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.
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.
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.
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.