First came “everyday low prices,” a component of an operational excellence discipline. For that gambit to pay off, Sears needed to cut costs—which it did to some extent by eliminating many in-store employees and slashing front-office expenses. But the cost cutting did not go nearly far enough, in part because Sears had not consciously focused on the discipline of operational excellence.

Thus, becoming operationally excellent is a challenge not just for the manufacturing department but for the entire company. And while operationally excellent companies are focused on cost and efficiency, they are not necessarily the lowest cost producer or supplier. Mass customization relates to the ability to provide individually designed products and services to every customer through high process flexibility and integration.

However, research still lacks to provide a profound conceptualization of this novel service type. Similarly, actionable insights on how to purposefully establish ABS in the market to enrich the service portfolio remain scarce. We perform a cluster analysis of 105 ABS and triangulate it with a revelatory case study to identify four generic ABS archetypes and to unveil their specific service objectives and characteristics.

In fact, your VOC, CRM, CEM and EFM systems don’t go away or get marginalized. Instead, they get new life and provide greater value as information building blocks for your CI initiative. By learning more than anyone else about your customers, moluse you can tailor-make a product for them, or cherry-pick a bundle of products and services, that meets and preferably exceeds their expectations. You have to understand what value your customers want and how you can deliver it.

Moreover, they continually look for new ways—such as concurrent engineering—to shorten their cycle times. Japanese companies, for example, succeed in automobile innovation because they use concurrent development processes to reduce time to market. They do not have to aim better than competitors to score more hits on the target because they can take more shots from a closer distance. Customer-intimate companies understand the difference between profit or loss on a single transaction and profit over the lifetime of their relationship with a single customer. Most companies know, for instance, that not all customers require the same level of service or will generate the same revenues.