When I mention consumer insights to someone, especially outside of marketing, they tend to think about end users of consumer packaged goods (CPG). However, consumer insights applies to employees and the sales channel as well.
I had the opportunity to attend a webinar on the “Six Strategies for Improving Customer Loyalty” by Jason Mittelstaedt of RightNow and Don Peppers of the Peppers & Rogers Group. After attending the webinar, it occurred to me that everything Don Peppers was saying about customers applies to the channel as well. After all, the channel is a customer, just not the end-user.
What follows are six critical strategies for improving channel loyalty:
1. Develop insights — needs drive behavior:
– Behavior creates value — both potential value and lifetime value. You should evaluate the potential value and lifetime value of all your channel partners.
– Your objective is to maintain those most valuable channel partners. Just like the 80/20 rule for customers; you likely have 20 percent of your channel partners accounting for 80 percent of your revenue.
– Treat different channels differently — you should be treating your channel partners differently based on the revenue they are providing.
2. Use channel insights to improve product and service quality:
– You channel partners are closer to some, if not all, of your customers than you are. Make sure you learn from their proximity
– What share of your channels’ needs are you meeting?
– What share of your customers’ needs are you meeting?
– How can you improve your relationship with your channels to improve relationships with customers?
3. Manage the channel’s experience:
– Work to maximize around the needs of each channel partner — remember, they are a customer too.
– Integrate all channel facing operations. Ensure that all channel partners are getting a consistent story or application of policy when working with different members of your organization.
– Ensure “buy-in” by all employees. Do your employees realize the importance of the channel to your success or do they simply treat them as vendors with little respect for their needs or wants?
4. Engender channel trust and advocacy:
– The single most important attribute in any relationship is trust. Do you trust your channel partners? Do they trust you?
– Speedy interactions makes everyone more efficient. Would it help to meet one-on-one with each channel partner to determine how you can accelerate the process with which you work together?
– More trust = less friction. Less friction = greater velocity, greater revenues and greater margins for all concerned.
– Treat your channel partners the way you want to be treated.
– Technology is critical to working well with your channel partners. Use your technology to understand your channel partners’ needs and wants.
5. Empower employees:
– Employees must be engaged and enabled to make non-routine decisions involving the channel.
– Once you’ve explained the importance of the channel to employees, empower them to solve channel partners’ problems.
– You cannot anticipate every interaction; however, you can prepare you employees to handle these critical moments of truth,
6. Recover from problems:
– No one is perfect. Every industry is small and word travels fast — especially with the advent of social media.
– When you make a mistake, apologize.
– Commit to do better.
– Do better.
– People will forgive you for incompetence but not for dishonesty.
What can you do to improve loyalty with your channel partners?