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How to Build Strong Relationships with Your Extended Enterprise

Dr. Tom Tonkin

Principal, Thought Leadership & Advisory Services

No business operates in isolation. In today's increasingly global and interconnected world, fostering good relationships with your entire value chain is not only critical for survival—it's easier than ever.

No matter how much you invest in workplace and employee training, at the end of the day, success rests on how well the members of your value chain—distribution partners, sales reps, franchisees, service techs, and—work together to produce, market and sell your product or service. When treated with respect, these members can actually become more than just a "value chain"—they become true additions to your team, referred to as your "extended enterprise."

So, how can you help everyone work better together? By providing resources and training to your value chain, you take the first step towards building powerful relationships with your extended enterprise that deliver a more enjoyable experience to customers and benefit everyone's bottom line.

Partner Enablement as a Customer Service Strategy & Profit

Extending your training programs to include your downstream partners empowers your channel sales and customer support teams, resulting in improved customer service and better brand impressions. This is particularly relevant for companies that build and sell complex products— such as software, electronics or machinery—because the crux of their survival lies in the ability of downstream partners to understand and utilize not just the initial product, but any updated versions after purchase. Let's say, for example, a manufacturer sells armored vehicles to military contractors, and the military contractors in turn resell them to a private security company. If the manufacturer offers consistent training and information as part of their relationship with the contractor, the contractor can then instruct the security company on how to operate and service the vehicles. As a manufacturer, you enable your entire extended enterprise—from reseller to end-user—to do their jobs more effectively and ensure your product is performing at an optimal level.

This in turn provides the customer with a more satisfactory experience, leaving both the customer and the reseller with a stronger impression of your brand. The benefits don't stop there: A 2014 Global Customer Service Survey by American Express found that "over two thirds (68%) of consumers state that they are willing to spend more with a company they believe provides excellent customer service."

Satisfied Customers Become Brand Advocates

When a customer purchases your product, you should think of it as a marriage—not just a wedding. Treating this relationship like a marriage means ensuring your customer feels supported throughout their entire tenure, not just at the point of purchase. By providing them with continued support through access to online training and resources, you enable them to get the most value from your product.

This not only impacts future purchases, motivating them to buy your product again, but will also lead to them to recommend it to others in their network. In 2011, Harvard Business School Assistant Professor Michael Luca studied how customer reviews and ratings on Yelp affected revenue, finding that "each ratings star added on a Yelp review translated to anywhere from 5 percent to 9 perfect effect on revenues" and proving that customer reviews have a ton of influence on prospect decisions.

Cohesive Brand Experience

In 2011, a MyBuys and eTailing Consumer Survey "found that 72 percent of consumers wanted integrated marketing communications, but only 39 percent felt they got it." Three years later, the same MyBuys and eTailing Consumer Survey found that "65 percent of companies still reported inconsistent marketing and messaging across different channels and devices."

By providing a partner enablement platform where everyone in your value chain can get the same information about your product and company, you not only meet the desire for more consistent messaging—you also instill confidence in your value chain to speak on behalf of your brand. In addition, you'll instill confidence in your internal employees to trust your extended enterprise to represent your brand, allowing everyone to work more efficiently.

Providing a place online for your distributors, marketers, channel sales and even customers to engage with your brand and each other acts a natural feedback loop, reducing the time customer service will have to spend on one-off inbound requests for information; your customers won't have to sift through pages of Google links for the answer, or suffer through 30 minutes of hold music just to be transferred four times.

All of these changes ultimately lead to better collaboration and a stronger community between all of your stakeholders—resulting in a valuable extended enterprise and an improved bottom line.

Photo: Twenty20

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