If customer experience (CX) is a top competitive differentiator for channel businesses, as it is across all industries, then partners have a lot of work to do.
The good news is that some IT firms are figuring out how to improve CX from initial recruitment of a customer through the sales process, technical and business support, and renewal. And it’s not too late for all channel firms to begin executing a CX strategy. That’s according to new research – Customer Experience Trends in the Channel – from CompTIA.
What’s clear in the CompTIA report is the urgency of CX. Today, 89% of companies in the overall economy say they primarily compete on the basis of the customer experience they provide, and less so on product and price. It’s becoming a customer’s market, which is driving new rules for engagement. The CompTIA study consisted of an online survey or more than 400 U.S. IT businesses in April and May.
“I think partners are early in the learning curve now. The awareness is happening, but whether there’s action taking place at a substantive level is yet to be seen,” Carolyn April, senior director, industry analysis at CompTIA, and report author, told Channel Partners.
The three key points of the report are: Customer support is just one element of a CX strategy; metrics matter; and an omnichannel approach is where the channel is headed.
“The buyer’s journey isn’t a linear experience anymore; it doesn’t start at A and end at Z. It can move all over the map,” said April.
So is how different customers want to engage. The bar is much higher today for the customer service that they’re demanding.
“As a result, it is the quality of the customer experience, or the perception of that quality, that often sways whether clients stick with or ditch a brand,” according to the report.
Partner respondents said that when it comes to customer activities they’re engaged in today, technical support was where they said they’re doing the best job (49%). They also gave high marks for how they’re handling business-related support for customer issues such as billing, contracts and so on (46%).
At the other end of the spectrum, 18% of partner respondents said they weren’t doing well in their customer recruitment and business development efforts; and 16% expressed concern about renewal and client retention.
The report contends that a lack of staffing, lack of formal processes and insufficient training in the required areas, particularly in small IT firms, explain the deficiencies.
When it comes to improving the customer experience, businesses need to take a hard look at what they’re doing right, wrong or not at all. For that, the research looks at channel companies and what they’re doing in the way of self-assessments and having processes in place.
The vast majority of channel firms, the report says, have at least some degree of formalization in place for basic business actions to take place, as part of customer relationship management (CRM). Survey respondents have the most formalized processes in place for the activities they gave themselves the highest grades in — technical support and business-related support. In fact, 75% of respondents report these processes as being effective or very effective.
The remaining one-quarter of respondents who reported little to no formalization of customer-related business activities gave their top three reasons as: lack of staff to focus on process (56%), being too busy running the day-to-day business (47%), and insufficient resources/costs being too high (43%).
As customers require new ways for interacting with the companies they do business with, IT providers are taking notice. Two-thirds of respondents said …