The previous examples illustrate the variety of tactics used by organizations to make their sites attractors. There is, however, no way of ensuring that we have identified a unique set of categories. There may be other types of attractors that we simply did not recognize or uncover in our search. To gain a deeper understanding of attractiveness, we examine possible dimensions for describing the relationship between a visitor and a Web site. The service design literature, and in particular the service process matrix, provides the stimulus for defining the elements of attractiveness.
The service process matrix, with dimensions of degree of labour intensity and interaction and customization, identifies four types of service businesses. Labour-intensive businesses have a high ratio of cost of labour relative to the value of plant and equipment. A trucking firm, with a high investment in trucks, trailers, and terminals, has low labour intensity. Interaction and customization are, respectively, the extent to which the consumer interacts with the service process and the service is customized for the consumer.
Because services are frequently simultaneously produced and consumed, they are generally easier to customize than products. A soft drink manufacturer would find it almost impossible to mix a drink for each individual customer, while dentists tend to customize most of the time, by treating each patient as an individual. The question facing most firms, of course, is to what extent they wish to customize offerings. For many services, customization and interaction are associated.
High customization often means high interaction and low customization is frequently found with low interaction, though this is not always the case. The push for lower costs and control is tending to drive services towards the diagonal. The traditional carrier, for example, becomes a no-frills airline by moving towards the lower-left. If we now turn to the Web, labor intensity disappears as a key element because the Web is an automated service delivery system.
Hence, we focus our attention on interaction and customization and split these out as two separate elements to create the attractors grid. Attractors require varying degrees of visitor interaction. A search engine simply requires the visitor to enter search terms. While the customers may make many searches, on any one visit there is little interaction. Just like a real entertainment park, a Web park is entertaining only if the visitor is willing to participate.
The degree of customization varies across attractors from low to high. Each of the four quadrants in the attractors grid has a label. A utility requires little interaction and there is no customization, each customer receives the same output for identical keywords. A service center provides information tailored to the customer's current concern. In mass entertainment, the visitor participates in an enjoyable interaction, but there is no attempt to customize according to the needs or characteristics of the visitor.
The atmosphere of a club is customized interaction. The club member feels at home because of the personalized nature of the interaction. In contrast to the service process matrix's push down the diagonal, the impetus with attractors should be towards customized service--up the diagonal. The search engine, which falls in the utility quadrant, needs to discover more about its visitors so that it can become a customer service center.
Similarly, mass entertainment should be converted to the personalized performance and interaction of a club. The service center can also consider becoming a club so that frequent visitors receive a special welcome and additional service, like hotel guests who are recognized by the concierge. Indeed, commercial Internet success may be dependent on creating clubs or electronic communities. Where possible, organizations should be using the Web to reverse the trend away from customized service by creating highly customized attractors.
Simultaneously, we could see the synergistic effects of both trends. A Web application reduces labor intensity and increases customization. This can come about because the model in See The service process matrix assumes that people deliver services, but when services are delivered electronically, the dynamics change. In this respect, the introduction of the Web is a discontinuity for some service organizations, and represents an opportunity for some firms to change the structure of the industry.
A potential of the Web is that it will make mass customization work. It will enable customized service to each customer, while serving millions of them at the same time. All customers will get more or less what they want, tailored to what is unique to them and their circumstances. This will be achieved, almost without exception, by information technology.
The really important aspect of this is that by mass customization, the firm will learn from customers; more importantly, customers are more likely to remain loyal, not so much because the firm serves them so well, but because they do not want to teach another firm what's already known about them by their current provider.
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