Companies are increasingly using new technology to service current customers and attract new ones. The American firm People Soft has become one of the world's most successful in developing customer care software.
Active in Switzerland since late 1998, it now boasts among its clients some of the country's biggest names, including UBS, Credit Suisse, Novartis, Swisscom and the Swiss army.
About two years ago, before it launched in Switzerland, People Soft overhauled its strategy to focus on the internet. The company spent $500 million and used 2000 developers to build its web platform.
"People Soft is at the moment the only vendor on the market worldwide to offer technology that is 100 per cent web based," says Klaudia Martinez Westphal, general manager of People Soft Switzerland.
People Soft products aim to facilitate relationships between customers, employees and suppliers to build loyalty and maximise revenue. The company was created in the mid 1980s when founders Dave Duffield and Ken Morris built their first human resources application on a client-server platform instead of the traditional mainframe.
With its Swiss base in Volketswil in canton Zurich, the company seems to practice what it preaches. It now has a turnover of SFr30 million.
Its success is in large part due to a growing awareness that good customer relations are critical in the battle to attract and keep clients.
The software simplifies the process of tracking clients and offering them more reliable and faster service.
"If you have a problem, with a new freezer for example, the agent can check the database and see if similar problems have already occurred," said Westphal. "He can look at a solution database to see if he can help solve the problem over the telephone and, if not, he can find the right technician and give you a date for repair."
"It's a very, very strong trend," says Westphal, "because there's a realisation that it's easier to serve customers well and keep them than to have to build a new customer base".
Westphal said People Soft offers both software and implementation. "We can give a company the standard software and it can be customised to the client's needs."
In today's competitive business climate, companies are eager to optimise customer relations to gain even a small competitive edge over rivals.
By Michael Hollingdale