In these days of social distancing, our human connections mean more than ever. For those of us sheltering in place, even conversations with our internet provider or IT support technician have taken on a new resonance. This is because we humans mostly crave the same thing: experiences that connect us.
This holds true in the business world too, where we now realize that a consumer’s experiences with a brand, if positive, will build a human connection with that brand, which in turn will drive loyalty that then fuels growth. So more and more brands are mindful of the human experience in business—not just for consumers but for all humans involved, including employees and partners—people in organizations that market, sell, service, support or provide other focused expertise to your company or directly to its customers.
While many companies have addressed two points of this triangle—customer and employee experiences—attention to partner experiences have lagged. It’s important to address this oversight because partners are the primary brand ambassadors for many companies. In the tech sector, for example, up to 90 percent of revenue flows through channel partners. So if a brand wants to attract and retain customers—and what brand doesn’t?—it makes good sense to look at how its partners are experiencing the brand.
Partnerships drive growth
Partners help brands serve their customers in a wide array of industries, ranging from airlines to food, from apparel to consumer goods to technology. And in many of these industries the brand experience—how a brand makes you feel—has surpassed price and product as the key differentiator. For brands, delivering positive experiences at every human touch point drives loyalty and fuels growth.
You’d think that a company that’s prioritized customer experience would understand that relationships with its partners are just as important because they represent a critical link to customers. If partners feel engaged and motivated, they will deliver a better experience to end customers. Yet partners often say they feel disconnected and undervalued.
See your partners as humans
To improve the brand-partner relationship, brands should first recognize that partners have human motivations, expectations, fears and ambitions just like customers and employees do. Brands must then deliver experiences that address those needs—actions such as:
- Customized, seamless digital interactions. We now expect the same digital conveniences in our work life that we enjoy as consumers, and partners are no exception. They expect accurate data and timely, actionable insights that help them do their jobs more effectively. Brands can help by investing in partner relationship management (PRM) platforms for partners so they can access relevant company data and take advantage of AI tools that anticipate customer needs.
- Reassurance—and retraining—to make adapting to disruption easier. As industries and sectors evolve, partner disruption is commonplace. Nowhere is it more evident than in the tech sector where there is a shift from products to services. This new model changes everything for partners—from what they sell, to how they engage customers, to what role they play before and after the sale. Brands can help address partner anxieties about this shift by investing in personalized training or using data-powered tools that offer real-time selling guidance.
- Recognition as a part of the brand’s community. Invite partners to become brand advocates and influencers to increase their sense of belonging and connection to your success. Offer opportunities to co-create products and services that fulfill needs they’ve uncovered in the marketplace. And don’t forget cash incentives—these can be a good way to recognize the unique benefits partners provide to consumers on behalf of the brand.
- Awareness of individual ambitions. To really empathize with partners on a human-to-human level, recognize their personal and professional needs. What a partner CEO may look to achieve (company growth, leaving a legacy) may look different from what the partner engineer may be looking for (knowledge, professional opportunities). Consider engaging partners as though they were your own employees: Empower them to set personal goals and targets, encourage and reward achievement, and groom them for the next step.
Invest across the journey
Bottom line: To help secure long-term growth through the channel, brands need to create authentic experiences for partners. Focusing on Deloitte’s five human tenets for elevating the human experience can help:
- Be obsessed by all things human. Apply human-centered design thinking to understand partner needs. Always ask: What will create a connection with this person at this moment? How can we create experiences that resonate?
- Proactively deliver on human needs. Analytics and AI allow brands to use insights to be more human and relevant in the moments that matter. Leverage—and scale—these tools to uncover and act on partner preferences and expectations.
- Execute with humanity. Think agile: Start small, learn fast and meet partners at their point of need. Take time to understand their concerns and be present when it matters most.
- Be authentic. Delivering a human experience through the digital channels we rely on every day can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Promote a genuine culture that extends from your back office to your partners and back again.
- Change the world. A human experience can be transformative, taking on a life of its own, as one kind word or smile leads to another. Seek opportunities to unlock this magic with your partners, then watch it spread.
Our research has shown that elevating the human experience for partners can offer an advantage for organizations by establishing lasting connections, building trust and loyalty, and fueling business growth. Ultimately, it can increase the value of the partnership and its impact on the bottom line—not to mention the authentic, satisfying experience that’s delivered to consumers whenever we open a chat window or pick up our phone for help—because we know there’s another human on the other end.