How do you protect your reputation in the partner ecosystem?

In a Twitter chat with Chris Reaburn and Russ Hatfield about Chris’s recent blog post we collectively stumbled upon this concept of customer satisfaction in the “partner ecosystem”.  And, more importantly, how do you manage and positively influence the customer experience within that ever-expanding service delivery value chain?

Even before the mass outsourcing of customer service to third party providers, organizations have been focusing on core competencies and farming out as many other functions as practical.  Supply chain outsourcing seems to me to have led the way.  Why make all the raw materials? Why do all the preassembly?  Heck, why do any assembly at all?  Design it, then have someone else build it and then stamp your brand on it.  Then, hand the finished product over to another partner to distribute it, collect the receivables and manage your cash flow.

Then we decided that this process was so efficient, we applied it to the servicing and support of our customer relationships too.

So, who gets whacked when a part of this process fails?  Who’s brand is on the package?  That’s who.  The customer doesn’t care about all this noise in the background.  She knows that she bought a product from your company and expects you to be accountable.  Even with good intentions, how can you be held responsible for so many disparate parties, all with competing agenda?  You built it [the ecosystem that is].  You own it.  And unlike a linear chain, the ecosystem is multi-directional and exponentially more complex.

So, what business models or KPI’s have you used or seen applied that effectively enhance customer loyalty in such a complex environment?

Comments

  1. Of course I’m going to comment on this one.

    This is a larger problem for service businesses than the product industry comparable. Product companies own the final deliverable and have final override to not release something that isn’t up to expected quality. In many services, however, the intermediary is the party responsible for the direct customer interface for a service you’ve branded, and we don’t have quality oversight on a transaction-by-transaction basis.

    Part of the problem is that service intermediaries don’t always have the same profit motive, organizational goals or service ethic as the company branding the experience.

    A partial answer is being more careful about how each of us hires and manages intermediaries, though we usually have to battle through our own internally competing forces – marketing wants to make promises, operations wants to fulfill promises, but not incur additional operational cost of making it compatible, purchasing wants to obtain the capability at the lowest cost, and business dev / NSD and sales want to get the deal done, get the service commercialized and move on to the next deal.

    The best management I’ve seen of this involves solid internal alignment of the groups managing the operations, customer service and new service development groups. These groups come to the table together during the capabilities development phase to share the intermediary / provider selection, shared company / intermediary KPI development, and the ongoing relationship with the intermediary. The same brand standards applied to the "sponsoring" brand are applied to the measurement of the intermediary, and these are measured and managed by all three parties on an ongoing basis. In the best examples, the intermediary's compensation is contingent on service performance and adherence to those brand standards. After all, they're usually the smaller organization achieving exponential growth on the strength of another service brand.

    Intermediary engagement / outsourcing is happening more frequently as companies (particularly in this economy) retreat back to their core offerings, at the very time that the possibilities of service interconnectivity are rapidly expanding

  2. Thanks so much Chris for taking the time to provide such a thorough assessment. I like the idea of intermediary KPI development. To take that a step further, I think a greater level of buy in would be probable if the KPIs were actually jointly developed. In the contact center, I think of SLAs and how they are typically dictated by the client to the outsource partner as a requirement of doing business. It seems to me a better chance of success if all parties had a vested ownership interest in developing the KPIs. Don't see too much of that.

    Thanks again!

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