The marketer must therefore pay particular attention to issues or structure when implementing RM programmes. The following give examples of strategies and tactics that can be employed. It should be recognized that whilst a fundamental rethink of the organizational structure is usually the ideal course of action, in practice few marketers have the freedom to effect such changes.
Commonly known as downsizing, organizational renewal or reforming, the elimination of layers of middle management was a popular managerial pastime in the 1990s. A study of a major American trade association showed that 90 per cent of its members downsized between 1989 and 1994 (Cravens and Piercy, 1994). Although the benefits of such a strategy should be clear from the preceding discussion, a note of caution should be sounded. Ford, for example, was unable to recreate the success of its Taurus car, since no one was left after the downsizing who could remember how it was designed (Griffiths et al., 2001). It is not just knowledge that may be lost through injudicious downsizing. Customers may defect in reaction to the redundancy of individuals with whom they had strong personal links, either because of active canvassing on the part of the members of staff concerned, or in retaliation to what they see as an unethical business practice.
Christopher et al. (1991) recommend that the authority over the marketing function be decentralized, to facilitate close and fast support to customers. By devolving the authority needed to satisfy customers to those staff with direct customer contact, the business can respond immediately to changing customer needs, customizing the service product on an individual basis. Batman and Soybali (1999) found, for example, that German tour operating companies owed much of their success to a decentralized structure. The empowerment of customer-facing staff to make key decisions not only improved service responsiveness and flexibility, but also improved staff motivation and productivity.
Organizing business teams and functions around customers
According to Cravens and Piercy (1994), the 1990s trend for downsizing was accompanied by the reorganization of the business into key processes, such as sales generation or customer service, and multifunctional teams became the primary business unit. Integrating staff from various functions in this way achieves greater coordination between what have hitherto been seen as separate elements of the organization. In RM programmes, these teams should be organized around individual accounts or groups of customers (Christopher et al, 1991). Where the number of separate customers means that teams must manage a number of customer relationships, care should be taken not to overload the team with accounts (Colgate and Stewart, 1998).
Organizing teams or individual responsibilities around customers has benefits beyond the promotion of inter-functional coordination. By assigning responsibility for a customer or group of customers to a specific individual or team, the business creates a customer champion, responsible for representing the interest of the customer within the organization.