Whose Customer is it Anyway? Part Two


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Yesterday I shared my experience with my Fitbit and how when I bought the newer version, Flex, I felt it just didn’t stack up. Fitbit’s customer care told me to take it back to the retailer, when all I really wanted was for the manufacturer to exchange it for a different version. To me, they didn’t care much about building a relationship with me and that made me curious. Why don’t more manufacturers try to build relationships with their customers? It seems to me it is in the manufacturers’ best interest to build connections and loyalty with customers.

In general, channel partners and OEMs have a common interest in selling the OEM’s products. However, to varying degrees, the channel partners’ interests and activities can be out of alignment with those of the OEM.

Retail channels by their nature, offer variety and they have interest not just in any one product, but the ones that sell the most and provide them the best margins. Beyond promoting variety, if a customer needs help with a specific product a retailer may not be set up to support or respond to these needs. It may be easier to let them exchange the product for one from a different manufacturer.

The retailer is not doing anything underhanded or unethical. They are acting in their interests. It just so happens that these actions are not in the interests of the OEM.

In a franchise relationship as in automotive, some retailers, restaurants and service providers the OEM/channel relationship is more co-reliant. Channel partners don’t have the option of selling products from other OEMs. Nevertheless, they “own” a territory and don’t want the parent organization to encroach on that territory. But within a franchise relationship, failures by any actor in the ecosystem, including the parent and all of its franchisees, impact everyone else.

By the nature of the relationship, the parent must be responsible overall for customer relationships with its brand. Nevertheless, its relationship building efforts should not disturb the customer relationships of each franchisee, unless that relationship is unhealthy.

What does this all mean?

In the end, when an OEM’s product is purchased from a channel partner, even one that is captive, the buyer is a customer of both the OEM and the channel partner. Both should be building relationships with the customer. If both are performing well there is no incentive for either the OEM or the channel partner to steer the customer to other choices. However, if either is not delivering for the customer, the other party risks losing the customer if they don’t try to address the customer’s needs and concerns.

The Fitbit and other products like it (Nike Fuel Band, Jawbone, etc.) provide important data about a person’s physical activity. They link to other applications such as My Fitness Pal which helps you track calorie intake and other things. So, this is pretty important stuff. Plenty of opportunities to sell me, and many others like me, next generation and related products.

I’d like to be engaged with a company who cares about the same things. Next time I am in the same store where we purchased the Fitbit, I will not have any special allegiance to Fitbit. In fact, I will probably look more carefully at what the other offerings provide.

In the age of mobile internet, social media and related developments, you don’t have to build 500 or more stores to effectively build relationships with customers. OEMs are in a position to build relationships with their customers using tools to engage customers and help enrich their experience using their products. Customers want this when done in the right way. Do you agree?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Michael Allenson
Michael is Founder of CXDriven. Formerly he was Principal CX Transformation Consultant at MaritzCX where he led a global team that consulted with clients on how to better leverage their customer experience management programs to drive business success. A frequent writer and presenter, Michael is passionate about helping companies leverage customer intelligence to take action that creates lasting customer relationships and sustainable improvements in growth and profitability. Over a 20+ year career, he has consulted with numerous Fortune 500 companies and their leadership teams on how to uncover superior insights and turn them into action. Prior to his role at MaritzCX, Michael was a Senior Consultant for Maritz Research, Technomic, Diamond Management and Technology Consultants and Leo J. Shapiro and Associates.


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