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  • Writer's picturePetra Ras

Partner Success ≠ Channel Customer Success

Updated: Jul 6, 2021

On May 20, 2021, TSIA released a blog on Customer Success with Partners. It is great to see such an establish organization mentioning Partner Success.

It is also made it clear that Partner Success as a field needs to be further defined.

In the article, Anne M. McClelland gives tips to Align Partner around Customer Success.

These include:

1) Educate your partners

2) Avoid competition between partners and the vendor team

3) Share your customer success tools with partners

4) Choose the right partners

These tips are a good start, but miss some key elements.

The blog also mentions that Partner Success = Channel Success. Perhaps this is meant as your Partner’s success is that of your customer – but it high-lights that naming conventions within the field of Partner Success are still ill-defined.

So what is what?

Partner Success

Partner Success is the overarching model to make your partners successful. This can be based on any customer success model (LAER, CARE, etc) whereby the customer is replaced by the partner AND the model is adjusted to the different needs of a partner. The success of the partner is the main outcome.

Channel Customer Success

Part of Partner Success is Channel Customer Success: making customers successful via their/your partners. This is what McClelland is describing in her piece.

Within Channel Customer Success, more steps are needed than the ones described in the TSIA article – with the most important one being overlooked.

Key steps of Channel Customer Success

Based on the high-level plan mentioned in Channel Playbook, these include:

1) Outcomes and Targets: What does success look like for your customers, your partners and for your organization?

2) Strategy: How can your partners and you help your customers? Do you need your partners to cover a specific language, country, phase of customer success (like onboarding, adoption, renewal/churn), low-touch accounts, etc?

3) Program: Why should a partner care? Most of them will already have their own customer success motions and tools, which could be very different from yours. And they probably work with multiple vendors, who all want them to do channel customer success in a specific way. Make the benefits clear, incentivizing them (and your internal teams) and make it as easy as possible by setting up a Channel Customer Success program.

4) Tactics: Assign clear owners within your organization to focus on the alignment, enable the partners, and provide access to tools. In a perfect world, you want these tools to be in your partner portal, linked to your CRM.

5) Checkpoints: Track success based on the metrics of the program & include additional information, for instance from your customer success surveys.

6) Back-up plan: If a partner doesn’t meet the criteria for success, what will be your game plan then? Being up-front about the consequences and ownership of the customer relationship will make it easier to react in case something doesn’t work out.

Last take-away: Make room for your partners to shine

You are not setting up a Channel Customer Success motion so you can confine your partners to a narrow definition of success. You chose your partners because of their skills, their scale, their added value. Give them room to make your version of channel customer success their own, develop their own services around them, and make your joint customers even more successful than the customers -or you - could ever imagine.

Thank you for reading this article. I would love to hear your thoughts!

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