A well-designed product or perfectly executed service has long been the defining attribute of a successful organization, but those necessary attributes alone are no longer enough to get customers to pull the purchasing trigger - or even to stick around having done so. The emerging battleground (fellow combatant) for command of customer affection is Customer Experience (CX).
CX is often confused with Customer Service. Forrester defines CX as “How customers perceive their interactions with your company.” For instance, your favorite French restaurant may serve the most delightful Sole Meunière, but if your waiter has a surly attitude, your water glass is always empty and the dish takes an hour to come, it would greatly detract from the overall experience of what was otherwise an extraordinary dish.
If yours is among the increasing number of businesses that have turned to indirect channels to amplify and accelerate your sales and marketing efforts (if not you should be), then that experience needs to be felt by your channel partners as well.
According to Accenture, indirect channel revenue is approaching 80 percent of all tech revenue for 2015. For non-tech that number can reach 100 percent. Direct or indirect, your sales channels are the lifeblood of your organization, and your Partner Portal the "front door" to your indirect partners.
This new reality is having a profound effect on your indirect partners. They are no longer satisfied with the experience of a half-baked DIY portal or "tweaked" CRM to support them with critical deal registration, branded marketing materials and sales support processes - the mission-critical capabilities that a leading-edge PRM (Partner Relationship Management) system provides.
Building your direct sales organization was no small feat (or cost). Maintaining its effectiveness requires your full attention and prudent allocation of resources. Why would you treat your indirect partners any differently?
Getting back to Forrester's definition of CX, your Partner Portal is the foundation of the experience they feel when working with your organization. Is it up to the task? Is that sound you hear satisfied channel partners or your competitors (barbarians at the gate) siphoning them away by offering a better customer experience?
PRM is No Place for DIY
Not having a purpose-built PRM that meets the CX challenge is no longer an option. In a recent report, Gartner found that nearly 90 percent of companies surveyed plan to compete primarily on the basis of the customer experience by 2016, up considerably from 2014 (36 percent) and 2015 (58 percent). This highlights the overwhelming need felt by businesses to innovate, improve, and excel at providing exceptional customer experiences. The lines are becoming blurred, as CX is fast becoming an integral component of your brand, the “Third Rail” if you will that powers your channel efforts.
This includes your ability to attract, compete for and - most important - keep the most highly desired indirect partners. These partnerships are hard and expensive to forge - and too easily lost when not properly managed or inadequately resourced.
According to Accenture, the “Switching Economy” is up 29 percent since 2010 as companies struggle to keep up with the non-stop customer. Your indirect partners want transparency and resist efforts to be "locked in" to a vendor. Offering such flexibility is a product attribute that can work greatly to your advantage in earning a partners business, but the tools you provide them to succeed are how you are going to keep it.
In order to effectively connect and compete for these resources, businesses need to deliver CX that indirect partners find indispensable for meeting their needs, and that offers a comprehensive set of tools across all touch points to make selling and servicing your products intuitive and easy to use.
The Touch Points are Clear
These touch-points are coming more into focus every day. More than just a place to "connect" with your partners, your PRM needs to deliver in a variety of critical areas. Ask yourself, does your current system:
- Automate the application and registration process?
- Optimize partner marketing programs?
- Provide instant access to sales tools?
- Automate partner administration?
- Amplify "through-partner" marketing?
- Provide tech support and training/certification?
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the needs your indirect partners are increasingly coming to expect from you, any one a CX opportunity to seize upon.
Like flowing water always finds the path of least resistance so do your indirect partners when focusing on what to promote and sell. Your challenge, one accomplished by a world-class PRM solution, is to reduce the friction for them to do business with you. To put it another way, a comprehensive PRM tool should act as an extension of your indirect partners sales and marketing teams.
PRM with Superior CX Wins
Companies that consistently deliver superior CX through PRM tools for their indirect partners can build significant competitive advantage, reduce partner churn, differentiate their brand from competitors and truly begin to measure Return On Channel Investment (ROCI).
Arguments against deploying a world-class PRM such as cost, time to market and implementation difficulties have been mitigated by leading PRM providers to the point that they are no longer valid. The time for your CX close-up is upon you. If you don't have a strategy to compete in this area you're just putting makeup over the flaws in your current system.
There was a time not so long ago when success could be found in offering the best service, the highest quality product, or the best value. While those remain the pillars of building a successful enterprise, the increasing role of CX must also be recognized and incorporated into your business plan. Competitive advantages come to first-movers. So who is that knocking at your door?
This article was originally published on
Corporate Influencers on January 15th, 2015
Impartner delivers the industry's most advanced SaaS-based Partner Relationship Management solution, helping companies worldwide manage their partner relationships and accelerate revenue and profitability through indirect sales channels. Impartner PRM is the industry's only turnkey solution that can deploy a world-class Partner Portal in as few as 30 days, using the company's highly engineered, three-step Velocity™ onboarding process. Watch Impartner's interactive demo here.