ZS Principal Erik Long Discusses VoP Programs

Erik Long, Principal

Hello, everyone. My name is Jonas Tichenor with CRM. The Channel Partner ecosystem is a constantly shifting force, that is always undergoing change based on outside forces. Cloud computing, big data analytics, social media are always adding complexity to the partner's business model. Recent research by ZS associates on Partner program shows these emerging challenges in something called the Voice of Partners Initiative.

We are excited to welcome here today special guest Eric Long from ZS Associates. Eric, thanks for sitting down with me.

You bet.

The research study shows the traditional vars are more satisfied with Voice of Partner programs then cloud-based vars, while software partners are more satisfied then their hardware partners. How can vendors, first of all, close these gaps? And then what can they do ask their partners about the change in these perceptions?

You bet. So the first thing that we're seeing, Jonas, is there's a real opportunity for vendors to expand what we call taking a wider lens on the topics and issues that they're engaging their channel partners on in these feedback mechanisms. For example, a lot of vendors, they typically look for feedback on things like support and training, for incentives and the marketing development funds, pricing, for example.

One thing that they can do is, they can expand that, expand the topics not just around those, but talk to the channel partners around the operational elements of doing business with them. And even more importantly, a deeper understanding of the needs of the channel partner's customers themselves. That's something that the vendors are lacking today.

And that's also going to be able to show greater empathy for the partner's business in the first place. So generally, I think what we believe is that they need to pose these broader set of questions to a full range of channel partners as well, because the complexity and rate of change in the partner business model types is really growing.

Absolutely. So one recommendation from the study is that vendors should allow their channel partners to choose the delivery mechanism for their feedback. Why does this becomes really important, and how does a vendor go about doing that?

What we're seeing is that there's a lot of value in two types of feedback mechanisms. The first one is, think of it as the high level structure questions that you can guess when you ask in a survey or the customer advisory council. The second one is the more immediate tactical feedback you get from the always on sources, like social media.

So vendors really need to embrace those wide range of sources. The ask-based things, like the surveys, the listen-based things like social media-- those are the things that they ought to be embracing in their feedback programs. And the third one that we're really seeing just a lot of companies starting to kind of adopt is creating mechanisms for two way dialogue.

So take for example managed communities. Managed communities actually allow vendors to create the opportunity for dialogue to take place-- between the vendor and the partner, between partner the partner, and that actually is getting that unsolicited feedback all on the same environment can be really powerful.

It's not always fun to hear that kind of feedback. So how important is it for vendors to share that with their partners as you're kind of recommending here?

Absolutely. And this concept of transparency with your channel partners is one thing that has clearly came out of the research. If you ask for feedback, not only is it fair to share the feedback back to them, but it also is going to create the impression and have a higher perceived value of the voice of partner program to begin with.

For one group, for example, of channel partners, we saw that less than 30% of them were clear on how the vendors actually use the feedback to make decisions. So that's a real opportunity for the vendors to become really more collaborative with their channel partners.

Very good. Well, thank you for taking the time to sit down with me today, Eric. And thank you for watching. We hope that this provides some insight and perhaps shines some light on opportunity for your organization.