Demanding The Best
You arrive for five days of skiing in the Canadian Rockies, at a lodge managed by Intrawest Corp., one of the largest vacation resort operators in North America. It's peak season, and with the slopes as busy as anthills, you anticipate long lines for ski rentals, lift tickets and other resort services, but hey, the snow is deep and the sky is blue. Waiting in line is the price you pay this time of year.
To your surprise, resort staff hand you lift tickets upon check in. What's more, skis are laid out in your condo--the condo with the precise mountain view you wanted--and those hard-to-come-by dinner reservations in the lodge are in place as well--for every night of your stay. This is not just a run-of-the-mill winter theme park, you realize. This is the kind of place you might come back to again and again.
That's exactly what Intrawest hopes you'll do. The company has enhanced its e-commerce efforts--a self-service Website where customers make online reservations at any of Intrawest's properties--with a new demand chain management solution from Pivotal. With this system, "Intrawest strives to create on- and off-line operations that meet all business demands, whether or from the employees who serve those customers. In a company with disparate properties, numerous vacation package offerings, and a staff of 16,000, this is no small order. But Intrawest recognizes that only by properly managing the demand chain can it deliver the level of service that keeps vacationers coming back year after year. "The service business is a demand business, " says Matthew Dunn, senior vice president of Intrawest. "It just makes sense to hook demand up to deliverables. The better we understand what the guest wants, the better we refine what we do."
Intrawest, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, operates 10 mountain resorts, one warm-weather resort, 18 golf courses, and five resort villages throughout the world. The company boasts 6.2 million skier visits and 546,000 rounds of golf annually. With demand coming from customers across numerous properties and from the myriad divisions serving these customers, the company had no coordinated, centralized way of meeting the demand. "You are talking about a company with multiple call centers, sales forces and lines of business," says Dunn. "We had all sorts of technologies that weren't unified. For instance, we had 13 different customer contact systems in our real estate division alone."
What's more, customer information--the lifeblood of the customer-centric enterprise--lay unused. "We had 1 million plus names that we had not used in any specified fashion," says Dunn. "We were doing nothing targeted, nothing smart."
Intrawest knew it had a problem, but attempts to remedy it through technology proved fruitless. "We had two previous attempts at e-commerce, says Dunn. "One was an outsource arrangement with IBM, and the other was an outsource arrangement with a partner on a Broadvision platform. Arguably, the Broadvision undertaking was something of an early demand chain effort, but it was conceived more as straight e-commerce. In the end, we weren't convinced that Broadvision was adaptable to a broad demand chain."
"A Layer of Convenience"
Winter resort vacationing, by its very nature, posed a unique challenge as well, one that a simple piece of software couldn't address. "Intrawest needs someone to say 'I will go to Whistler every year. I don't need to go anywhere else,'" explains Matt Duncan, vice president of corporate and solution marketing at Pivotal. "There was a layer of convenience they needed to start offering."
That layer of convenience would have to begin at all customer touchpoints--the company Website, the sales team, the contact center--where reservations were made, and it would have to extend throughout the enterprise, where ever customer demand existed. To make this a reality, Intrawest needed not only a new set of technologies, but a new business philosophy as well. "Technology is not an enabler of this," says Dunn. "It's the strategy that involves the whole business."
Enter Pivotal, the Canadian mid-market CRM vendor, standing ready to deliver both a demand chain strategy and the CRM solutions to support it. "We sat down with Intrawest and it was a discover and brainstorming process," says Duncan. "This wasn't just CRM, it was more."
According to Bob Runge, chief marketing officer of Pivotal, the demand chain is all the interrelated activities that go into making a customer. "In business you have to produce a product or a service, and you have to produce a customer at a reasonable cost. CRM is focused on making demand for a business. By automating the process of making customers, you can systematically increase the volume and lower the cost of this demand creation process."
To automate the demand creation process, Intrawest implemented two major tools from Pivotal's demand chain management suite, e-Selling and e-Relationship. The goals, says Dunn were simple: Move e-commerce and CRM ahead. The realization of these goals would go a long way toward creating the "layer of convenience" Intrawest needed so badly.
The undertaking began in March, 2000, which gave Pivotal only a few months to have the new solution up and running before the winter ski season began. "The light went on July 1," recalls Pivotal's Duncan, "and we had 90 days to take it live."
Three days short of the September 13 deadline, Intrawest and Pivotal launched the new solution. Despite a few glitches along the way--there were problems with a third-party credit card processor, and with integration with a legacy lodging system--the system was up and running, with employees successfully trained in its use in time for winter.
With the new system, the company addresses demand this way: You book your reservation on the company Web site, which processes your credit card and special requests. The system sends a confirmation to you, and requests to departments throughout the company. For instance, ski rentals, the restaurant, and other departments all know when you are coming and what you want. When you arrive, your demands are met, and all you have to do is strap on your skis and go. What's more, your customer information is now on file for use in targeted marketing initiatives.
Dunn says that for employees, the new technologies and processes have been a lot to absorb. But, he says, overall the system is a success. "E-commerce in our business is now a reality. The system generated revenues of $1.6 million in the first two-thirds of the season alone. We've got the e-commerce platform in place and we are starting to add more with what we sell and market."
Dunn reports that customer response to Intrawest's demand chain management initiatives has been overwhelmingly positive. "Guests that have all their stuff arranged in advance are saying, 'Hallelujah, I don't have to stand in line any more.'"