The pressure to deliver a positive customer experience has never been greater. Real-time access to information and the ease of comparison shopping have elevated expectations and radically changed the buyer’s journey. How customers are treated has a profound effect on future transactions: Those whose problems are resolved with minimal effort are far more likely to repurchase goods or services and increase how much they spend. Do a great job, and they will reward you with more business. Here are some stats that prove it:
According to the Consumer Expectations in 2018 report from Avionos, 17 percent of consumers are willing to share even more personal information during the buying experience if it means Amazon can better anticipate their needs. Avionos' 2018 Procurement Officer Report shows 78 percent of B2B buyers start their product searches on either Amazon or Google, and the growth of Amazon Business has led 65 percent of B2B buyers to make more business purchases through Amazon.
According to Walker Sands’ 2018 Future of Retail study, half of consumers ages 18-25, and 57 percent of those 26-35, receive one or two packages from Amazon per week, and just one in 10 consumers is concerned about Amazon gaining a monopoly.
Why is that? My take is, it's the company's maniacal emphasis on customer experience.
While channel companies may have a complicated relationship with Amazon because of its role as both partner and competitor, if you are looking for a customer experience role model in the digital realm, look no further. Amazon has redefined customer expectations in a way that is impossible to ignore. "Keeping up with the Bezos" is putting major pressure on companies in every industry, and the channel is no different. Whether you’re an MSP delivering remote services, an integrator focused on deployment projects or a product reseller, the customer experience is fundamental to any long-lasting relationship.
Not to mix my retailer metaphors, but channel partners need an “easy button” that their customers can press for a simplified buying experience, so that they can easily achieve their goals and feel good about what they have accomplished.
Harness the Amazon Effect
Amazon pioneered digital suggestive selling with its “customers who viewed this item also viewed” prompt. Amazon is also using artificial intelligence (AI) for product searches and fraud detection, among other functions.
“Machine learning drives our algorithms for demand forecasting, product search ranking, product and deals recommendations, merchandising placements, fraud detection, translations and much more," wrote Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in a shareholder letter. "Though less visible, much of the impact of machine learning will be of this type — quietly but meaningfully improving core operations.”
Simplicity and satisfaction are at the heart of the Amazon customer experience. The company figured out long ago that the easier you make it for customers to do business with you, the more likely they are to keep doing so.
Yes, technology is foundational to a stellar customer experience, but only when you have the right client relationship. Technology alone can’t solve business problems. Partners need deep relationships with customers to understand the culture and personalities involved.
For their part, customers must get to the true core of a problem by sharing with partners what's causing them pain; otherwise, the desired business outcomes can’t be achieved, regardless of the technology.
By getting to know the customer as deeply as Amazon does, partners can help them in concrete ways, such as creating and maintaining user-friendly, responsive websites that are easily accessible from both computers and mobile devices. Well-run sites have to be supported by back-end systems that manage inventory, complete transactions and quickly deliver relevant information. Delivering all that is an opportunity to become indispensable.
Partners must collect and organize data about their customers to inform strategic decisions that strengthen the bond. Amazon seems to know what we need before we begin searching. MSPs collect plenty of data on their customers, thanks to the RMM and PSA systems they use to deliver services. The question is, how well they are we using that information? MSPs – and channel companies in general – need to invest in areas such as advanced analytics, AI systems and mobile access to enhance the customer experience.
And don’t forget security: You can’t deliver a great customer experience if you fail to protect your customers’ data. Customers are less and less tolerant of a breach and won’t hesitate to pull the plug if one too many bugs (or worse) find their way into the network. When's the last time Amazon apologized for losing credit-card data?
Exactly my point.
So how can partners beat Amazon at its own game? User-friendly technology is key, but nothing replaces the personal touch. It's the emotional aspect. People react intellectually to a hassle-free experience, but whether they come back to you is often an emotional decision. Any contact with customers in face-to-face meetings, on the phone or through email must strike the right tone. You must be responsive, listen and address their questions and problems to ensure a positive experience.
If contact with a human in your organization is off-putting to customers, the experience suffers. Make certain you are backing up the technology with great people skills; otherwise, you can’t truly deliver an excellent customer experience.
As vice president of sales for PlanetOne, Jonathan Hartman is responsible for driving sales initiatives, increasing revenue and closing record deals across the company's growing nationwide partner base.