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Cultural organisations recognise that, just as in most commercial businesses, they need
well-managed information about customers if products are to be responsive to their inter-
ests and needs, if they are to keep their customers informed about new offerings, encour-
age them to take an interest in new offerings and target new products to their customer
base. A detailed, well-maintained database of current customer relationships can be ex-
ploited to extrapolate trends and anticipate future patterns activity. In the past, institutions
have often been able to collect such information only at an aggregate level. Increasingly,
now, they are accumulating greater amounts of information about individuals. Software
dedicated to the storage, organisation and maximum utilisation of customer information
provides the technological part of the solution to use this information effectively.
Customer Relationships
The first Technology Watch Report introduces Customer Relationship Management
systems (CRM or eCRM) and demonstrates its relevance to the cultural heritage sector.
As well as helping organisations maximise profits and maintain their competitive edge,
CRM software can reduce duplication of effort, contribute to the elimination of contra-
dictory information, make information accessible across the organisation and allow
organisations to present a unified. personalised face to customers, patrons, partners and
visitors. Essentially, CRM's enables an organisation to provide a better level of customer
support and target its products or services more accurately. It can also increase revenue
from existing customers, exploit previously under-utilised resources and reveal potential
business opportunities.To do this organisations need to know more about their visitors
and users and to use that information to develop stronger relationships with them.
Smart Tags for Objects
The management of objects also plays an important role in the activities of archives,
libraries and museums. Here again, newer technologies can improve the efficiency with
which this is done and enable institutions to offer users services that have not been
possible in the past. Systematic tracking makes it possible to move and store items more
efficiently, a solution to a problem that poses logistical difficulties for any organisation
that handles substantial quantities of material. Key to this process is the ability to link an
object to its digital record. Barcoding, a well understood and cost effective technology,
has become the most common way of doing this, although its limitations do not neces-
sarily mean it is the best. As the third Technology Watch Report makes evident, labels
called smart tags using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, provide an alter-
native. Smart tags do not suffer from the limitations of orientation and distance intrinsic
in barcodes.They minimise human intervention, can store more information locally and
can be reprogrammed.This technology uses radio frequencies to read information on the
tags fixed to or embedded into an object or its container.They either reflect or retransmit
radio-frequency signals and, like barcodes, can be linked to databases such as library cata-
logues or museum collection management systems. As well as being used to improve the
handling of the objects themselves, they can be used to manage visitor or user access to
information about the objects.The technology requires some investment, the tags them-
selves are more expensive than barcodes and standardisation of the tag data structures has