Support Talks: Adding Partnerships in Customer Experience

Craig Stoss Craig Stoss · 4 min read

“What are partnerships and how do they tend to work in a customer experience context?”

Customer expectations are high when contacting support. In many cases, an agent needs to understand the ecosystem their products are in and not just the product they support. If you integrate into a tool, or claim to have domain expertise in a given industry, expectations can rise rapidly.

While the product you sell might be a leader at some aspects of a given marketspace, it likely isn’t an all-encompassing solution. For example, we wouldn’t expect a telephony system to also be a help desk, but if they integrate with a help desk that would really enhance it’s value.

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Further to that, what if the telephony company could help ensure you were set up for success with your help desk and their tool? These types of value-add services can easily be created with strategic partnerships in Customer Experience with companies that complement what you do.  Ben Wright, Founder of Partner Fuel, recognizes the value of partnership across an organization with his years of experience in the space. We connected to talk about how adding strong partnerships in customer experience can improve the services you offer.

What are partnerships and how do they tend to work in a customer experience context?

Ben: One of the core tenets of partnerships is reciprocity! Therefore, a partnership in any context is really a mutually beneficial relationship.

To give a more real example, if an outsourcing company was to partner with a support tool company, there would be benefits for both sides. The outsourcer would refer business to relevant partners if they hear that a specific customer isn’t happy with their current support tool or has a new use case. Similarly, the tool company would refer back when one of their customers needs to expand their support services. Another benefit is that both companies show their domain knowledge by being aware of relevant tools and services available to help bring value to their client.

Both parties in this context are getting benefits from the relationship.

As CX leaders, we are always looking to drive more value. For example, Support, because it is often seen as a cost center and Success because they are in charge of renewals,etc. You mentioned value above, can you expand on how to drive more value?

Ben: Partnerships provide organizations with an opportunity to offer comprehensive value to their clients. By partnering with organizations that offer complementary solutions and services, companies can provide more than just their core product to their customers. They become trusted advisors that can consult on areas outside their primary expertise.

CX leaders should care about these interactions. Partnership leaders need to educate them because CX teams that can provide knowledge and guidance at a wider industry or business need level add value to your customers. It increases trust that your agents understand your customers’ businesses.

Partnerships influence all departments and enable companies to make knowledgeable recommendations and establish themselves as true experts. Partnerships in customer experience foster stronger relationships with their customer base.

Often, people compare partnerships to hiring new skills or building solutions internally. What are the costs/benefits/opportunities of these options?

Ben: Developing new features or a tool can be expensive. When identifying gaps in a product or service, partnering with organizations that already offer the desired features can be a more cost-effective solution. Due to the current macroeconomic climate, it may not be feasible to allocate resources for building every necessary feature.

If a feature is not feasible and your customers are looking to you for solutions, a partnership can help solve this gap.

Specifically, co-market with partners. Co-marketing is combining your companies’ perspectives to present a more holistic solution to the clientbase, reach new audiences and strengthen both of your brands.

Partnerships can also benefit every department even though they often only focus on new leads. Interoperability should also be a focus. Integrations are important to prospects because, when done well, they have better CX which improves adoption. Working with a partner to integrate their offerings and fill customer needs is an efficient way to create this environment.

When in the life cycle of starting/growing a team should these types of partnerships be considered? And does that change over time?

Ben: Partnerships are applicable at all stages of a team/company lifecycle. For any company or organization there are benefits with partnering with other companies. They include:

  • Increased revenue (through referrals)
  • Increased brand awareness (through co-marketing with partners)
  • Ability to sell into new markets (for example if you have partners that sell into EMEA, and you don’t have a footprint there, you may be able to gain exposure to these markets through partners)

However, for a partnership program to be successful there needs to be effort and attention given to building those relationships, content, and awareness ideas. These factors often prevent newer companies from trying partnerships, as it requires time and effort.

How to do you measure the success of a partnership?

Ben: I go back to where we started off, with the principle of reciprocity! A partnership is successful if both sides are getting value. An ideal partnership looks like both parties putting in equal effort, resources and time to the relationship.

One thing I love to tell people about partnerships is that you should spend as much time as possible trying to generate leads for your partners. A lead sent in your partner’s direction is the best way to kick off a relationship and will usually result in an increase in effort on your partner’s side.

Are there any tools that you use to help strengthen these partnerships or increase its value?

Ben: There are specialized tools available in the market that aid in creating effective partnerships, including PRM (Partner Relationship Management) systems. PRMs help with tracking leads generated by partners, as well as providing training and enablement resources. PRMs allow for a comprehensive view of the partnership and engagement tracking.

Tools such as Crossbeam and Reveal offer account mapping capabilities that allow for combining CRM data with partner data.  This enables the identification of mutual customers, potential customers, and current customers of partners that are open to introductions.

This valuable data provides actionable insights for going to market with partners, and can greatly enhance the partnership’s value.

Share data through tools with partners. Examples: Do we have mutual partners? Can they help influence the deal? Can we provide more value together? The more you know, the more of a trusted advisor you can be, no matter what department.

How did you like this blog?


Craig Stoss Craig Stoss

Craig has spent time in more than 30 countries working with support, development, and professional services teams building insight into Customer Experience and engagement. He is driven by building strong, effective support and services teams and ensuring his customers are successful. In his spare time Craig leads a local Support Thought Leadership group. He can be found on Twitter @StossInSupport

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