We’ve talked before on our blog about the importance of promoting “soft” behaviors from channel partners . These are behaviors pre and post sale which:
- optimize the skills and capabilities of your partner base
- increase efficiency
- improve customer satisfaction and loyalty
- increase partner satisfaction and program loyalty
- generate increased ROI
In this post, we’ve decided to cover some of the much too over-looked aspects of channel behavior which are fundamental for improving customer satisfaction and loyalty to the band. And which, therefore, should be heavily incentivized in your channel program.
Every interaction matters
One way to think about it – and to sell it to your channel partners – is that all brand and product affiliates are also advocates. They need to be marketing all the time. And that doesn’t mean running from door to door screaming the brand name, or whipping out your products over lunch – it means always being pleasant and personable, making warm connections during business interactions which will consciously or unconsciously create positive associations.
It’s always important to keep the most effective form of marketing in mind: word of mouth. Make sure people have something to tell their friends and loved ones about by making every face to face encounter, every event, every email, every phone call matter.
Pick up the phone
One of the most valuable soft behaviors that the great Graham Bell made possible is phone calls. Calling up prospective clients before sales to see how they’re doing, to offer an appealing product package, or just to find out more about their needs, is a great way of making them feel special and cared about. Similarly, calling up after a sale to find out how they’re finding the product or if they’d like any support, creates an extra layer of positive association and ensures that the customer will think about your company next time round.
On the flip side, it’s really important that customers have a clear and easy method of contacting someone when they need support or have queries or complaints. Make sure they don’t have to send along their thought to some distant address in NeverNever land, but that there’s an easily obtainable phone number and a pleasant and helpful voice on the other side. That way, you’re opening the door to a fruitful, personal relationship with the customer.
Every individual you contact matters, so you need to make sure you’re actually offering them the space to express themselves and are hearing them out as an individual. So first things first, drop the scripts – people can smell them a mile off and they make interactions awkward and uncomfortable. Scripts force teams to funnel interactions through a pre-prescribed template which means important parts of the personal interaction are sacrificed.
In a similar vein, we strongly advise against using call metrics. Pushing people to make calls as snappy as possible is not particularly effective. Trust your channels to work out for themselves when a conversation should be prolonged and when it’s come to its natural end. Timing them just leads to unnecessary anxiety and ineffective incentivization.
Of course, you should give channels guidance and training on how best to conduct calls and conversations, just don’t give them scripts or a countdown.
Help them love their job
If people are genuinely excited and driven by their work, they’ll be natural marketers. They’ll want to talk about the products and services they work with, smile when they meet a customer, and be pleasant and personable on the phone.
So how can your company improve happiness at work? For starters you can offer resources that will lighten their load, and you can add a light dose of friendly competition into their working lives. You can also furnish them with skills and capabilities which make them feel proud and offer rewards and one-off experiences that will spice up their daily lives.
Happy, pleasant and approachable channel partners are the most valuable marketing tool at a company’s disposal and are sure to provide increased consumer loyalty, brand recognition and higher returns.