Customer Centricity

Customer success through vendor engagement

In today’s ‘age of the customer’, delivering a sustainable customer experience (CX) is growing to become an inevitable business priority. For service providers to attain customer satisfaction sustainably, they should work on four key foundational pillars, or the ‘four P’s’ as we like to call it:

  • people;
  • processes;
  • products and services; and
  • platforms and systems.

These four pillars need careful management. In this article, special focus goes to the fourth pillar, platforms and systems, and the necessary vendor engagement. Technical platforms and systems are pivotal in managing CX across the entire customer journey, and support key CX objectives like improved customer journeys and customer satisfaction. Thus, vendor engagement usually occurs at multiple stages –  from after vendor selection, all the way through to delivery.

The right click

Once a vendor has been selected, it is essential to develop the right kind of relationship with them. The first step is to choose an internal partner from your company’s technology/IT department – the level of previous experience they have in managing vendors and delivering solutions is crucial to success.

As in the table below, start by mapping with these four pillars for all stakeholders to clearly visualize any areas that need action. Also at the beginning, make sure to have the right quantitative and qualitative analysis in hand – this way, you are sharing a 360-degree view of the current situation, which will ultimately help with allocating resources and managing expectations.

The table illustrates the relationship between the CSAT measurement and the 4 Ps as a foundation for CX enhancement.

Source: The CX Master – Hany Mokhtar – all rights reserved – www.thecxmaster.com

All these steps are engagement basics for solution deployment. Sharing the vision and strategic plan in the approach of a partnership helps to empower those with project responsibilities. It does not work anymore to have the mentality: “I am the customer, you are the vendor, and you do as I say!” This approach also helps to pinpoint focus areas for the solution in a realistic, practical way that suits your current situation rather than sticking to legacy approaches that no longer suit your organization.

Keep a rule in mind: “The ownership is yours.”  Despite the nature and the number of the partners, responsibility and accountability is ultimately in the hands of your company.

Co-habitation

This step includes inviting and allowing the vendor to live your life, on the ground, fully. During this stage, the vendor spends some time 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, they could even participate in a full customer simulation. As per the illustration below, this can help you and the vendor understand the reality of what is happening on the ground, what the ideal journey is, and then define and work out how to fill the gaps.

Source: The CX Master – Hany Mokhtar – all rights reserved – www.thecxmaster.com

Clarity and specification

Engaging the vendor is essential, yet official documentation and communication remains an important pillar. This reserves your organization’s rights by having everything down – officially, formally and on paper. This includes the request for proposal (RFP) document which holds the detailed requirements, the company and project vision, and the company objectives. This helps you to be clearer about what cannot be compromised and any areas of flexibility.

Setting a periodic meeting with the vendor and delivery team will ensure continuous alignment, a detailed understanding of the situation and any delivery progress. 

Delivery and implementation

At this stage, it is better to swap seats. Rather than bringing the vendor into your life, this time you will need to go and live the vendor’s life, following your order as it takes shape.

Your presence should not be needed all the time, mainly at certain checking points to confirm that delivery will be satisfactory.

Inviting a selection of your customers to test a beta version will hit two birds with one stone: vendor engagement and customer engagement.

At implementation, supply the vendor with the measures for success, manage internal support and apply the necessary change management.

Summary

The following 10 points summarize a methodology for vendor engagement:

  1. Be very careful in selecting and engaging with the right technology partner.
  2. Plot your customers’ journey alongside the service model pillars.
  3. Share your overall expectations in writing, but allow a space on the page for the vendor to offer their own expertise and innovation.
  4. Engage the selected vendor with your operational cycle.
  5. Give your vendor the full customer simulation experience.
  6. Stay close to the vendor during the solution design phase.
  7. Have a plan B in case there are any delivery hiccups.
  8. Have a group of your customers and end users testing a beta version of the solution or service.
  9. Give strong support at the implementation stage.
  10. Have the vendor with you, on site, for the first 60-90 days after launch.


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About The Author

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Hany Mokhtar is a world-class thought leader and speaker/advisor in the areas of customer experience, marketing and digital transformation. Hany carries strong commercial and business experience spanning more than 20 years+ in fields of banking, telecom, government and ICT where he has he has worked with multiple operators, service providers, and renowned consultancy houses across the customer value chain.

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