Network Organization in Action

Recently, we came across a description of how Gateway 2000 overcame barriers between functional silos (e.g., marketing, engineering, operations,manufacturing assembly, and customer service).

At Gateway's call center in Ireland, calls are routed to a telephone service representative (Rep) who speaks the same language as the caller. With the exception of special problems beyond the capabilities of the rep, s/he is the only person the customer needs to talk to.

The rep, using computer telephony integration (CTI) that allows the customer to both see and talk to the rep:

  • answers the call, helps the customer define his/her needs (memory, speed, peripherals, software, etc.),
  • designs a computer that meets those specifications,
  • tells United Parcel Service to procure and ship the appropriate components to an assembly plant close to the customer,
  • tracks the shipment of the custom-assembled computer from the plant to the customer, and
  • assists the customer to resolve any technical problems they may have with their new computer (assisted by a device built into every Gateway computer).

Every customer enjoys a personal relationship with Gateway, thanks to having one rep who they know by name and face, who can take care of all of their needs. Thanks to Gateway's assignment of individual first names to all of their reps, customers only need to remember one name when calling the company for assistance.

This experiential marketing technique (enticing people to deal with the company because they enjoy the experience of that relationship -- in addition to product features, quality and price) is used by other large companies (e.g., Dell and FedEx) who also use the CTI approach.

This is an interesting example of how people, process and technology merge to create a competitive and effective organization. It takes imagination, time, commitment, some serious thinking, and guts to shape an organization of this type. We're not suggesting that Gateway is trouble-free, since every organization has its problems. But they are certainly at the forefront of innovative strategy and design.

For more on this topic, read "The Invisible Continent," by Kenichi Ohmae, HarperBusiness, 2000.