The Customer as Co-Producer

6470 Words May 16th, 2011 26 Pages
The customer as co-producer
Solveig Wikström - School of Business, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden

Introduction
A look at what is happening in the world of business today shows that the focus of business development is now gradually moving away from products and factories. Instead, interest is concentrated on the various processes taking place around the customer. This orientation is not new. Concepts such as “customer orientation”, “close to the customer”, “customer segmentation” and “niche marketing” are well-known and much tested, along with ideas about “direct marketing”, “database marketing” and so on. The common denominator in all these concepts is a greater focus on the customer. Another step forward is the conception
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What sounds like a comparatively trivial activity has been handled in an extremely creative way. The company has transformed its area of operations into a series of development projects, whereby the customer has become deeply involved in a whole stream of problem solutions.
With 22,000 customers on the Swedish market alone, The Laundry is the leader in its industry. The county council laundries are its fiercest competitor, and The Laundry has no chance of competing with their overcapacity when it comes to price. Volvo is the company’s biggest customer. At the Torslanda works alone, The Laundry handles working clothes for 12,000 employees. When Volvo embarked on a course of general efficiency improvement, they also called for a rationalization of the laundry operation. The Laundry faced a tough challenge:
• To simplify the flow of information; 250 fax and telephone calls per day is an unmanageable amount.
• People vary in size. Every employee must have clothes to fit them personally.
• Every new employee should get his or her clothes within 24 hours, and should not have to wait for two weeks.
• There must be no errors in deliveries and no faults in the clothes.
Initially The Laundry felt greatly threatened, but accepted the challenge on condition that the relevant units at Volvo should also be actively involved.
With support from the clothing department of Volvo, the textile manufacturer and a computer specialist, a project group was set up including
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