Setting Up Your Channel Partners for Customer Success

July 10, 2019

ESG Customer Success

Category: Customer Experience, Customer Onboarding, Customer Retention, Customer Success as a Service, Customer Success Strategy

Customer Success goes beyond your customer-facing domain. It is about more than just delivering specific customer outcomes. An effective Customer Success strategy depends on buy-in from your channel partners as well. Regardless of the vendor – manufacturers, resellers, service providers, stakeholders – success for a customer means buy in from everyone.

While many companies are used to measuring their success based upon only the revenue that they are generating, analyzing success on transactions alone is no longer enough. In order for a business to have longevity, it must ensure that all parties involved are driving towards enriching the customer experience.

The relationship between OEMs and partners is nuanced. Moreover, it’s traditionally based on product sales, rather than services. So in today’s SaaS-dominated B2B landscape, channel relationships are in need of an update. Information-sharing isn’t common between many vendors and channel partners, which can lead to cavernous gaps in CS teams’ understanding of the very customers they’re built to serve. When all parties have separate goals and desired outcomes, it’s easy to lose sight of the most important outcome: an empowered, happy, successful customer.

It’s a complex problem to tackle. But with a tactical approach to channel enablement, helmed by a Partner Success manager, your entire channel will benefit 一 and so will your customers.


Your Customers Expect More 一 From Every Interaction

Both vendors and partners are now expected to deliver specific outcomes to customers in a personalized manner. Every interaction with a customer is an opportunity to build your brand and to endear yourself to your customers 一 that’s where adopting a Customer Success strategy comes into play. If you don’t develop one, you can rest assured that your competition will. Proactive customer management, enabled and confident channel partners, and consistent delivery are critical to encouraging your customers to renew and, ultimately, become advocates. This is Customer Success that goes way beyond a phone call, and in today’s competitive marketplace, these behaviors are essential to your business’s success. Failing to address this shift in expectations is a sure-fire way to leave customers unsatisfied and eventually drive them out the door.

Adopting Customer Success strategies across your channel ecosystem will result in better alignment, higher ROI, and a boosted bottom line for all parties involved. Most importantly, adopting Customer Success strategies helps our number one priority: the actual customer. Success for your partners means success for your customer and for your business.

Customer Success Strategies Across the Channel

Open communication between partners is the key to success.

It’s so important to have open communication and provide your channel partners with actionable approaches to optimizing Customer Success. Channel friction and conflict stemming from a lack of segmentation information sharing has a negative impact on growth rate 一 up to 10% in a study conducted by TSIA.

Whether your product is software, a telephony system, or a team of consultants, if it’s got your branding and logo on it, you want to ensure the customer experiences it in a cohesive way. Consider refining (or defining) your company’s route-to-market strategy 一 if there are gaps in adoption, usage, or education, smoothing out the journey from sale to the customer’s hands can help immensely. When an experience is fluid and unified, customers are more likely to trust you 一 and stick around.

The key takeaway? Communication is the name of the game. Your company poured time, energy, and resources into making a sale. The handoff to onboarding, delivery, or maintenance must be cohesive. A vendor who doesn’t know your customer’s name or doesn’t have any context for their journey from awareness to sale is not going to provide an appropriate level of attention to earn that trust. And, spoiler alert: anything with your brand on it or that customers associate with your company is your company. 400 miles away? Doesn’t matter. Haven’t spoken to the customer in months? You’re still to blame if something arrives damaged or the software itself is defective. A Partner Success manager, whose role it is to provide necessary collateral to support the end-user, can ensure your channel partners will have the details they need 一 names, places, level of retainer 一 in order to personalize each and every interaction. Your customers are smart, and they’re smart enough to smell a broken process.

According to Accenture, companies that fail to successfully implement best principals with their vendor(s) in regards to the customer experience often experience lower revenue. Why? Because customers have the power 一 and if their needs aren’t being met through the entire onboarding and adoption process, they’re likely to churn.

When you open the door of communication, you’re opening the door to business growth. When OEMs commit to CS strategies, data collected by TSIA suggests they see overall company growth. A customer-centric mentality is key, and it can have a massive impact on your whole channel’s overall success and revenue.

Map a Successful Customer Lifecycle

When everyone works from the same blueprint, everyone wins.

Your vendors and channel partners understand the importance of delivering on time. But do they understand the customer lifecycle as it pertains to your customers?

In addition to providing collateral, it’s wise to undergo a customer journey mapping exercise with your channel partners to encourage buy-in. Customer journey maps help companies understand how customers experience their product or service and equip channel partners with necessary information regarding customer needs. Beyond that, though, customer journey maps provide a necessary blueprint with big-value benefits, like acquiring appropriate information and correctly understanding opportunities for growth.

Conveying the value of CS 一 reduced churn, higher revenue, more satisfied customers, greater advocacy, higher NPS, and so on – is critical, and your Partner Success manager can ensure your channel partners understand the concepts and have the required training to execute channel-wide CS initiatives.

So, sit down with your channel partners. Circle the wagons, if you will (we know, we know, not another business cliche). Map the customer journey from first interaction to onboarding, through adoption, usage, value realization, and finally to advocacy, resulting in that renewal. You’ll find that when everyone is working from the same map, the end result is a more cohesive experience for the customer. In the Customer Success world, there are few greater wins.

Build for growth.

Implementing CS strategies across the channel enables partners to exceed expectations and grow.

Things feeling under control? It’s a great time to disrupt that. When things are working for now, that doesn’t mean they’re going to work in the future. Your handful of vendors could double in the next year. Will your current processes adapt easily to that change?

So much of channel success is understanding where you’re losing customers or from where issues are stemming. Working within your channel to determine what’s working and what’s not leads to more cohesive, effective customer journeys 一 benefitting your entire ecosystem.

Channel enablement, like sharing of Adoption information, customer feedback, and customer journey maps, is so important. It’s especially key in circumstances in which your vendors or partners may engage in cross-sell or up-sell initiatives with your customers. According to research conducted by Aberdeen, businesses that enable their channel partners see a 28% decrease in the length of the sales cycle. And with the right Customer Success strategies in place, that translates to quicker Time to Value and increased Adoption rates. You grow, your channel grows, and your customer is empowered.

But what’s the most effective way to communicate all this to your channel partners? That’s where a Partner Success manager comes in. A PSM’s sole responsibility is to enable your channel partners to better serve your (shared) customer and therefore grow your business.

With scalable, customer-centric strategies, you’ll find your entire channel is better able to serve customers, shorten the sales cycle, encourage Adoption, and provide a meaningful experience for the customer. After all, according to SaaS rockstar Aaron Ross, “Customer Success is not glorified support 一 it is a growth driver.” Let’s get growing.