This post is part four of a six-part series. Want to start at the beginning? Here you go.
Aziz Ansari, in his book "Modern Romance," identifies how technology has changed the way that society dates. With the invention of online dating and subsequent apps, dating has now become convenient, fast, and in many ways efficient. If you don’t like the look of someone, you simply swipe left. It may not be the best method of qualification, but there is no denying the appeal of convenience and speed that technology has brought to the dating world. This phenomenon is not singular to dating, though, and in many ways advances in technology have conditioned us to crave convenience, speed, and efficiency in all aspects of life, which includes business.
In previous posts, we have discussed how to identify, engage, and maintain the relationship with partners, but I would now like to dive into how partners can actually help you engage and maintain customer relationships. Customer relationships are the key to any growing business. On average, 80% of a company’s revenue will come from existing customers, instead of new business, highlighting the importance of maintaining a lasting relationship with current customers.
The emergence of the customer success department is a clear indicator of the how the market has shifted to a customer-centric model. In his CO:LLABORATE 2016 keynote speech, Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight, touched upon several reasons for why a customer success approach is now a necessity for any business hoping to be successful in this market and how partners are important than ever. Unlike in years prior when customers bought a product once and then it was theirs to deal with, we now see a subscription-based model for products, especially in the technology space. This ongoing transactional process demands a more hands-on approach from the seller because it implies a higher and more consistent level of service for the buyer. If a buyer does not see the result that they want, they now have the ability to cancel their subscription and easily go to a competitor. This is why it is important for organizations to have clearly defined differentiators including their level of service. A poor customer experience that causes the consumer additional stress is the number one deterrent for returning customers.
Tiffani Bova, Global Customer Growth and Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce, described her own personal experience of poor customer service experience during her presentation at CO:LLABORATE 2016. Tiffani highlighted a situation where she as a consumer was asked by a customer service representative to take additional steps to remedy an issue she faced through no fault of her own. This experience is now her impression of said company, who she regrets using and most likely will avoid in the future. Tiffani’s example demonstrates the importance of providing a seamless and efficient customer experience in maintaining a customer relationship.
Customer Success teams are created to help manage these relationships and be a resource for customers. However, we often only see customer success teams enter the sales cycle once a prospect becomes a customer, and yet we know that the customer experience begins far earlier than that. From the moment that you engage with a prospect, the customer experience has begun. If you are slow to respond to a lead's request, this could indicate to the prospect that you will be slow in all interactions and they could be deterred from doing business with you. From prospects, customers, and even partners the want for a lasting relationship from an organization is the same; convenience, effective communication, and available resources and support. If you are able to provide these to your partners, your partners can help you do the same with your common prospects and customers, which is why partners have become more important than ever.
No matter their function, your partners, whether they be lead generation, implementation, or support, act as an additional resource for your organization and should help facilitate an efficient, seamless and convenient customer experience from start to finish. However, this is not attainable if you do not provide your partners with the right guidance, tools, and support, which is why without a strong, well-planned partner program you will not see the results reflected in your customer relationships and subsequent retainment.
It is easy to lose sight on why partners exist, and Nick Mehta even mentioned that he is more often than not asked: “why partners even exist?” If you have a business development, sales, and customer success teams, where do partners really fit in? This is a question that should be answered long before the search for a partner even begins. Partners should be identified and chosen for how they individually can contribute to your organization’s processes. For example, you may choose a partner based on their expertise in a particular vertical, allowing you to tailor a better overall experience for both your prospective and current customers. Partners should be chosen based on how they can improve your customer journey. If you have chosen partners that can accomplish this, you are on the right track to be the number one choice for your customers and prospects.