Managing B2B2C relationships effectively.
Posted May 1, 2006
A third-party fulfillment company is on the front line of CRM. It is the voice, eyes, and ears of the brands it serves. To be an effective steward, it must embody these brands. That means managing two types of relationships: customer relationships and client relationships. How one is managed affects the other. You might call it a B2B2C relationship.
Establishing this relationship is a two-way street. To manage customers, a fulfillment company uses its experience to manage the complex details of client promotions and customer service. A client brings a wealth of knowledge about its brands, corporate cultures, and markets. To be effective, the two must combine their knowledge and processes.
How does this happen? How does a fulfillment company become a seamless extension of its client's brands? The answer is, from the inside.
Living the Brand
When considering a third-party fulfillment provider, take a good look at how it works to blend these areas of knowledge. It can tell a great deal about how it will manage customer relationships.
The first thing to look at is how the fulfillment company lives the brands it serves. Does the company only provide a service or does it have a commitment to owning the brands it serves? Find out how it absorbs the culture of its clients. How does it welcome, learn, and cultivate client brands within the organization? Does it ask for details about your products, clients, procedures, and sensitivities in order to become a seamless, yet silent, partner?
Then, look at communication. Are its people good listeners? Do they establish regular opportunities for communication? How do they respond to your ideas? Do they offer ideas of their own?
Also consider their processes and training. How does the company train its employees and encourage them to take active responsibility for your brands? How does it empower its managers and front-line employees? These all affect how a fulfillment company is equipped to live your brands.
A Two-Way Process
So, if the fulfillment company has the mindset and internal processes to establish the B2B2C relationship, then consider how you as a client can facilitate this process. How can you communicate your brand requirements, scope, character, and needs? The more a fulfillment company knows, the more effective its level of service will be.
Take fulfillment services. This encompasses things such as product, literature and catalog fulfillment, kitting and collating, and turnkey e-commerce. The fulfillment company must have an effective process for checking the end product to be sure it maintains the client's brand identity. Yet, the fulfillment process is only effective if it takes the specifics of the brand into account. So, think about how you can bring the fulfillment partner into your world. How can you present your specific requirements in a practical way? How can you blend the provider's experience with your own?
Or, take at look at contact center services. The customer service representatives (CSRs) must be well trained in the scope of the brand before they interact with customers. They should also understand how intangibles such as voice, tone, product knowledge, delivery, and empathy affect the customer's experience.
Think about how to immerse them in your culture. How can they learn your products? Can you bring them onto the shop floor to see how they are made? Can they talk to the people who make them? Can they take samples home? If it's not a physical product that you offer, can they listen to your focus groups to understand your customers better? CSRs who have knowledge in these areas will more effectively manage your customer relationships.
Experience also affects back-end functions like supply chain management. The more a fulfillment company knows about the brand, the better it can manage the details. Are there environmental sensitivities that affect customer perceptions? Do certain customers prefer one type of labeling verses another? Are there specific copacking techniques necessary to meet customer expectations? Are there preferred shipping methods?
Ultimately, it's a two-way street. When a fulfillment company understands your culture and has a true understanding of your customers, it is better equipped to handle the details. The magic of fulfillment is in the details. Little things do count.
It's About Experience
At its foundation, good CRM is about creating a seamless brand experience for the customer. To do this requires experience: the experience as a fulfillment provider and experience with the client's brands. By marrying these two areas of knowledge, a fulfillment company can effectively manage relationships. This takes open communication, flexibility, and a mindset that the magic is in the details. With these things in place, the results are happier clients and stronger relationships: a healthy B2B2C relationship.
About the Author
Dana Chryst is CEO and owner of The Jay Group. Chryst, an industry veteran with more than 20 years of experience, grew up with The Jay Group: She is the daughter of founder J. Freeland Chryst, and got her start with the company as a child, starring in client ads and learning the business from the shop floor. Today, she leads a marketing fulfillment company that delivers the brand experiences of many Fortune 1000 companies. Chryst graduated from Millersville University with a BA in business and marketing. Please visit www.jaygroup.com
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