External Partners

Customers are demanding more seamless experiences and interactions. Organizations are refocusing on their core competencies. New technologies support — and create — ever more complexity. These are some of the factors leading organizations to more dramatically increase external alliances and partnerships.

One key group of external partners — suppliers — are often kept at arms length, abused, misused or otherwise treated very poorly. High performing organizations work with their suppliers as partners in reducing rework and quality problems while improving service levels and cost effectiveness. As partners, suppliers can be important sources of innovation, process streamlining, outsourcing, and the like.

Delivery or customer support partnerships vary greatly from one field or industry to another. High service/quality providers work closely with their agents, distributors, dealers, service providers, consultants, etc. to provide integrated experiences for their customers.

Signs of Weak External Partnering

  • Service/quality performance levels aren’t monitored.
  • Performance measurements/feedback are used to beat partners rather than working together to make improvements.
  • Internal partners don’t know who the organization’s key external partners are and where they fit in the organization’s customer-partner chain.
  • Adversarial “We-They Gaps” exist between the organization and its key external partners.
  • Trivializing the views of external partners as “not reality, just their perception.”
  • Managing to the lowest common denominator with rules and policies that convey mistrust and treat partners like children.

Keys to External Partnering

  • Look at a supplier’s lowest total costs not just low prices
  • Trace service/quality breakdowns upstream to suppliers
  • Develop a supplier management program
  • Involve upstream and downstream partners in a continuous service/quality improvement process
  • Increase connections and customer ownership between internal and external partners

For further reading on Employee Engagement and Empowerment, click here.

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