Sharing benefits from third party deals with customers

For Chris Barling, founder of e-commerce software supplier SellerDeck, making the call to be customer centric when it wasn't a fad term has worked in the long run.

My best business decision was deciding to share benefits from third party deals with my existing customers. I believed that was being ‘customer centric’ at the time, and I believe it even more now.

It is of course almost embarrassing to talk about being customer centric in this day and age, since it’s such an accepted principle and hardly contentious. But it can still, and often does, fall into the category of ‘preached but not practised’.

The benefit to my customers is the pricing power that my ecommerce software company’s market position gives us.

With more than 5,000 smaller companies using our e-commerce software platform, we are an attractive route to market for many service companies making few sales into this sector. These suppliers are selling complementary services such as payments, fraud protection, logistics management and customer feedback solutions.

The supermarkets have shown other businesses the way. Although suppliers sometimes aren’t so happy, these behemoths have been great at providing low cost weekly essentials in a convenient way. Everyone complains about the supermarkets, but the aisles remain packed. That is because the great prices they have negotiated with suppliers translate to low prices for customers alongside a reasonable, but not excessive margin. That’s something that several Office of Fair Trading investigations have confirmed. In other words, they share their good fortune with their customers, and we should too.

Through my company I have always tried to organise third party deals that are practical and work for all of the players. They can then be marketed, sold, implemented, billed and supported with the minimum effort for all concerned. The result is great prices, which I share with my customers.

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As a young man, I remember being pleased to be offered car insurance by my bank and thinking that they were using their buying power to get me a great deal. I then discovered that far from being on my side, the insurance was far more expensive than I could get elsewhere. It was all just a ruse to spruce its own profits. I have never trusted my bank since despite the passing decades. Recent events like the PPI scandal, and even worse the inappropriate financial instruments foisted on SMEs relating to loans, has confirmed that my view was right all along.

Trust is a very fragile flower. It can take years to build up, but can be destroyed by a single bad decision. That’s why introducing a third party into the relationship with your customers has to be handled with huge care. 

Following on from our approach to service packaging and pricing, my own business has seen sales of services shoot up so they comprise over 75 per cent of revenue. This is quality revenue that reoccurs automatically. The philosophy of putting customers first is a winning business strategy.

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter was the Editor for from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.

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Customer Service