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Channel Matters Blog > April 2015 > Channel Performance Tip - April 2015

Channel Performance Tip - April 2015

by Rich Blakeman
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Abstract
Customer retention and winning repeat business poses a unique challenge for channel organizations. When channel partners are responsible for direct interaction with the customer, the vendor loses visibility into the customer base. If challenges or opportunities arise, vendors are often the last to know.
 
Customer Retention & The Channel
Many channel partners don't want vendors communicating directly with their customers. It's often due to a lack of trust that has built up over months and years of unclear expectations and broken promises. Even difficulties with one vendor can cause a channel partner to paint all vendors in the same industry with the same broad brush until a vendor proves their trustworthiness through action.
 
Hands Off My Customer!
The acceptability of direct vendor-to-customer communication varies across geographical boundaries. Hans Gerke is a Channel Enablers Solution Consultant who works with channel organizations in multiple geographies. According to Gerke, "Organizations that manage channels across both Europe and the US need to understand that European channel partners are much more sensitive to direct communication from the vendor than many of their American counterparts. Unless you're selling something that needs to be registered by the customer, you may need to provide channel partners with a reason to disclose even basic customer information."
 
Gerke recommends offering incentives such as an additional discount. Or, if the vendor organization provides sales assistance to partners, he encourages them to follow up with partners to check on the status of key opportunities. However, Gerke cautions that what you do with the information you collect is critical to building trust. "The vendor organization should never make a direct offer of any kind to a customer. If they need to share information with the customer, the communication should always include a line telling the customer that they should follow up with their partner for more information."
 
Getting Social with Customers
In most geographies, vendors need to maintain at least a basic web presence, and this usually includes a button or form that allows customers to request more information. In the United States and some other areas of the world, social media is augmenting websites and rapidly becoming an additional avenue for vendors to disseminate information.
 
"Social media provides a unique opportunity," says Jan de Leon, Director of Channel Sales, Asia-Pacific, for Channel Enablers. "It allows vendors to curate and disseminate information to the customer base without creating the same kind of direct one-to-one contact with the customer that a phone call would."
 
Social media can help the vendor ensure the customer receives the information they need to achieve their objectives. It also allows them to gather customer and market feedback. However, de Leon agrees with Gerke—caution must be exercised. "Even on social media, the partner's relationship with the customer should always be respected and promoted whenever possible."
 
Channel organizations must not take a one-size-fits-all approach to their customer communications. By understanding regional preferences and respecting them, they can build trust with their channel partners and earn the right to engage in customer retention efforts and repeat sales opportunities.
 
Last modified on 4/7/2015 9:09:34 AM
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