The global digital age has brought about one of the biggest fundamental problems of marketing in the history of business: How does a brand stand out when the average buyer can choose between products from across the entire world? Previously, companies often had regional monopolies – or close to it – but today, forget it. Very few businesses can claim to offer a product or service that has no direct competition.
For most businesses, customer experience (CX) has become their most important differentiator. In fact, according to a Gartner survey, nearly ninety percent of businesses surveyed believe they are now primarily competing based on customer service, rather than product. Are you?
Why Indirect Sales Ecosystems Need To Focus On CX
Consistency in customer service can be a major challenge for indirect sales ecosystems, due to their structure. However, buyers rarely care about that. They expect a consistency in interactions across all their contact points, no matter the channel. A poor customer experience from any portion of the company ends up reflecting badly on the ecosystem as a whole.
This means that partner managers need to be putting an increased emphasis on maintaining high levels of customer service across their organization. Otherwise, they could be at risk of losing buyers to monolithic sales organizations which can more easily regulate their CX. Here are a few suggestions on how to accomplish this:
1. Centralize your customer touch information.
Your vendor network must have a centralized CMS-style database for tracking customer touches across the ecosystem. Even if customers are contacting different companies every time, they should receive an experience which is as seamless as possible. Maintaining a database of touches which allows various areas of your ecosystem to “hand off” customers without disruption will go a long way towards achieving this.
2. Customer satisfaction should be a core KPI.
If you aren’t in the habit of sending out surveys to buyers who have purchased recently and\or had any contact with an area of your ecosystem, you should be. This is the only way to concretely track CX. In particular, you’ll need it to start to evaluate which of your partners are providing the best levels of customer service. Then you’ll be able to work more closely with those who don’t.
3. Have guidelines for interactions.
Have you sat down and thought about what you would like a typical customer interaction to be like? Create a document offering guidelines to your partners. They’ll need some leeway to adapt it to their own local business and customer base, but this will help standardize interactions.
4. Ensure the same customer service tools are universally available.
When your partners have consistency in the processes and tools they use to interact with customers, that will translate into a consistent customer experience. Be certain that all your partners have access to all the same tools, and have equivalent training to ensure they’re using them properly. The only exception should be when you’re rolling out new tools, since that’s best done as a phased deployment.
5. Making CX coaching part of your partner interactions.
Don’t sideline CX when discussing performance, improvements, and bonuses with your partners. The amount of emphasis you put on CX will usually translate into how much emphasis they put on it as well. Be available to provide coaching and guidance, particularly for partners who are struggling to keep their CX ratings high.
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