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Almost every conversation about channel recruitment includes at some point the phrase "it's not about the quantity but the quality" as those developing their reseller networks try to make sure they can maintain value.
It is an admirable ambition but one that sadly seems to be failing in a lot of cases, according to the latest B2B Customer Experience 2017 study from Accenture.
The firm went out to talk to customers about B2B supply networks and found that often in the focus on developing a channel network the customer experience got overlooked.
“UK B2B leaders know that customer experience is the gateway to growth and have increasingly relied on channel partners to help them deliver. But many have been flying blind. Distracted by building extensive partner networks to increase selling opportunities, they’ve missed the critical balance of picking and managing partners who can leverage customer insight and use it to deliver better experiences,” said Mark Gaylard, managing director, Advanced Customer Strategy, Accenture Strategy.
“To regain control, B2B leaders will orchestrate their sales ecosystem by seeing partners as an extension of their business and empower them with customer insights, coaching and support. Only then can they fully tap their connected growth potential,” he added.
The Accenture research also found that customers are usually over half way through the buying process before they reach out to the channel and 90% never respond to cold callers.
There are also dangers if the channel fails to update its delivery to try and give customers a B2C experience. Users now want fast response time, availability 24/7 and a consistent experience across multiple channels. Just shy of half of those B2B executives quizzed in the research had to admit they were not able to meet those demands.
But the problems are not all about what is happening at the coalface and Accenture also found there was a "channel partner disconnect" with many vendors failing to get insight into their reseller pipelines.
“B2B companies recognise that channel partner disconnect is hindering their growth potential,” said Jason Angelos, managing director, Advanced Customer Strategy, Accenture Strategy.
“Companies with integrated partner lead generation and coaching are 63% more likely to exceed their indirect channel revenue goals. It’s not surprising that the majority of organisations are planning significant investments in enhancing digital channels to improve ecosystem engagement over the next two years," he said.
Tips for improving the situation
Accenture has some advice to try to make things better for B2B companies hoping to work more effectively with the channel.
1. Pivoting from partner management to ‘ecosystem orchestration’ – Companies can regain control over customer experience by considering indirect partners as extensions of their own business and critical enablers of customer value. Intentionally teaming with a select network of partners and ensuring they are well supported can significantly improve customer experience.
2. Supporting partner priorities – In an indirect channel ecosystem, understanding the needs and preferences of end customers must take priority. Delivering the best customer experiences requires connected insights. Feedback mechanisms and data sharing are essential to building trust and understanding how to create new value for customers. Providing partners with something they value – such as leads, resources, customer events and sales coaching – will encourage continuous customer information sharing.
3. Adopting a new currency for connected growth – Customer data management, analytics and social listening technologies can help companies deliver the relevant and personalised experiences that customers crave. Investing in these technologies and integrating them with core customer experience capabilities, such as closed-loop feedback, is a solid way to measure performance.