Simon Thompson, SVP Global Customers, Westcon EMEA

Industry Opinion: Why a ‘frictionless’ experience is the new priority for partners

Simon Thompson, SVP Global Customers, Westcon EMEA looks at the increasing focus on the partner experience (PX), and how it’s never been more important to deliver an exceptional digital experience.

We’ve all seen the increasing importance placed on the customer experience (CX) over the past few years. Consumers today expect exceptional customer service, tailored to specific needs and preferences, and if a company fails to impress, we don’t hesitate to take our business elsewhere.

As such, suppliers are investing in providing the best possible experience for users of their site or services to guarantee a smooth transaction and encourage customer loyalty. The same applies to the channel. The result is that channel partners today are overwhelmed by a choice of distribution options, and are therefore expecting on-demand, ‘frictionless’ experiences. This includes the ability to buy, track, negotiate, and see availability and delivery times of products at the press of a button.

Of course, this expectation of digital delivery has been amplified by Covid-19. One McKinsey survey reports that companies have accelerated the share of digital or digitally enabled products in their portfolios by seven years. Providing an exceptional level of digital engagement – whether in a B2B or B2C environment – has never been more important for organisations.

A focus on Partner Experience
At the heart of this is the partner experience (PX) – a concept that elevates the needs of the channel partner over the vendor (or distributor). According to analyst Forrester, “Brands that provide an enhanced partner experience grow faster than their peers, are more profitable and drive higher customer satisfaction and retention downstream.” The reality is that any engagement or procurement process must be easy-to-use and frictionless. Going above and beyond to provide an exceptional experience to partners is helping to elevate the outdated perception of distributor from ‘shed’ or ‘box-shifter’ to technology service provider.

Fast and frictionless
When it comes to improving the partner experience, the rate of innovation has been rapid. Having the right automation and platforms in place is the bedrock for being able to deliver a better PX. A typical example of a frictionless experience in the channel is being able to place an order and for it to be processed via the distributor and vendor’s systems without any touch.

But we need to take this further and focus efforts on making the quoting process for the partner fast and frictionless. This is particularly important now for small and midmarket businesses that have been under significant pressure during the pandemic. Even for lower value transactions, the technology stack can seem overwhelmingly complicated – without factoring in new procurement models and supply chain complexity.

We’re deploying automation and APIs to enable the partner to quote and engage with the end-customer, quickly and simply – despite the complexity of the order.

They can see quotes, renewals, order tracking and history, all in one place, 24/7.

For partners looking to add cloud-based services to their portfolio, we can simplify procurement and provisioning, billing and analytics, compliance and service delivery – giving partners visibility and control over the entire cloud supply chain.

Solution lifecycle management
The frictionless experience is also especially relevant to the solution lifecycle management: the land, adopt, expand, renew model. By harnessing the power of data to enable partners to drive more value in their services at every stage of the lifecycle – we can bring together learning, purchasing and billing, adoption and consumption, expansion, tech refresh and renewals. Automation of processes to make data available quickly and seamlessly is particularly relevant to partners’ ability to be proactive when it comes to driving sales.

We leverage an API integration-based approach to draw critical transaction data from our vendors and integrate it with our own systems, as well as offering our channel partners opportunities to integrate their own e-commerce and marketing systems with our data. APIs drive business outcomes: organisations using APIs benefit from operational improvements such as increased productivity, increased innovation and greater agility. They also drive innovation through ecosystems with partners and external developers by exposing them to third parties.

Our partners are able to view upcoming events that trigger purchasing decisions for the customer, such as when it is time for licence renewals. By having all their customer data in a unified system, the partner can not only proactively manage renewals, but identify upsell and cross sell opportunities. Moreover, when a partner lands a new piece of business, they can look at the customer’s use of the software, for example, and expand the various elements of the deployment – such as additional licensing or different types of renewal. This ensures that partners enjoy predictable recurring revenue streams, increased profitability and enhanced customer loyalty and retention. From pre-sales all the way to implementation, design, planning strategy, and post-sale support, providing a frictionless experience is paramount today.

In today’s digitally transformed environment, businesses need to be able to pivot quickly to respond to customer needs and changes in the competitive landscape. APIs allow them to access data from our platforms and display it in their choice of application. There’s no need to learn new paradigms or switch between systems, thereby reducing investment, time to market, training and ongoing costs.

This unlocks a vast amount of real-time transactional data. Data used across the business by different teams across different time zones, saving the customer considerable time and delivering a better customer experience.

In fact, we believe that making services simple and easy to use is the cornerstone to distribution. Investing in innovation that puts valuable customer information at the fingertips of our partners, is indeed, the future.

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