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Channel Matters Blog > May 2012 > Channels and customer communication

Channels and customer communication

by Andy Grant
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Perhaps, like me, you expect excellent customer service and excellent subsequent follow up service which includes ongoing communication. Service excellence and quality communication can really help to galvanise a solid transactional relationship, and even prompt me to provide some customer service endorsements. On the flip side, poor and lacklustre customer service can create a whole new world of customer frustration and the need to warn others against the firms in question. How well are your partners staying in touch with end-user customers? Do they have the knowledge and resources they need to drive more business from their installed base?

In today’s competitive world there are lots of ways to be clever, creative and to stay in touch with your customers. This helps to ensure customers value the relationship and would consider buying more of your products as new needs arise. As always technology plays a role in this, but by itself it is not the 100% answer for effective customer communication. What’s vital is to collect the correct level of data and keep it up to date, within the data protection laws of your country. A simple, gap free customer database is a great start and will pay back many times over many years. A channel partner with exceptional customer data will be very popular among vendors wanting to utilise BDF (Business Development Funds) or MDF (Market Development Funds) funds and develop longer term relationships with end-users.

Customer communication can take many forms from outbound calling, to a simple letter, a more formalised approach like a customer newsletter, or even a webinar. Nowadays, our target audience probably receives a large number of emails, but this type of material can sometimes help to jolt some form of action and can give outbound calling agents a reason to call or reason to contact. There are a large number of email marketing tools available like enabler, dotmailer or mailchimp to name just a few.  These easy-to-use tools allow businesses to brand and add images plus have as many or few stories as required with traceable links to a website or landing page. The reason I think channel partners should explore these tools is that they allow the partner to convey messages about offers, specials and useful dates or tips. It can help solve short term revenue issues.

If partners have stock of soon to be outdated product, it’s smart to inform the customers who use these products and offer the products at an incentive price. This is a win-win situation. Your channel clears the old stock and creates revenue, while the end-user customer makes use of discounted stock and is happy that they were informed and received a useful communication from their supplier.

If customer communications content stays timely and relevant and contains genuine value offers, the customer will make a point of reading and sharing that content. But the process can become more complex when a vendor needs to communicate via their channel partners. It also raises the question, what is the best way to communicate with the channel? The most effective methods depend upon the cadence of the business. For fast moving products it might be an email alert or webinar, or perhaps vendors should send text messages alerting their channel partners so road warriors can alert their customer immediately of any new deals available. Vendors try everything and often the partners tell them, “you send too much information, so we don’t know which is the most useful and relevant”, this is a very hard balance for vendors to perfect.

Effective communications with both the channel and with end-users is a major driver of on-going partner and customer satisfaction and choice. Vendors need to understand how partners want communication, who needs to receive it, in what form and how often. Likewise vendors need to select and guide partners to choose the best methods and cycle of communication with end users. To be effective in 2012 businesses need to keep their customer communication timely and relevant to the target audience.

 

Last modified on 6/30/2013 10:11:00 PM
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