How to manage a vendor partnership for customer success
After our contributed on article on how to select the right vendor partner for your CX investment, today we look at the next stage in that relationship and how to make it a success
Delivering sustainable Customer Experience (CX) is upscaling as a business priority, and inevitable in the “age of the customer”. For organisations to attain customer satisfaction, they have to work on four key foundational pillars:
3. Products / services
4. Platforms / systems
The four foundational pillars need careful management with attention and focus. The fourth pillar, technical platforms/systems, plays a pivotal role in customer experience management across the end-to-end customer journey. It helps support key CX objectives like customer success, customer effort score and customer satisfaction.
Vendor engagement often occurs at multiple stages. In the article we will look at the stage of engaging and managing vendors, from after selection all the way through to delivery.
SEE ALSO: The Customer Experience Buyer's Guide 2017
The right click
After selecting the right vendor for your business and goals, it is essential to have the right click with the selected vendor. You can do this by selecting an internal partner from the technology/IT department (within the organisation). This is a key success factor, as this person will have previous experience in managing vendors and delivering solutions. It is important though to keep a rule in your mind, which is “The ownership is yours”, despite the nature and the number of the partners.
A key starting point is to have the customer journey mapped with the four service model pillars (the 4 Ps), whereas, yourself, your team, the technology partner and the vendor are able to vividly visualise the area/(s) of action/optimisation. Doing this backed with the right quantitative and qualitative analysis is crucial for customer experience management.
Additionally, sharing your organisation’s vision and strategic plan and high level objectives is another critical vendor engagement pillar. All of these are engagement basics for the solution deployment. The shared aspects are reflecting the degree of the project owner empowerment, and the focus areas for the solution in a factual manner rather than a legacy directive approach. It does not work to simply say: “I am the customer, you are the vendor, and you follow my direction as it is”.
This step includes inviting and allowing the vendor to live your own life on the ground fully. The vendor, escorted by you, is to co-habilitate across multiple touch-points and channels, taking notes and pictures so that they fully digest the situation from the end-user perspective. In certain cases, you could make them live a full customer simulation.
Clarity and specification
Engaging the vendor is essential, yet official documentation and communication stays an important pillar. You need a RFP (request for proposal) document that has the detailed requirements, in addition to the vision and the objectives in writing. This needs to include a written list of items and functions that are non-negotiable and as well areas of flexibility.
Setting a periodical meeting with the vendor and the delivery team is a good tradition that ensures the continuous alignment and understanding of the situation and the requirement delivery progress.
Solution delivery and implementation
At this stage, it is better to swap seats, rather than to bring the vendor to your life. You will need to go and live the vendors’ life and you will be following on your requirements delivery. Your presence should not be continuous, instead it’s important to have checking points to confirm that the delivery will be satisfactory.
Inviting a selection of your customers to test the solution beta version will hit two birds with one stone; vendor engagement & customer engagement. At implementation, it is essential to supply the vendor with the needed basis for success, along with managing the needed internal support and change management.
Ten tips for a successful vendor partnership
1. Be very careful in selecting the right technology partner and engaging them.
2. Plot your customers’ journey along with the service model pillars.
3. Share your expectations in writing, yet allow a space for the vendor’s expertise and innovation.
4. Engage the selected vendor in your operational cycle.
5. Escort your vendor in a full customer simulation experience.
6. Stay close to the vendor during the solution design phase.
7. Have a plan B in case delivery witnesses any hiccups.
8. Have a group of your customers and end-users test the solution in the beta version.
9. Give strong support to the implementation stage.
10. Have the vendor with you on premise for the first 60-90 days after launch.
This is an extract from The Customer Experience Buyer’s Guide 2017. Download your complimentary copy of the full report by clicking on the banner below.