Our futures – personal and professional – remain very uncertain. Still, I am willing to bet that, when business comes back, a large segment of end-users will be focused on cost-cutting and/or least-cost options. And, when purchasing objectives shift, there is always the risk of end-users switching out vendors or channels or both. Therefore, retention needs to be the primary objective. To help vendors manage that risk, I decided to focus this blog on how a re-tooled channel services program can help vendors and their partners add value to their end-user relationships and stabilize them for the long term.
The rationale? It’s fair to assume that, at least in the short term, most end-users will want to:
– Firstly, improve performance using the technology they have and
– Secondly, achieve the same performance at a lower cost
Therefore, adoption of new offers will be rigorously evaluated for their ability to deliver immediate and significant cost savings.
Because they do not require a large capital outlay, services are a great first place to look for solutions to these types of customer requirements. However, fine-tuning the channel services program to create powerful positioning for these price conscious times involves assessing three major components,
– Firstly, do the service level definitions you’ve created map to expected customer usage and natural break points based on this understanding?
– Are the clear “migration paths” identified to help sales and service reps help the customer over the long term?
– Does your portfolio include “feature offers” that can be delivered for free or for a small fee?
– Does your portfolio include professional services to help with transition from premises-based solutions to subscription services and also with onboarding? If not, do your partners offer these services. And if so, can they be leveraged?
– Firstly, use this time to develop white papers, case studies and testimonials around the cost-savings value proposition.
– Secondly, share market data on “best practices” for your services by industry – or function – with your partners.
– Allocate MDF funds to services initiatives.
– Promote service bundles or features that have the greatest cost-savings potential for the most negatively impacted end-user segments.
– Finally, consider promoting a “free” new service feature to targeted segments.
For partners who focus on subscription services, the customer service reps’ ability to listen and link customer issues to services solutions is a critical skill that impacts both retention and new revenue generation. Depending on the structure of your partner ecosystem, it might be time to introduce specific program components aimed at upgrading the customer service function. These could include:
a) Customer service rep consultative sales training and/or certification
b) Targeted incentives for:
– Add-on services
Going forward, your channel management platform can be adapted for all three of these options, giving you real-time insight into what’s working, where it’s working and where there is room for improvement.
To sum up, we recognize that you will want to do all you can to help your partners manage skillfully and successfully through this very tough period in our global economy. Whether or not a services program re-tool should be part of your “getting back to business” strategy is a complex decision, that only you can make. Therefore, our goal here is to help you identify and explore your full set of options. In addition to letting you know that the tools and platform you need are available and adaptable.