Two computer manufacturers decided to bind their customers more closely by providing targeted information online. One repackaged detailed business solutions from expensive brochures and handouts into easily transmissible electronic format. They targeted customers with whom they had a relationship, but from whom they received insufficient profit to warrant human sales attention. The second targeted their highest value customers with specific internal corporate information: product lifecycle status, new product direction, contract status reporting and problem resolution. They rolled this out to the top 50 international customers based in a single geographical region. The feedback on both information sharing ventures was extremely positive. The first effort did not result in any measurable increase in sales (in part because there was no measurement system in place to collect this information). It was discontinued. The second effort resulted in such high levels of customer satisfaction that it was rolled out to the top 50 customer accounts in each country in the region at a cost of 4 person days per customer to customize, train and install the KM system, and a probable reduction in the human sales attention annually (but with a higher customer satisfaction level).
Philosophical note on sharing information with your customers–
Giving them the information that they ask for should be your first goal. Evaluating the cost of providing that information against the value you expect to receive is the challenge. However, if your competitor beats you to this you will always be second best and trying to catch up.
Another example of the critical value of sharing information with your customers is again when the information is the product: information franchises, warranties and authorized service centers, among others.
The source of the information is usually within the company, but in many cases the expertise among the external agents (customers) is as high, and these people may detect problems and find solutions earlier than the company is aware of them. A one way publishing system from the company to the customer will not be as effective as a two way system, nor will it bind the external agents as tightly, provided that someone within the company reads and responds to the information published by the externals.