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The importance of Partner Alignment in Customer Centric Management

Written by Monique Jansen for Buljan & Partners Consulting

Companies have many reasons to include external partners in their customer facing processes in Customer Centric Management. External partners can ensure a more efficient and therefore less costly service. They tend to save a company time in searching the right staff for the job, they ensure process effectiveness based on their subject matter experience and they improve efficiency though making advance of economies of scale.

However, outsourcing is not a light decision to take. Leaving a customer-facing process in somebody else’s hands is scary, as it is a crucial one in ensuring an A to Z aligned customer experience.

First of all, any partner in the supply chain or process chain, needs to be evaluated on fit-to-culture measures besides financial KPIs. Then companies have to ask themselves a few important questions before making a partnering decision:

  • Do the partner candidates think the same as us about putting the customer in the heart of the company?
  • Do they motivate their staff in a way we would do this too?
  • Is there technology aligned with ours, or with other partners in the chain?
  • What about accessibility? Are their business or service ours in line with our customer promise?
  • Do they understand and act on our company and brand values?

A few weeks ago I went through a customer experience “polluted” by a partners’ limitations:

I placed an order with Amazon. Amazon is widely seen – also by me – as a typical showcase of:

  • Excellent customer experience
  • Intelligent use of customer data and frequently appears on the top spots in customer satisfaction charts.

During my purchase process, and taking advantage of the technology offered by Amazon, I used the “buy now” option instead of the normal and slightly longer route. Since Amazon “knows me”, I am used to using this fast option. I finalized the purchase process of the product in less than 2 minutes.

Then the e-mail confirmation of the purchase arrived. I did not take too much notice, trusting Amazon to do the right thing. Then one day later, the e-mail confirmation of shipment of the product arrived. I opened this e-mail and realized that I had made a mistake: in habit of using the fast lane for purchase, I forgot that the last time I ordered, it was a present that had to be delivered at a friends’ address, and that by taking the fast route Amazon had automatically used the last known delivery address in my customer history. An error by Amazon?  No, this was me being too quick, a user error. So, although it was Sunday early morning, I decided to act, and put Amazon’s customer service availability to test.

The easiest way to me of contacting Amazon at that point was the customer service chat. I posted my question: “I’ve made a mistake on the delivery address of my last order, could you please help me?”.

Completely beyond expectations, I received an almost immediate answer: “Hello, my name is Diego and I am here to help you. Can you confirm your name please?”.

So we chatted. The outcome of the chat did not solve my problem. Diego kindly explained to me that when shipping was already in progress, it was not possible to change the delivery address, and that I could contact the delivery agent to change the delivery. Diego provided me the necessary details, and shortly afterwards this was again confirmed in an e-mail by Diego from Amazon. In this e-mail, there was the typical question on “please let us know if you problem has been solved”, with possible answer buttons Yes or No. I decided not to do the evaluation now, but rather wait until I spoke to the delivery agent, as I did not want to jeopardize Diego’s evaluation or bonus for not solving my problem.

I noticed from the data Diego had given me, that the delivery agent did not have customer service on Sundays. OK fair enough, I thought, not all companies are so customer oriented as Amazon, so I decided to call on Monday 10:00 am.

On Monday 10:05 I called a 902 number, which in Spain means premium rate. The gentleman who answered the phone patiently listened to my petition, and looked up the shipment in his system. “I am sorry madam, but the shipment has not arrived in Spain yet, as I cannot see it on my screen, you will have to call me back later today”. This is when I realized that this particular partner of Amazon had broken my “high” customer experience. What do you mean call back? To a 902 line? Why don´t you call ME back? Why don´t you take a note and call me when you have my shipment on your screen?

There was no way of convincing him to be proactive, go beyond his instructions and call ME back. I called again that afternoon. There was no news. I called again the next day. Again no news. I called again 2 days after. The lady who attended me told me that my shipment had arrived on their screen, so she changed the address without more ado. It arrived the same day to the right address, 4 premium rate phone calls later.

What are the reflections companies can learn from this customer experience?

  • I still remember Diego’s name as he provided excellent customer service even without solving the problem, and everything was confirmed per e-mail.
  • I do not remember the delivery partner employees’ name, as he made me angry about not being able to call ME back and ME having to remember to call back using a premium toll number.
  • If Amazons call center and chat center is outsourced (I don´t have this inside info), they did a good job.
  • Amazons delivery partner however did not meet my expectations, so convincingly set by Amazon, of excellent customer service.

I strongly suggest Amazon to talk to their distributors, and help them provide a customer service on the same levels as Amazon’s. A partner can make or break a customer experience.

However, will I stop using Amazon because of this experience? Probably not. Exceeding expectations in other touch points out-weigh the pain-point.

Will I pay more attention to the delivery address while placing an order next time around? YES, I am a customer adapting to a glitch in the process, and writing about it.

So, what do you think: Is there any need for Amazon to act?

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