When we talk about digital transformation, so much about it is about the customer experience. At a recent ASAP Tech Partner Forum, Tiffani Bova from Salesforce cited an example of how as a consumer, you might order a Starbucks, from your Tesla, through Alexa. When you drive up to pick up your coffee, it has already been made and purchased. All seamless, all automagic. What does that example say about how partnering is changing in creating these digital experiences? Obviously, it takes a fair amount of technology integration behind the scenes between the brands, but also an understanding of the customer experience in ordering a cup of Joe. The example also highlights the importance of choosing good partners who are meticulous about the digital experience. A bad experience will reflect poorly on everyone.

How are we Collaborating with Partners to Create a Compelling Customer Experience?

We also heard at the Forum that with such a fluid marketplace, relationships are perhaps more opportunistic.  Setting up strategic partnerships and waiting for the opportunities to come is a holdover of the traditional business model. You end up with the partners looking at each other, waiting for the other to bring on the customers.  Going back to the opening comments on how partnering is changing in the digital experience, partnerships need to be more agile, faster, and customer centric.

Building the ecosystem around the customer, requires the whole company to evolve. It requires listening to the customer, more data on the customer, add in social media to understand the sentiment of the buyer. While customer centric companies have always put the customer in the center of universe, they still typically put themselves in the center when building partner ecosystems. The big technology brands may be in the cloud and not very visible to customers at all.  Building the partner ecosystem may start with asking the questions:

“Who has influence with the customer?”

“Who is the trusted advisor?”

“Who owns the customer experience?”

It requires looking at the world from the perspective of the customer. With that comes the recognition that “partners are the customer experience” as asserted by Brook Cunningham from Splunk speaking on the Voice of the Partner.

How do you know if you got it right? One sure sign is Customer Advocacy. This goes beyond customer satisfaction with the initial deployment but a deep and lasting relationship with the customer.  This is a fundamental change in the customer relationship.  One company I worked for was once accused by a customer of ‘abandoning’ our products.   Drop ship was like drop and run.  In the ‘as a service’, business model this is not sustainable.  Recurring revenue means you need to earn the business every day because the business only becomes profitable over the long haul.

Creating the best customer experience possible via an ecosystem of digital savvy partners is key to survival and success in the age of Digital Transformation.