Customer experience and the influence of partner experience
The importance of customer experience in driving a company's success has been widely acknowledged. Numerous research studies, customer surveys, and real-life examples have highlighted the importance of customer experience over time.
Top research firms like Forrester, Gartner, and McKinsey have discovered a connection between customer experience and increased revenue, retention, and loyalty. We have all witnessed and learned the success stories of customer-centric companies such as Apple, Amazon, Ikea, and Hilton.
They'll remember the excitement, not the tech
I can still remember, ten years back, that excitement when I discovered Uber while living in Paris. The simple act of ordering a ride with just a few taps on my phone, knowing the price upfront, not worrying about carrying cash, and experiencing the refreshing friendliness of the driver.
Within a few weeks, my previous struggles in using taxis in Paris became a distant memory. Although I do not doubt that there are exceptional taxi drivers in Paris, my first customer experience with Uber was so remarkable that I never went back to using traditional taxis.
Technological advancements, a customer-centric approach, and the availability of cheap cash have contributed to the emergence of many highly successful companies in the last decade.
The pivot to partnerships
As I describe in my article: "Partnerships Outperform Traditional Go-to-Market Models in Efficiency and Growth" (June 2022), the low-to-no interest era in the financial markets has ended. Since then, more companies have pivoted to partnerships and ecosystem building in their go-to-market to achieve capital-efficient growth.
Even if interest rates wouldn't change, it's vital to realize that partnerships are important for businesses to stay competitive in the fast-changing, interconnected, and digitally enabled economic environment.
Partner ecosystems have become essential for organizations seeking to accelerate innovation, access new markets, and broaden their reach. A commonly cited statistic among top analysts, like Jay McBain from Canalys, states that 75% of technology and global trade is already done with or through a partner.
Why is partner experience important?
The customers' experience is influenced by their interactions with our partners. Partners serve as the crucial link between the business and the customers, often at the forefront of the relationship. To deliver a great customer experience, we need to make sure that that partner receives an excellent partner experience.
While much research has been done on Customer experience, only a few studies exist on partner experience. With increased focus on partnerships, new studies are being published on partner experience.
Just last week, I met with Norma Watenpaugh and Nancy Ridge. In their insightful newly published study "Partners Are The Customer Experience", they reveal the undeniable link between partner experience and customer experience. Their findings provide a compelling case for businesses to rethink their partnership strategies and prioritize the needs of partners as key drivers of CX.
When and how to deliver a great partner experience?
Just as customer touchpoints are crucial for providing a great customer experience, partner touchpoints are essential in creating a positive partner experience. Partner touchpoints appear in all phases of the partner life cycle, from partner recruitment to the controlled and amicable exit.
Recruitment > Onboarding > Enablement > Growth > Evaluation > Exit
An understanding that partners need to be treated as partners and not like customers is an important step in the right direction. See the article: Partner ≠ Customers.
Partner acquisition is a recruitment process, not a sales process
Successful partnerships start with an acquisition that resembles a recruitment process far more than a sales approach. I believe Partner Recruitment sounds more appropriate than Partner Sales, and it implies that companies should devote equal effort to onboarding partners as they do for their direct employees.
Actively engaging in the partner life-cycle and applying KPIs suitable for partnerships are new areas where business tools have plenty of room for development.
New generations of successful partner tools, such as Superglue, co-founded by Rob Rebholz, have emerged to support companies onboarding, enabling, managing, evaluating, and rewarding partner relations. Giving them more control over the partner life-cycle and improving the overall partner experience.
Key factors in providing a great partner experience
Businesses should focus on the following factors to achieve a great partner experience:
Entering mutually beneficial agreements
While one party may succeed in short-term, transactional relationships by prioritizing their own benefits within a contract, this approach is not sustainable for building successful long-term partnerships. Partnerships require both sides' long-term vision and continuous collaboration and engagement. If one side does not see a benefit, the partnership will not work due to the lack of engagement.
Establish open communication channels to maintain transparency, build trust and minimize misunderstandings. Also, a good communication history helps overcome obstacles faster when issue resolution is needed.
It is equally important to recognize and appreciate the partners' contributions and reward them for their efforts to promote loyalty and satisfaction. When partners feel valued, they are more likely to stay committed to delivering a great customer experience.
Ongoing support and supply of resources allow partners to deliver the best customer experience possible. Ensure your partners have the tools, resources, and training to shine in front of your customers.
Continuously adding value for customers is the ultimate purpose of business partnerships. Regularly asking your partners for feedback to evaluate and update your partner experience strategy is the best tool to ensure a great customer experience through your partners.
What are the next steps ahead?
Partner Managers do not sign sales contracts. They sign partnership contracts with partners. And specific partners (channel partners) will sign sales contracts.
As simple as it sounds, many executives still find it challenging to operate with this model and attempt to add a revenue figure to the target of a partner manager. Consequently, this leads to a separation of accountability from responsibility, resulting in misaligned expectations and organizational inefficiencies.
Creating awareness and understanding among executives about the importance of Partner Experience as a measure of business success, which the partner manager can analyze and influence. It is important to develop proper metrics and steering methods for the era of partnerships ahead of us.
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