When Distributors Stand Between You & Your Customers: Can You Still Guarantee Great Customer Experience?

You lose some control if you have a known brand but sell through distributors. How can you ensure consistent customer experience?

You lose some control if you have a known brand but sell through distributors. How can you ensure consistent customer experience?

Have you ever thought about the challenges of delivering consistent, excellent customer experiences when you have to sell through third parties?

Today’s episode brings you interviews with two speakers I met  at the B2B Online Conference in Chicago who grapple with that challenge daily. The 3rd parties in question are distributors, in the case of John Deere, and eBay sellers in the case of eBay.

Customers Attribute A Bad Experience to Your Brand, Even if It Was a Reseller or Distributor Who Messed Up

The challenge is that how people perceive you, although strongly shaped by your brand, can be messed up by the intermediaries. If a distributor doesn’t have the right attitude or product knowledge, that will reflect badly on your brand. People think about buying a John Deere tractor, and don’t stop to realize that the distributor is not employed by John Deere.

Get the Erin Wallace Transcript Here!

Likewise, we talk about buying something on eBay, but we are actually buying from an individual eBay seller. There’s only so much control eBay can have over the sellers. If a seller takes a week to ship the product you bought, you may think badly of eBay, even though it was not their platform that caused the problem.

Get the Raj Sivasubrammanian Transcript Here!

Use Training, Coaching and the Voice of the Customer

Erin Wallace, Global Manager of Customer Experience, John Deere (@Redejong), and her team work closely with distributors and managers to let them hear and understand what customers are really thinking and saying.

They have used many innovative approaches for customer feedback, such as their “Chatterbox“, which is a recording studio in a trailer that gets set up at trade shows and events. Customers can go in and record their thoughts about what they are experiencing and what is frustrating.

They also have a “Customer Experience Multiplier Program“, which provides extensive dealer training in person; assessment, monthly coaching, and performance reviews against operational models.

They teach distributors to really understand their customers’ business, and are willing to leverage other parts of John Deere to help them in ways the customers might not have imagined the company would be able to help. For example, they collect a lot of data on agronomics, and can help customers figure out how to get greater crop yields.

Get the Erin Wallace Transcript Now!

Be Customer Centric, Not Metrics Centric

Raj Sivasubramanian, Senior Manager, Global Customer Insights, eBay, also tries to shape “distributor” (i.e. seller) behavior through rewards systems and sanctions.

Raj also spoke about the dangers of becoming “metrics centric” instead of “customer centric”. Because the c-suite demands numbers and metrics to assess your progress and decide whether or not to invest in new programs, it is natural and important to pay attention to the metrics. There’s a danger, however,  of becoming so focused on the numbers that you lose sight of  what really matters: acting on what you have learned from the customers.

Raj suggests that you pick a few key metrics that are central to why customers stay with you or leave you, and then focus on improving them in a big way. When you get to the point that all that is left to do in one area will only make a marginal improvement in customer satisfaction, sales or retention, then it is probably time to start working on another area with big potential for improvement.
Get the Raj Sivasubrammanian Transcript Now!

Liked this? Get the Frank Ideas Newsletter!
[ View Archives ]
How To Compete Against Amazon When You Can't Win on Price or Speed (& More on eTail)
Win Raving Fans Even If You're Losing Games: How the Arizona Diamondbacks Create Great Customer Experiences
Post was last modified: by

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *