Customer Enquiry Management in global supply chains: A Comparative Multi-Case Study Analysis

Zorzini, Marta, Hendry, Linda and Stevenson, Mark (2012) Customer Enquiry Management in global supply chains: A Comparative Multi-Case Study Analysis. European Management Journal, 30 (2). pp. 121-140. ISSN 0263-2373

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The Customer Enquiry Management (CEM) process is of strategic importance to non-Make-To-Stock companies but few empirical studies have explored the CEM practices adopted by firms in practice. A study on the Italian capital goods sector by Zorzini, Hendry, Stevenson, and Pozzetti (2008) provides the most comprehensive contingency-based framework to date. This paper builds on Zorzini et al. (2008) by conducting multi-case study research with seven global capital goods companies managing CEM in the UK. The evidence suggests that both high levels of coordination and formalization of the CEM process are linked to improved performance. In particular, cross-functional coordination and formalization impact jointly on the performance of companies characterized by a large-sized control problem. Two moderating factors are also identified: the proportion of slightly/highly customized orders and the availability of integrated information systems. Analysis of the impact of supply chain coordination and other globalization factors on CEM shows that CEM practices are: directly influenced by the complexity of the supply chain configuration; and, indirectly influenced by the types of relationships with supply chain partners. Two sources of complexity that result from operating in a global context are also identified: coordinating the activities of sales structures distributed around the world; and, managing global customers with different languages and cultures. In terms of managerial implications, the results indicate that coordination with partners along the supply chain is needed at the customer enquiry stage and constraints linked to global customers should be considered when structuring CEM.

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