6 Ways to Improve Partner Alignment and Engagement
We have all completed those surveys as they come out either post-purchase, or from our partners or suppliers. Be it real-time as in the more ‘common’ online purchases we make, or periodic surveys which is often the case in B2B. I am not a fan of period bulk surveys as they lose the ‘point-in-time’ perspective, but they are better than nothing. One challenge I often see is what companies do with the information they are told. Whether the survey is constructed and run in-house or by an external agency, often far too much time and effort is put into the survey questions which leads to them being over-complicated. Worst still, very little effort is put into what actually happens with the feedback received.
I have seen leadership teams hide negative feedback from post survey communications under the guise of ‘it makes us look bad’ or ‘we know that’s a problem’. However, there are some great leaders that do not let their own beliefs, fears and ego get in the way of organisational change. Social media has taught us that we must embrace negative and positive feedback equally - put simply, we just cannot hide from negative feedback. This poses a bigger question; just how many times do you listen to the people that matter and setup a program to measure change? Rather than just ad-hoc meetings to discuss the feedback but establish actual change (and growth) programs from this.
The ‘people that matter’ can be any person of interest to your business such as a customer or a supplier but I urge you not to forget those that you work ‘with’ to service your customers - your partners. We hear often about customer surveys and staff surveys, but very rarely do companies have a plan to listen, act and evaluate feedback from our trusted partners. These can be suppliers, individual consultants, coaches, partners, and strategic resellers or alliance partners.
This group of individuals can give you a totally different perspective of what they see, hear and observe within your organisation - from how they deal with internal parties (individuals and business functions such as procurement, finance, sales, marketing, support), and external parties (their customers and your customers). Often, they have a much ‘closer’ contact and perspective of what’s happening in the market from a competitive and customer feedback engagement and don’t look at your organisation with the emotional bias that you have about its strengths and weaknesses. As children, we always wanted to be listened to, and be taken seriously and this does not change as we progress into our ‘grown-up’ working careers. The hidden benefits of formally listening and acting on feedback from your partners is:
a. You will gain closer alignment and build tighter relationships with them (who does not want that!)
b. You will almost certainly uncover areas that you can fix with minimal effort
c. You will learn a totally different perspective about your end customer needs and their view of you
d. You will learn about what other competitors are doing vs what you think they are doing
e. You can set a roadmap for change based on what is happening in the market
f. You can align your growth to their and develop joint strategies to grow
The real beauty of this is that it gives you enough insights to develop a joint plan for each partner which is measured and tracked weekly. A hidden benefit of this is that you will build stronger and tighter relationships as you differentiate amongst your competitors on engagement and relationship. The key here is for you to not to think that you know more about your company (how it works) than your customers who engage with various individuals every day or week. Your view is irrelevant – it’s the customer and partners that matter! Other people’s perceptions are based on their engagement with you (and your competitors), from which they draw an emotional based view of you before any logic. It is simple to say but truly reflect on this - without a strategy and plan your own biases and views will over-rule and stop your growth.
So, what do you do?
We have developed a suite of frameworks for listening, acting, and aligning as part of a customer and partner growth system. Just one such tool in this framework is what we simply call ‘the Said vs Did canvas’ which is a simple way to capture what you were told and then what you did about this. It is a powerful way to start this journey but as with everything, the first steps to differentiating and providing value is to listen and then align through action.
Our advice is to start with these 6 tips:
- Make a list of all the partners, coaches, consultants, and suppliers.
- Do not ‘cull’ any - no matter the size, if you consider them a partner or supplier then include them!
- Develop a program which listens to them as individuals, be consistent with the information that you want to uncover across your list. (this is where The Customer Agency can help)
- Collate your results into a measurable and repeatable format that is easily accessible such as spreadsheet or form so you can easily use for reporting and analytics in the future. To remove the bias, this is where you really need this to be done independently.
- Based on the feedback, conduct a reflection exercise, and develop an individual plan for each partner.
- Develop and agree an ongoing update and feedback session so that actions are tracked, and lines of feedback and communication are left open and not ad-hoc.
Using the simple ‘Said vs Did’ tool is an important but small element of this that is a valuable tool for many situations and can be downloaded here. Simple step-by-step instructions provided on how to use and keep yourself and teams grounded on acting on the right actions for improvement and growth.