In the past few years, business communications needs have been upended, and both channel partners and their customers continue to find themselves in uncharted territory. As hybrid work evolves and business costs continue to rise, customers want answers about the right way to spend on communications solutions and how to use those solutions.
I’ve recently had a few conversations with channel partners eager to share suggestions on how to best conduct these delicate conversations. More specifically, they’re interested in deepening the customer relationships that make these conversations valuable not just for today, but over the long term. The answer they’re looking for lies within well-executed Customer Lifecycle Management (CLM): a philosophy that helps customers understand where they are, where they can go, and – most importantly – how best to get there.
Some people are skeptical about how a company can support CLM strictly through channel partners. However, at Mitel, we’ve learned that not only is it possible to empower our partners to execute a great CLM strategy, but with the right resources, it leads to a premium, sustainable customer experience. By offering tailored support in the form of value-driven data, customer-focused campaigns, and proactive playbooks we are enabling our channel partners to fully embrace CLM. It’s an approach that continues to generate positive feedback from industry watchers.
The right time to focus on CLM
After two years, vendors are familiar with how the pandemic affected business’ desires to excel in a hybrid work environment. However, another shift also occurred — a shift in how a great customer experience is now defined. CLM is at the heart of that definition. Previously, sellers used to focus on demo/pilot, procurement, and installment and then would step away.
Now, a complete seller/customer relationship is more than just a one-time transaction. Rather, channel partners need to show ongoing engagement and dedication to the relationship. The good news is channel partners are well-equipped to deliver through a CLM approach. When channel partners combine their unique customer knowledge with the versatile resources of a UC leader like Mitel, they can foster a customer relationship that goes way beyond the initial transaction.
Best Practices to Excel in CLM
Excelling in CLM requires a few key best practices that enable channel partners to provide exceptional customer experiences. One of the most critical factors for building this experience is time. It’s true that the ability to problem solve quickly for the customer is extremely valuable.
However, this doesn’t mean rushing into a solution just moments into a conversation about the customer’s latest business problem. Instead, it’s important to take the time to carefully listen and holistically understand the customer’s current communication needs and how those needs impact their future objectives. As business objectives become clearer, channel partners begin to understand which devices, communication platforms, and budgets are right for the customer.
Speaking of which, great CLM depends on the communication tools channel partners can provide to their customers. The more solutions the channel partner has, combined with the versatility or flexibility in those solutions, will increase their chances of meeting evolving customer needs. One size does not fit all. This is why partnering with a UC leader that offers the best in UC technology is vital.
Supporting CLM through channel partners
In a recent study from industry analyst firm IDC, Oru Mohiuddin, Senior Research Manager, Enterprise Communications and Collaboration explained perfectly why it’s so important for both UC leaders and channel partners to invest in effective CLM processes. “UC lifecycle management is not new, but it is becoming more important in the IT buying process,” said Mohiuddin. “UC is no longer about IP PBX, IP phones, connectivity, and basic UC features. The UC stack now needs to support complex workflows through a myriad of sophisticated products and technological stack. Businesses need guidance from vendors to select the right stack.”
At Mitel, we believe channel partners — given their proximity to and deep knowledge about their customers — are best equipped to provide the CLM guidance to which Mohiuddin refers. It’s important for a UC leader like Mitel to align with channel partners on what’s best for their customers, in whatever form “best” takes. This way, as channel partners look to present the right UC solutions to their customers, the provider can offer the proper analysis and resources. As mentioned above, these resources could include data, analytics, content, playbooks — anything that will help the channel partner speak specifically to customer needs.
Also, it’s crucial that channel partners ensure their customers understand the use and benefits of their solutions. A key part of CLM is training the customer in effectively using the technology they’ve invested in. Also, channel partners should be available to troubleshoot any issues that might arise.
Taking CLM forward
According to a recent survey conducted by industry analyst firm Techaisle, 84% of respondents believe unified communications will drive business growth. In other words, the future success of many organizations depends on the ability to access the right UC solutions.
As we have learned over the past two years, future success also rests on an organization’s adaptability. For some organizations, the right answer may include knowing the right UC platform, whether it be on-prem or a cloud solution. It could also mean knowing which solution is financially right for the customer — whether the solution will be OPEX (an operational expenditure) or CAPEX (a capital expenditure). The right solution could also take the form of a public cloud UCaaS option.
At Mitel, we know that delivering flexible solutions for our channel partners means they are best positioned to offer a combination of solutions to their customers that are both flexible and future-proofed. However, keeping those customers and ensuring great customer experiences is only possible when channel partners fully buy into CLM. The right relationship with the customer, combined with the right solution, helps ensure vendors can grow with their customers leveraging a strong CLM strategy as they collaborate to meet future business goals.