Three special ingredients for a great partner experience
3 min read - by Seb Tyack - Director of Channel Solutions
For all the success of virtual events in the past year, there really is no substitute for the spontaneous exchange of ideas that can only happen face-to-face.
The last in-person Channel Meet Up I went to, at Menlo Park in California, was a perfect case in point. It’s a venue framed by a stunning backdrop of California sycamores and the whole setting prompted a relaxed flow of thoughts and conversations that couldn’t happen in a more formal setting.
Which is perhaps why the CEO of a leading west coast SI was emboldened to lay some home truths on the line for a gathering of top vendor channel program execs.
“You all think you’re very different,” he said. “I need to tell you: you’re simply not.”
What did this comment mean? The fact is, products, pricing and partner programs are often difficult for partners to separate in terms of clear value differentiators, and whether you think it’s true or not this perception is important.
This CEO was making it clear that, like many partners, his choice of vendor relationships is heavily based on culture, dependability and ease of doing business. It has to be about the experience of working together for two common goals: delivering great customer solutions and enabling (sustainable) growth.
In other words, in a world where it is increasingly hard to stand out, delivering a better partner experience has never been more critical to becoming a channel winner.
But what does a good partner experience look like?
It’s an issue that’s been particularly on my mind as we launch our new website, outlining the full mix of channel services and solutions we provide to our clients. The comment resonated and lingered because it summed up so much about what drives us as a channel-focused business.
A great partner experience has to be all about people. It’s definitely personalized, but more than that it’s practical; it’s specific, useful and actionable. And it’s connected – systems, people and processes are joined up and not operating in silos.
Lastly it’s flexible, so it’s attentive, and able to adapt to our partners (not the other way round) and focuses on enabling them to grow.
Easy to say, but not so easy to do. In a survey of vendors at a Twogether virtual event in 2020 only 50% felt they provided an adequate to good partner experience. The remaining half all felt they had a lot of work to do.
These insights now permeate all of our thinking for the channel solutions we are delivering. There are three ingredients that we look to apply at every opportunity.
When two neighbouring coffee shops sell the same cup of coffee for the same price, service design is why we all go to one of them and tell our friends about it. Put simply, it is the methodology by which services are created, optimized and improved.
Service design for the channel is the discipline of connecting technology, people, processes and content together to manage business transactions and deliver better partner experiences.
Good service design in the channel understands that internal teams and partner teams must be treated with equal consideration to deliver the optimum partner experience. It takes much more than technology alone to make the service work.
Of course, running a channel is not the same as serving up coffee. There are lots of transactions and processes to manage both from and to partners and this is where data comes in.
Service design can help you design a better partner experience, but your data is the fuel to automate it and deliver it at scale.
Data is the most under-utilized asset in many channel businesses. It is managed by IT and governed by legal, but a coherent strategy to organize and exploit the data the business holds (on laptops, in people’s brains and across systems) is often missing.
Every great partner service will have a handle on the data it needs and an even better understanding on how to use the data it generates to deliver a better service and experience.
The final ingredient, the stardust you might say, is creativity. It comes in many forms – great user experience, intuitive user interfaces, groundbreaking innovation, perceptive data visualization, or jaw-dropping immersive environments.
Not every part of our partner experience requires all of these elements but they will elevate the services you provide and they can make working with you memorable for your partners. The key point is that it has to be more than just a thin, off-the-peg layer over your CRM system.
There’s plenty more about all this on the new site. But all great partner experiences are built on the foundations of service design, data and creativity. With those pillars in place, you’ll have a partner experience you will be famous for.
Take a look at the new site>>
 IPA and the Financial Times, The Board Brand Rift, June 2019.