Providing a positive customer experience (CX) has always been a mandatory component for any business. But despite all the CX innovations and investments, there’s still quite a gap in the experience that customers expect and the ones that companies provide. A recent PwC report found that 32% of consumers say they’ll walk away from a brand after just one bad experience, and 54% said most companies’ customer experience interactions need improvement.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the improving-experiences trend has shot up the supply chain to include the relationships between tech vendors and their channel partners. The partner experience (PX) has become a critical component of sustained success in the IT channel.
We all know that channels are in transition — partners, vendors, and distributors alike. The focus on CX has nudged one particular aspect into the light: Vendors don’t own the customer relationship; that honor belongs to partners. Partners are a critical part of any solution provider’s customer experience strategies. Happy partners make happy brand ambassadors. So why do we put so much emphasis on CX and not on the partner experience?
According to Forrester, The PX ecosystem is a $2.8 billion category, and savvy vendors are doubling down on investing in the partner experience. But it isn’t all tech. Channel account managers need to dive deep with partners to align on the strategic imperatives that move the needle for PX and increase market share.
What actions should they take? Firstly, account managers should complete annual business planning and quarterly business reviews, create a shared value proposition, and map out the customer journey. (Yes, you do have to put in the time to complete your QBRs. We’ve made it easy with this template.)
First things first..
- Complete annual business planning
- Complete quarterly business review
- Create a shared value proposition
- Map out customer journey
PX will catch up to CX… maybe
Jay McBain, Principal Analyst at Forrester, says that the partner experience will have a hard time catching up to the customer experience.
“As vendors pivoted for the pandemic (offering partners support, credit, and concessions), the acceleration of PX became one of the casualties of COVID-19,” says McBain. “Thinking about partner experience in the context of other massive changes in the industry, such as the move to ecosystems, rise of marketplaces, introduction of trifurcated programs, and rush to subscription/consumption models, it doesn’t appear to be on the front burner for the industry at this time.”
Case in point, according to McBain, the move to subscription/consumption and product-led growth models forces the channel to transform faster than what may be comfortable.
For all vendors out there
It’s crucial to break down the silos of information between vendors and partners. If both sides only have visibility into some of the data, partners will be frustrated, and end customers will suffer. Transparency, agility, and a shared repository of data are needed.
Collaboration tools are another avenue toward transparency and the overall PX. They enable partners to sell more effectively with attractive prospect pages, targeted playbooks, and training tailored to their unique needs. Tools like PRM, especially with CRM integrations, allow vendors to increase partner engagement and provide a better experience.
Is there a solution? Of course there is, but it requires some give and take on both sides and sometimes meeting in the middle. Nigel Moore, CEO and Founder of The Tech Tribe, has seen the disparities and resulting consequences firsthand.
“There is no vendor in the world that can get everything 100% correct,” says Moore. “Just like there’s no partner in the world that is perfect. The vendor/partner relationship is a very complicated one to navigate because it’s so multilayered. They’ve got not only you as a customer but also all of your clients as customers as well. They’ve got to try and please both parties. So, both sides must input the energy levels into getting the relationship running. And when things do break, because they will, a solid foundation will go a long way.”
It’s easy to get caught up in the sales metrics, says Moore. Especially with all the M&A activity happening, both partner and customer relationships can suffer.
“The primary thing that partners want from their vendors is transparency around communication,” says Moore. “If something is going wrong, be transparent about it – don’t try to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. And that happens a lot. Unfortunately, as the vendors get bigger, they get so not-so-great at their communication. Basically, it boils down to wanting personal account management.”
In an era of automation, the partner experience is everything. In the last few years, there has been a hyperfocus on the customer experience. But, it’s becoming more and more apparent that there needs to be a direct correlation between curating a great customer experience while at the same time driving an excellent partner experience. Not only is this better for retention, but these two things in tandem also drive revenue and lock in partner loyalty.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Focus on finding the commonalities and structuring your plan around those. Everyone has unique needs, but the relationship will benefit long term from finding that middle ground.
- Be transparent. Clarity, transparency, and honest communication are absolutely the keys to long-term success.
- Get crystal clear on revenue streams and where vendors can support partners’ go-to-market strategies. “Help me help you” should become your mantra.
- Collaboration isn’t just a buzzword – it is a crucial element to any successful relationship. Not only should account managers be doing business reviews with partners, but they have to have tools and systems in place that give everyone visibility into the same metrics.
Ali Spiric leads Allbound’s content marketing to cultivate awareness for the ultimate PRM solution. Ali is a digital marketer that thrives in the B2B space.
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