The value of Customer Experience Networks

There is an interesting concept emerging on the market, named “Customer Experience Networks“.

This terminology is made of two parts that everyone understands – “Customer Experience” and “Network”. But what does the whole expression mean? Let’s spend a few minutes discussing the concept …

The backdrop is we leave in a world where digital technology has revolutionized the way we communicate, consume and buy. The interactions through mobile devices and other connected devices have been booming and this is not about to stop. Digital interactions have become the new norm and force now companies to differentiate by providing a unique experience to grow customer retention and wallet share.

But customer experience becomes rapidly poor if companies just limit their offering to their core services. There is a need to onboard partners into the experience to create additional value to the customers. A Customer Experience Network consists in creating more value and better experience to the customers by delivering new services made possible thanks to flexible and dynamic interactions with a large panel of business partners.

 

What does it imply to create a strong digital customer experience?

  1. Delivering mobile apps with a powerful User Interface (both nice, intuitive and consistent) and strong performance (no data latency and high availability).
  2. Regularly enriching the app with new services to capture new business moments and increase the wallet share.
  3. Collecting and analyzing customer data to adapt dynamically to their needs.
  4. Leveraging mobile messaging capabilities to keep customer attention and create stronger engagement.

Which tools are required by IT ?

  1. A mobile application development framework that accelerates the plumbing part and helps focus on the quality of the User Interface rather than the technical aspects.
  2. A strong API Management layer that allows to create new backend APIs easily and manage the different lifecycle stages of the APIs, while enforcing a strong security level.
  3. Cutting-edge analytics technology to measure the performance of the app and the backend systems but also the behavior of the app users.
  4. A solid MBaaS module that accelerates mobile backend development and offers push notification capabilities.
  5. An API-based integration platform that allows to connect efficiently to internal services but also with external partners to create additional services.
  6. Big data technology to harness the large volume of data coming from all digital interactions and customize the delivered experience

What challenges do IT face to deliver those Customer Experience Networks?

IT are under ever increasing pressure from the business while their resources remain limited. Building a Customer Experience Network is not a short term project but a journey IT organizations need to go along. This journey is paved with different important milestones that can be grouped into 3 categories:

  1. Adapt: engage discussions – internally and with partners – on customer experience networks and the business moments you want to capture and start adapting your organization to take this journey.
  2. Engage: focus on major interactions with key partners and start embedding a differentiating service within your app. Leverage this opportunity to keep adapting your organization and grow your learning curve.
  3. Scale: leverage your success and extend to new initiatives.

Exposing legacy services to digital channels and addressing the omnichannel experience are key topics but visionary IT and business Executives will go further down the road and explore new opportunities by investing in a new generation of integration platform enabling Customer Experience Networks.

 

How to build a successful business partner network ?

We all know that identifying the right business partners is a tedious exercise. Finding candidates is not so complicated but starting making real business together is more challenging. This is like when meeting someone in love, everyone wants it to work at the beginning but it takes some time before you consider it really does.

Identify the right candidates

To avoid costly mistakes of selecting poor-performant partners, it’s important to find candidates that have a business strategy matching your expectations. For example, as a software vendor, I like working with a mix of large IT consulting companies – able to identify very big projects at the C-level – and small IT consulting specialists who are focused on specific areas of expertise where my product makes a lot of sense.

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Set the expectations

To make the relationship work, developing a common business plan together is key, as well as monitoring it on a very regular basis during the first year of the collaboration – I think twice a month is a good frequency.

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Develop the relationship

Schedule regular events with your partners. This allows to bind tighter human relationships and to provide the last company updates, marketing materials, information on the upcoming marketing campaigns and the sales strategy. This is also a good mean to “feel” the local market and make your own opinion. Trusting your partner feedback is extremely important but this is also good to make your own opinion to assess his capacity to grow your business.
Regular webinars also help animate and engage the partner community.

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Grow your partners

I’ve identified 5 maturity stages in developing partnerships:

Phase 1 – “the new partner”

You provide basic training on common use cases and assist them in the whole sales cycle.
You forward them the leads you get in their region, you develop marketing events with them and assist them to qualify the opportunities, demo the product, make an offer and sign the contract. Once the first contract is signed, you send over your technical experts to help them delivering the professional services and make the project successful.

Phase 2 – “the growing partner”

You are in phase where your partner has already implemented one project and you keep assisting him on the first three deals.

Phase 3 – “the premium partner”

The partner can now sell the product and implement the project on his own. He still needs support from you but on very specific topics only.

Phase 4 – “the strategic partner”

The strategic partner has reached a volume of business that requires a very tight relationship with a dedicated alliance manager. Your global business performance is tightly linked to your partner performance.

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Reward your partners

Animating your partner network efficiently will help you progressively grow your new partners to strategic partners.
As your resources are limited, putting a reward program in place can prove to be very powerful. As an example, you can create different types of events and also different levels of pricing according to your partner ranking.
Loyalty is also important to be rewarded: small partners with recurring business over years are also key to the company.

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