a source of information, a medium of communication, and an open-computing environment, all of which can facilitate purchasing online.
Many sites feature consumer goods, but it's a growing trend to offer industrial goods and specialized equipment online.
Fundamentally, you can find a wider range of goods from a wider range of suppliers online. You can easily shop for the best price. You can place orders electronically. And for "regular" vendors, you can synch your computer systems to theirs to completely automate the purchasing process.
Also, internet auction sites provide excellent bargains for business as well as individuals.
Reducing the Cost of Communications
The author spends some time discussing the use of the Internet to send fax transmissions, by fax is largely archaic, so I feel this point is moot.
He also speaks at length about IP telephony, which has come to pass, but has manifested itself in a different way than expected (companies do not need to use special equipment.
He also mentions videoconferencing, which is much less expensive and much more accessible to businesses by virtue of the Internet.
Using the Net to Trim Travel Costs
There are a variety of online travel agencies than enable businesses to shop more wisely for their travel needs rather than depending on an intermediary
Customer Service Savings
Having a Web site reduces inbound calls of a routine nature: customers can retrieve the information online rather than calling, relieving you of the need for customer support for minor matters.
Providing a discussion group enables customers to support one another, though moderation is strongly advised.
As a note, PR people are often very wary of this, as a squabble on your own site is seen as a black eye - but the response should be that it's better to have such squabbles in a forum you control rather than in a public forum where you may be unaware of them.
There's also some mention of agents that can use artificial intelligence to act as online CSRs, though that technology still has not been developed to a satisfactory level of performance.
In many instances, a company's data isn't very accessible even within the organization. Use of a corporate intranet can facilitate the flow of information within your firm, and information can be coordinated among various data sources.
The author, and others, envisions intelligent agents that are capable of understanding questions in human language, then fetching relevant information from all company data storage to provide complete information.
There is also savings in making certain data available outside an organization. Especially in the supply chain, where multiple vendors are involved in the shipment of goods, sharing data among the companies reduces the need for a lot of phone calls to determine the status of a shipment.
Strengthening Sales Support
Limited-access sites for your wholesale customers can alleviate a burden on your sales force of taking repeat orders, or even marketing new products to old customers.
Such sites can also provide marketing support for those who resell your products, helping them to better understand and better market your proeucts to their own consumers.
Publishing information online reduces the need to print and mail the same information.
The author also mentions savings by allowing customers to print coupons, user manuals, and other information. For the customer, they get it faster. For the business, the printing and postage costs are saved.