Supporting Channel Partners Is Essential

David ByrdBy David Byrd

It seems as though every time a discussion regarding what is most important to a telecom agent is conducted, the service providers begin with compensation plans while the agents tend to spend more time discussing support resources. To me, the dilemma in determining which party is accurately stating the true priority may be more of a Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” type of issue.

The two go hand in hand, with one not more important than the other. If an agent is not receiving fair compensation for sales, then the agent will look for greener pastures. However, if the agent also discovers that the service provider cannot service the customer well, then at the risk of losing the customer and the agents reputation a change will also be made. So, the correct answer regarding priority is that its probably a tie. Agent compensation is important but the agent is exposing a trusted relationship with the customer with each proposal or quote. The agents accountability also is at risk with each opportunity.

Other than network infrastructure and product, ANPIs greatest business investment is in its support organization. Any carrier that uses an indirect channel for sales should make a similar level of investment as it is a key criterion in the decision making process of an agent. Building a business and making money may motivate the agent, but choosing the right vendor or set of vendors is the only way to achieve success.

Support for the agent begins with the channel managers. Channel managers should have experience in working with the agent community; a deep understanding of their company, product, industry and the target markets of the agent; and an internal company presence that allows them to sway pricing, service delivery, customer care and billing. The face of the company to the agent is the channel manager. The customer for the channel manager is the agent.

The next level of support for the agent is service delivery. When the order is accepted, the agent does not want to lose visibility of the process. The agent needs to be aware of every step in the process and be prepared to intervene in the provisioning, implementation and turn-up of the service. Agent portals are good for visibility. However, having the ability to directly contact support is sometimes necessary to providing a positive customer experience.

Finally, there is post installation support which includes billing and customer care. Billing must be accurate and if a problem is discovered, it must be quickly rectified. Customer care must be available and responsive to customer requests or agent interventions on behalf of the customer.

When carrier or vendor support is not an issue, then the agent has more time available to solicit and close new business. It is important for an agent to diligently research vendor options and make the correct agent program selection.

David Byrd is chief marketing officer and executive vice president of channel sales for
ANPI ZONE . He previously spent five years as vice president of marketing and sales for Broadvox and before that was vice president of channels and alliances for Eftia and Telcordia.

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