Customer satisfaction is the balance between what the customer expects and what is delivered. If your organization counts on business partners (dealers, distributors, retail stores, agents, affiliates, influencers, customer service providers, etc) or some other organization that comes between you and your final customer, then you need to consider your business partner in your customer satisfaction strategy and programs.

Why include Business Partners in a Customer Satisfaction Strategy?

Customers see your product or service from the outside in. That is, the customer has a relationship with the place the acquire the product or service. If you are a manufacturer or supplier that uses a business partner, then your customer’s perspective about your product is influenced by how that Business Partner reflects your product. There are several pitfalls to watch out for.

a. Creating invalid expectations. A Business Partner may set customer expectations. Depending on the role the business partner plays, if they have any ‘selling’ responsibilities, they may not be able to articulate why your product or service is better than a competitive product. This could create an inferior expectation on the part of the customer (and they won’t buy your product) or the business partner might inflate the customer’s expectation beyond what the manufacturer or supplier is able to deliver.

b. Insufficient supply. A business partner who does not carry sufficient supply of your product to meet customer demand may cause  dissatisfaction with customers looking to buy and might convince a  customer to purchase a competitive product, even if they were previously  attracted to your product.

c. Poor service. If you count on your business partner to provide service to the customer on your product and they don’t live up to the standards you set, this could cause customer’s to be dissatisfied. From the customer’s perspective, the business partner’s service is the service that comes with the product.

d. Bait and Switch : A  Business Partner could  turn off an existing customer. Often customers who have bought seek reassurance that they have made the right choice. If  the product or service is sold in multiple channels, they may seek the opinion of several outlets. A poorly trained business partner or one who is motivated to sell something else, could impact existing sales, causing the product to be returned or service to be canceled.

What kind of programs should be included in a Business Partner Customer Satisfaction Strategy?

1. Programs related to the role the Business Partner performs:

What role does a Business Partner play for your product or service? Are they equipped to play that role? Some examples are:

a. A stock role. Have sufficient stock of the product to sell to a customer. You need a robust order to delivery process to your business partner that may involve others in the supply chain.

b. A sales role. Sell the product to the consumer. Ensure the Business Partner’s sales force equipped to sell your products and create the right expectations.

c. A customer service role. If something goes wrong with the product or service, the business partner will often be the first point of contact for the customer to determine the cause and the fix. The Business Partner needs training and reference information about how to resolve customer problems.

2. Customer Satisfaction feedback Program.

How does the business partner measure it’s customer’s satisfaction levels? Are customers satisfied with your product and with the business partner they bought it from. When gathering customer satisfaction information, try to include where the product was purchased to compare the effectiveness of your business partner channel.

3. Business Partner Satisfaction Feedback Program.

How satisfied are your business partners with their dealings with your organization? How do you compare to other suppliers your business partner deals with? Working with your business partner is very important to maximize your customer’s satisfaction with your products and services.

How to Implement Customer Satisfaction Programs with Business Partners.

1. Ensure the contractual arrangement with the business partner, includes reference to the role they are expected to play and the expectation of high levels of customer satisfaction.

2. Provide Training and Reference material relevant to the roles

3. Verify customer satisfaction levels through review of customer feedback, either through surveys or web feedback (social media, complaint sites, etc)

4. Work with business partners if something goes wrong with one of your products or services, so they know how to respond to customers.

5. Weed out business partners who negatively impact your brand image and sales.

6. Implement a business partner satisfaction survey or feedback program. Work on areas of weakness. Listen to suggestions and even new product enhancements. Your business partners may have insights you can benefit from.

What to do next.

1. Check your existing contractual arrangements with your Business Partners. Be clear on what roles in the selling and service processes they are expected to perform.  Look for customer satisfaction elements.

2. Check your complaint and customer service data to see if any of your business partners is impacting you more than others. Take remedial action.

3. Check what processes you have in place to communicate with business partners when you introduce new products or when something goes wrong. Do you have robust programs to keep them in the loop, not just with customers?

4. Work on areas of weakness or launch a new improved strategy.

For help with customer satisfaction strategy or business partner satisfaction strategies, or to help with  education materials, customer satisfaction launches or speeches, please contact me at adele@satisfactionsecrets.com

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Adele Berenstein

Adele Berenstein is an Experienced Customer Satisfaction Executive, recently retired from a Large Global IT Organization after a long productive management career including Sales, Marketing, Services, teaching and education center management and most recently, 19 years in customer satisfaction management. She turned around divisions with customer satisfaction problems, implemented measurable improvements and management systems, and implemented programs to prevent problems from ever affecting customers.

7 Responses to “Customer Satisfaction: What role should a business partner play?”

  1. Frank Brinkman Says:

    Adele,

    Every step you have mentioned is vitally important to the business partner(BP) and the business. BP’s can do more damage than competitors. Establish a vital communication plan between the businesses to communicate sales, service, support, supply and management issues. Have a escalation process established within both companies to bring forward issues and quickly resolve them.

    Excellent Post Adele.

  2. Adele Says:

    Frank,

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I agree that any organization that uses business partners, needs a communication link with their business partners and a method for them to get support for their problems and the problems of their customers, including escalation paths, if the normal support system fails.

  3. Adele Says:

    Barry, you can use some of this article on your blog and reference back to mine. Thanks
    Adele

  4. Kim Says:

    Hi Adele,

    Great post. It really a challenge for companies to accurately how satisfied customers are with a product and business partners. You are also right about companies needing to find the right method of measuring customer satisfaction and a program to keep everyone in the loop of things.

    This blog caught my attention because I work at a company called FeatureSet, in Montreal (we are neighbors!). We have just launched a new social entertprise software, FeatureSet – http://www.featureset.com

  5. Asher Says:

    Can a business partner play a role of supplier in his own company?

  6. Adele Says:

    Hi, Asher, Thanks for your comment.

    Yes a Business Partner can be a supplier to an organization. The term business supplier is a partner with an organization but obviously with a different function. While the supplier may not touch a customer directly, the supplier can be part of a solution to a customer’s problem. Perhaps the supplier can offer something similar but improved that would please customers more.

    Engaging business suppliers in product design and product defect problems can help improve new and improved products, fix existing ones and ultimately improve customer satisfaction.

  7. Most Popular Blog Articles for 2012 | Customer Satisfaction and Reputation Management Says:

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