How to become a partner of choice

April 2013

Becoming a partner of choice

How can your organisation become more than a supplier to your key customers?

"Partner of choice" describes a long-term partnership in which parties have made a significant investment for their mutual benefit.

Such a relationship includes both rational and emotional elements, and focuses less on transactional requirements (i.e. price) and more on guidance and advice.

A quick search on Google brings up hundreds of results of well known companies claiming to be a "partner of choice" to their customers. But what does it really mean to be a partner of choice and how can organisations go about achieving this status?

Being regarded as a partner of choice by your customers can significantly impact profitability and growth. Our customer survey research shows that partners of choice are likely to experience substantially higher levels of both customer loyalty and advocacy than those not considered to be partners of choice. Of course, greater loyalty and advocacy create more positive word of mouth, presenting your organisation as a compelling proposition to current and prospective customers.

High performance across the entire organisation is the key

Organisations that achieve high performance across all areas of their business are more likely to become a partner of choice for their customers. While this may sound difficult to achieve, there are two ways to start the journey - develop a compelling Customer Value Proposition (CVP) and ensure your employees are customer-ready.

A well designed CVP defines the benefits that your products/services offer, provides compelling reasons for your customers to use your products/services and shows how you add more value than your competitors. When designing the CVP, care must be taken to ensure it is based on the customer's perspective, rather than on internal assumptions regarding what customers want and need. Once the CVP has been created, systems, processes and employees can then be aligned to the customer strategy.

Employees are central to delivering an exceptional customer experience that drives satisfaction and builds trust and commitment. With this in mind there are four key points to consider that can help to achieve high performance across an organisation:

  1. Are employees engaged? High performing organisations recognise that it is actually engaged employees drive customer engagement. Engaged employees are more likely to exert discretionary effort, going above and beyond for the success of the organisation. In addition they are more likely to have a positive frame of mind and be resilient when faced with challenges.
  2. Are employees empowered to deliver results? Employees require latitude and sufficient flexibility within pre-defined parameters to meet and where possible exceed customer expectations.
  3. Are employees supported? In order to deliver to customers, front line staff require good quality internal customer service, suitable facilities and appropriate IT systems and support.
  4. Are employees receiving training and development? Moving from a transactional relationship to one of guidance and support requires different skills and knowledge. For example, customers are likely to expect your employees to offer advice, provide solutions and comment on industry trends.

Get on your way to becoming a partner of choice

Start a dialogue with your customers about their needs, expectations and preferences. Well designed customer surveys that focus on the customer experience, tap into their emotions and determine their extent of loyalty and advocacy are invaluable. Customer focus groups are also an inexpensive way to hear your customer's voice as they provide rich, detailed insights.

Check that your employees are aligned and engaged. An employee survey (Alignment and Engagement Survey) will enable you to identify the high and low performing areas of your organisation to ensure all employees are committed to the organisation and its strategy. If your employees are not engaged and well supported, it is unlikely that your customers will develop in to loyal advocates of your organisation and consider your organisation as a partner of choice.

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