This Blog Contributed by

Monica David, Vice President, North America, CustomerImpact

What are the critical components in assessing the success of Partner Programs? Clearly, it means putting the Voice of the Partner to work. Successful partner programs need significant investments in technology, products, processes, and people. The goal is to maximize the return on these investments. By collecting and integrating key data from a variety of sources, such as databases, spreadsheets, and survey applications, critical metrics can be accessed, analyzed, and ultimately, communicated. This results in a double whammy which strengthens both partnerships and end-customer relationships.

Survey programs serve as the foundational element of all feedback programs. Yes, there are other channels for listening to the people working in these partner programs—and these should also be tapped—but surveys are the core formal methodology needed for analysis and actionable insights. The results, of course, must be credible in terms of sampling, appropriate data collection, and well-designed questionnaires.

The results must also be properly analyzed, made available in real time to those managing and working on the teams, with action/follow-up a necessity.  This is where dashboards come in. Results are distributed through interactive dashboards. At CustomerImpact, we marry the related competencies of survey methodology and dashboard design.

Dashboards offer tremendous power and flexibility. One of the great advantages is showing how different metrics relate to and impact each other. We incorporate key partner intelligence, customer intelligence, operational, and financial metrics. We survey the team members and managers from both partner companies to gather their insights and perceptions. We look at the different dimensions involved in assessing the strength of the partnership—both hard factors, such as financial, as well as soft factors, such as satisfaction and trust. We can also solicit feedback from the customers that are served by the partnership to see how that input correlates with those of the partner team members.

If we’re looking at partner and customer feedback, we can see:

  • How a partner compares with its competitors
  • Ease of doing business with that partner
  • Strengths and weaknesses of each partner
  • Quality of support
  • Satisfactory conflict resolution
  • Degree of culture fit
  • Degree of trust
  • Extent of management commitment
  • Comment themes and actual comments that deliver the “why” behind the scores and make suggestions for improvement
  • Overall satisfaction with the partnership
  • Correlation of overall partner satisfaction with specific benefits or program elements

And we can drill down on each of those to look at the results by company, type of partnership, respondent role in the partnership, and partner team. This allows us to address relationship issues before they impact performance and discover unmet needs that will enable partners to succeed. Identifying where there is a disconnect in the perceptions of each partner about how well the partnership is working allows both parties to “fix” that issue before it escalates and negatively affects the partner working relationship and ultimately the end user experience. And, knowing which items have a high impact or low impact on partner satisfaction provides input to levels of investment to each of those areas.

Operational data might show:

  • Number of leads shared with partners
  • Number of joint sales calls
  • Support calls per partner
  • Hours of training provided

This information helps to build more productive and effective partner channels, advances best practices in alliance management, pinpoints where and how much to invest in partnership management infrastructure and processes. When combined with the partner inputs and financial metrics, one can learn what the best practices of successful alliances are, ensuring there is no interruption to their implementation and applying them to less successful alliances.

Financial data would show:

  • Revenues per partner
  • Pipeline data
  • Marketing costs of each partner
  • Revenues per product per partnerIncremental revenues as a result of partner synergies
  • Forecast vs. actual revenues

This information, especially when it is tracked against operational and partner feedback, can increase revenues coming through the partner channel. It can be used to identify the most valuable partners in order to give them more business and reward them for their performance, thereby increasing share of wallet with valued partners. It highlights at-risk partners, providing the opportunity to address their needs. Ultimately, companies should be able to prioritize actions that will strength alliances, resulting in reduced costs, incremental sales, and greater value for the customer.

Since company growth today relies increasingly on alliances, it behooves all partner participants to enhance these collaborations with positive relationships, thereby delivering significantly increased value. Harnessing alliance synergies, managing conflicts effectively, and building alliance management capabilities can be helped tremendously by the use of dashboards that communicate complex information quickly, providing a rapid understanding of business performance.

What best practices are you implementing and what business benefits have you realized?