Each channel has their own needs, issues and idiosyncrasies. Your customer service department must be trained and able to handle and understand those nuances.
- An all-encompassing sales channel plan must have a strategy for how you would utilize your customer service department. This is to not only provide customer care for your accounts, but also how best you can make them a part of your team to support the sales organization and channel partners. For years, I took the customer service department for granted, and probably utilized them more for emergencies, such as rush orders, correcting billing issues, tracking lost shipments, or to pass along headaches.
Like many sales people, I fell into the trap of doing a lot of support work myself, figuring I could do it faster. I called in orders, kept track of shipments, and for all the wrong reasons, I became an expert at navigating through my company's order processing system. Having a working knowledge of how things are done is one thing, but the reality is that it's taking time away from more productive use of your time, such as selling. I finally learned that customer care people are better at that job than I am, I needed to work with them, rather than around them.
All accounts are different, and as you expand in the new channels, or add new partners, their focus may be different than what your customer service department may be used to dealing with. For example, the personality and needs of an online retailer are a lot different than someone who may be a value added reseller, working with corporations. When you have your plan in place, you need to meet with customer care to review each channel, and what type of business transpires in each. You can't assume they'll know the difference between types of channels and businesses.
Starting with some training, along with definitions, along with specific terms and conditions of sale, is very important. You need to meet with customer care regularly, and I would encourage including some of them in your various sales meetings. The other option is to go to where they're located, and to conduct customized training sessions specifically for them. If their offices are offsite, then you need to do this by video conference. All customer care organizations strive to treat all customers at the highest levels.
But they also need to know the high revenue accounts, the key partners, and the special handling they may or may not require. It's also very important to be very clear with your sales team on how you want them to utilize customer care. That message you make about sales working alongside the support team is essential. When fully in sync with regular communication and cooperation, that sales and customer service strategy can only lead to more potential positive opportunities.
Each channel has their own needs, issues, and idiosyncrasies. There are also distributors and channel partners who generate more profitable revenue than others. Your customer service group needs to be well informed of all of those things. They can be and should be a valuable partner, an additional link for you to the marketplace. If you allocate the time to train them, work with them, and see them as an extension of your sales effort, it will make you a stronger and more effective sales organization.
- Surveying the marketplace
- Reviewing channels
- Managing channels and investments
- Developing a go forward plan
- Working with other departments and teams
- Handling channel conflict
- Forecasting sales
- Creating a channel marketing structure