Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 29 seconds

You only hear from your 'customers' when something bad happens, your sales department complains about how long it takes to 'hook up' their customers on marketplace connections, and you're constantly given grief by the SAP team about inbound documents erroring out in the interface. Is that just the nature of the EDI beast, or are you doing something very wrong?

A consistent challenge for any EDI team is to assess its effectiveness with its partners. That task is complicated by the unique nature of its 'customer base'. Whereas a salesman may have many customers of the same type, the EDI team usually has many different types of customers : internal departments (finance, customer service, DCs, HR, etc.), external service providers (credit card companies, banks, benefits providers), direct material suppliers, MRO suppliers, and real paying customers. Additionally, for each type of customer there are different services you provide- there's usually an 'implementation' effort that involves some level of customization and an ongoing operational support component after that. The complexity of these relationships presents a significant challenge for determining how well you're doing the job.

We tried several approaches through the years. We finally decided to use a short survey sent to our buy-side (customer) partner after we implemented an EDI or eProcurement connection. We made half a dozen statements about the project, gave them a 1 to 5 continuum to 'vote' on our performance on each, and also provided room to comment on individual points or on the entire project.

Frankly, we received the most valuable feedback in the comments our customers made. The 'voting' piece seemed to be answered in a pretty perfunctory manner, but if the partner made an effort to make a comment, it was valuable to us. A gap in our assessment process was that our focus was only on one type of partner, for one specific type of service. Granted, that's where we spent most of our time, but our entire partner base was much, much broader and likewise deserved attention.

So, I was thinking: if I had a do-over for this, how would I go about getting the data I need to assess our performance? I discovered a short article in CIO magazine entitled "How to Make IT Irreplaceable" (Read here) that described a concept introduced by Fred Reichheld called the 'net promoter score' (NPS). NPS is a simple concept that relies on asking customers whether they would recommend your products or services to others. The article's author, Niel Nickolaisen, describes how he modified the question to relate more specifically to IT, and it's been a successful tool for him. I like it because:

• It's simple

• It's customizable

• You can allow free form answers

• It's useful, with tweaking, for all types of partners

• It recognizes the freedom the partner has to go elsewhere for services, development, and products

It's not a panacea, but based on our experiences it's worth a try! What does your team do to assess its performance? Do you have a better idea?

Last modified on Tuesday, 20 March 2012
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