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Ginger Conlon | May 11, 2012

Do Your Partners Squander Your Customer Experience Gains?

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You've worked hard to create a brand image and deliver on your brand promise. Then your organization partners with
another company that turns about to be not so
customer-centric or detail-oriented or what have
you as your firm is. What to do?

One option: Find a new partner. Another: Work with that partner to bring the company up to your standards. Neither option is an easy fix, but doing something, anything, is essential--before customers walk out the door and don't come back.

Consider my recent experience with Lot 18, a flash-sale type site that offers discounts on fine wine, gourmet and artisanal foods, and "experiences" like private wine tastings. Its look and feel is all about luxury, high-end, gourmet. Its emails are written to be tantalizing and make you feel that your purchases will be exquisite despite the discounted price.

As you may know from my many musings about Godiva, I love chocolate. So an offer for a selection of seven artisanal chocolates caught my attention. I decided to place an order for the item, and while on the site got drawn in by the description of a white wine that sounded perfect for early spring evenings in the backyard--so I purchased that, too.

A few days later the chocolate arrived, sent by Lot 18 partner iGourmet. Seven bars of chocolate haphazardly tossed into a bubble envelope. That was it. No note. No order form. Worse, one of the bars of chocolate was partially unwrapped (I threw it out), the box of another was dented--and the chocolate inside broken into pieces, and two others had the corners slightly crushed. One bar, Kvikk Lunsj, was a Kit Kat like candy produced by Kraft, which I wouldn't consider artisanal by any means (although, admittedly, it was delicious). Not exactly the luxurious experience I expected based on Lot 18's description.

Two days after the chocolate arrived I received a box directly from Lot 18. It contained a beautifully printed, hard stock post card inside with a thank-you on one side and ways to contact customer service on the other. The wine was safely packed in specially made packaging. Now that's the experience I expected.

Will I purchase from Lot 18 again? Most likely. Lot 18 itself did everything right. But will I purchase from a Lot 18 partner? Definitely not iGourmet, no matter how enticing the description. Perhaps another partner, but I'll certainly weigh the risks first.

How are your current partners impacting your customer experience? If your customer strategy, values, and business objectives aren't aligned with your partners', then perhaps negatively. And that's not a partnership worth having.

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