Are Your Business Partners Aligned to Your Newly Established CX Strategy?

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You’ve worked hard on establishing a new CX strategy for your organization. In developing your strategy, you secured the commitment of executive leadership; received the buy-in from department leaders; established a cross-functional team of frontline employees seeking their perspectives; sought out the voice of your customers; analyzed touchpoints; created journey maps; alleviated pain points; measured your progress and celebrated your successes! There’s no question you’re hitting the ground running and your CX is hitting on all cylinders. Yet, customers continue to complain about shipping, packaging, deliveries, billing and returns. Why?

The source of these continued complaints might not be in your own organization. The source of these complaints might be with the business partners you use to support what your organization produces, sells, or services. Often, when developing a sound customer experience strategy, business partners, (sometimes referred to as vendors, suppliers, or providers) are inadvertently ignored in two ways.

First, you may forget to involve them early in the development of your strategy. If they are an integral part of how you deliver your products and services, why aren’t they an integral part of strategic design and execution? For example, many companies use “last mile” partners to deliver a product from a manufacturing facility to the customer. When experience failures occur, what happens next? Here’s an example to illustrate my point. A personal fitness equipment manufacturer uses a third-party shipping company to move the product from their distribution center to the customer’s home. When a service failure occurred during the last mile, the manufacturer would defer the customer to the shipping company to get it resolved. Customers would frequently object stating, “I bought this from you not the shipping company!” The shipping company would take too long to respond to customer inquiries; require excessive documentation from the customer only to dispute the customer’s claim and fail to resolve it in a timely manner. This last mile partner’s performance reflected poorly on the overall satisfaction of the manufacturer’s products despite the products working as advertised.

The second way business partners are often ignored is in the understanding of their customer experience strategy. Organizations may select business partners for several reasons including lowest cost, highest quality, convenient logistics, or geographic location. While that might be appropriate selection criteria, perhaps asking about their approach to employee engagement, customer experience, environmental sustainability, service recovery and customer support might be additional criteria worth considering in addition to the “normal” evaluation criteria.

What questions should you ask to ensure that your customer’s experience with your organization is an end-to-end seamless encounter regardless of who is involved in delivering that experience? Here are eight questions to ask your business partners to ensure they are aligned to your CX:

1. When selecting a business partner, ask for their customer experience strategy in writing. Your organization just developed one, it’s important to know if who you’re doing business with has one too!
2. Share your CX strategy with the business partner. Do they agree and support your approach? Are they willing to commit to the same goals and objectives you have in achieving the new strategy?
3. Do they align to your brand strategy? How will they represent your brand to your customers? Is it “one brand” from start to finish from the customer’s perspective?
4. Ask about employee engagement, training, rewards, and compensation and working conditions. Often, these can be good indicators of how the employee will interact with your customers since you lack direct management of these third-party providers.
5. What technology or enterprise software systems are being utilized? Do they easily connect with your established systems so there is one view of the customer’s relationship with your organization?
6. Is the handoff to your business partner a seamless process that ensures the customer is not put at odds with either one of your organizations?
7. Ask how the company will handle customer issues? Do they have a service recovery process in place? What are their agreed upon turnaround times?
8. How does the business partner measure their success at achieving customer satisfaction metrics? Does that align with your approach? Do they provide you with regular updates on how they are doing with key metrics?

It’s important to keep the customer “out of the middle” when using business partners to deliver your brand experience. Customers don’t care who you use to facilitate the production and delivery of your products and services. Customers decide to buy your products and services because of your brand’s reputation for delivering an exceptional experience. It’s important to make sure that reputation isn’t adversely impacted by any organization outside of your own that you use to deliver those products and services. Asking these 8 questions can help ensure you have the customer experience alignment necessary to ensure this never happens in your organization. Avoid tomorrow’s problem by engaging your business partners in your CX strategy today.

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