In the CRM world we often hear about the single view of the customer and how important it is. Briefly, for a vendor, the single view means capturing all of the information that is relevant and knowable about customers so that the vendor can best manage the customer lifecycle. This means knowing about support issues, billing problems, and sales processes in progress so that no one on the vendor side is surprised during any customer facing process.
The favorite example is a sales process when the customer has outstanding service issues. It’s generally thought, quite rightly, that a customer will not be in a frame of mind to make an additional purchase when there are outstanding support or service issues.
This all makes so much sense that the single view of the customer is no longer in debate, it’s table stakes for being in almost any business. However, there is a version of this scenario for companies who sell through channel partners that’s now just coming to the surface and it doesn’t get the same play though it should.
With a direct model customers know who they are dealing with and who the responsible party is but with an indirect model there are more moving parts. There may be a manufacturer or primary vendor, as well as one or more partners that add value to the solution that the customer seeks. For example, a kitchen cabinetmaker might employ an indirect model for the simple reason that partners might be able to do a better job of interacting with the end customer to design a kitchen, select materials and styles, manage cabinet installation, and provide after sales support.
Rather than developing all of this expertise in-house, the cabinetmaker will likely be happy to provide discounted cabinets to partners who can take on these services. But what about the customer? The customer will most likely want to purchase a finished kitchen, from a single company and not a bunch of parts and disparate services that he or she has to then manage and assemble. The customer will want to ensure that the job is done by experts from initial design to final trim and the customer will need the assurance that the whole process including manufacturing the goods by the vendor as well as installing them by the partner, goes smoothly. In fact, that end customer likely won’t know, or even want to know that there are several different companies involved in her purchase. That’s the single view of the vendor.
For value added resellers, simply claiming to represent the manufacturer is not enough these days, for the simple reason that it doesn’t achieve a level of confidence in the overall solution. Since the customer is looking for an integrated chain of value-added product and services, the vendor and partner need to work together to convey that understanding through their actions, not just their words. Two ways to do this include utilizing on demand co-branding to demonstrate their relationship and to provide those end users an easy to use online partner directory, or where to buy option, on their website.
Automated on-demand co-branding simply means providing the partner with sales, support and marketing materials that represent both the vendor and the vendor partners’ brands so that information is presented jointly from both parties. Co-branding is a great way to convey the subliminal message that vendor and partner are mutually supporting the customer.
A good partner directory is another excellent approach for demonstrating solidarity to customers and a commitment to your partners. Since most vendors can’t be experts in every vertical market and geography, a directory that lists all relevant partners for a particular customer need is a good way to demonstrate competence, especially for the individualized customer situation. Adding a partner’s expertise, certifications and even end user reviews of partner services to a directory moves the partner from simple product reseller and vendor the from simple manufacturer to the status of a combined solution provider and solutions sell better than products.
That’s what a single view of the vendor is all about. It’s demonstrating to the customer very early in the lifecycle that the vendor-partner pair not only has the capability to deliver the goods, but it also gives the customer a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities throughout the lifecycle.
Conventional PRM does a great job of mostly back office processes like managing discounts and payments, onboarding new partners, managing marketing funds, deal registration, and more. But these aspects are usually hidden from the customer and do little to inspire the confidence needed to deliver a single view of the vendor. But partner marketing enablement technologies like automated on-demand co-branding and partner directories or locators are two good examples of customer facing features that can enhance both the partner and vendor’s image and help close deals.
The single view of the customer might no longer be up for debate, but the single view of the vendor is just entering the mainstream.