February 19, 2021
By John Lindsley
While many organizations are continuing to adjust to a difficult operating environment, it can be hard to find optimism, much less opportunity. With no blueprint for doing business during a prolonged global pandemic, there are some principles we can look to in seeing what the Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu described as opportunity in chaos.
At the end of the day, a business needs customers to survive. Competition for the customers’ heart and soul was tough enough before the world turned upside down. With tightened purse strings and ongoing anxiety across both organizations and households, the challenge is even greater. Counterintuitive as it may seem, this is actually advantageous and represents a chance for businesses and the channel to advance the customer experience (CX). Here’s how.
Think Like a Consumer
Let this be your mantra: Think like a consumer. We all know what an exceptional experience looks like and how excruciating a not-so-great experience feels. In a recent global study of over 4,000 consumers, 47% said they’ll stop using an organization’s services after a bad experience and 44% said they’ll complain to family and friends. The most common things that lead to a bad experience are pretty much universal: being transferred multiple times and having to repeat oneself over and over; being placed on hold; and having too many steps to navigate.
Through the lens of a consumer, channel partners can gain a clear view into how well they’re serving their customers and move beyond that to recommend technology solutions that can, in turn, help those same organizations to deliver exceptional experiences themselves.
Ask the Questions
Perception is reality when it comes to CX. When organizations fall short, research also shows customers generally assume, for example, that the organization isn’t aware of how important CX is or that it’s unwilling to provide a great experience. There are opportunities to impact CX at every turn. How do customers connect with the business? What is the process for resolving an issue? The answers to those questions don’t always lie with the customer service department. In fact, everyone, across every line of the business, plays a role in the customer experience.
The goal should be to create exceptional interactions throughout the customer life cycle. Channel partners should prepare to have those conversations with a business, assist in identifying where problems might be occurring and provide advice on the tools to address them.
Make It a Business Discussion
Before the emergence of omnichannel, artificial intelligence and chatbot capabilities, customers had to pick up the phone and call a business if they needed help or wanted to complain. Today’s more sophisticated ways of connecting provide businesses with a variety of avenues they can use to rapidly respond to reactive requests and proactively communicate with customers, deepening those relationships.
As consumers and business customers place greater value on CX, in some cases valuing it above product and price, companies that neglect to prioritize CX will struggle to compete. In the current market and for long-term success, organizations must be equipped to meet customer expectations around CX and have solutions in place that are flexible enough to adapt as customer preferences evolve. This is where the channel can really shine in helping business customers. What’s key to this is remembering CX isn’t a discussion about technology, it’s a business discussion. Approaching it from that standpoint and linking it to specific business needs, will enable your customers to create the rationale behind investing in CX.
The year ahead will still present similar obstacles for channel partners when it comes to remaining visible and staying relevant with business customers. It’s not easy to foster strong relationships absent regular, in-person interactions. By thinking like a consumer, asking the right questions and framing CX as a business discussion, the channel can consistently bring customers comprehensive, integrated solutions that will go a long way toward sustaining relevancy and building trust. CX is one area with great potential; so are other elements of the technology stack like software defined networking, mobility, data center services and IoT, to name a few. Consider what you can fold into your offerings to develop stickier solutions. Opportunities always exist, even in chaos.
John Lindsley is senior vice president of channels at Mitel, where he drives channel sales and go-to-market strategy for the Americas region, which encompasses a diverse organization of channel development professionals, VARs, agents, distributors, direct market resellers and service providers. Lindsley and his team work to build and deepen relationships with Mitel’s partners and meet increasing demand for greater choice in the path to cloud. An industry veteran for more than 20 years, Lindsley was previously channel director at Mitel and before that, he held multiple vertical and channel sales positions at Verizon Communications. He was named a 2019 and 2020 Top Gun 51 leader for Channel Partners. You may follow him on LinkedIn or @johnflindsley on Twitter.
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