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5 Immutable Laws of Partner Satisfaction – And the Impact on Dell’s Channel Business in Asia – PART I

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Happy New Year!  I hope everyone had a nice holiday and had enough rest to start the New Year fresh and energized!

When Iqbal first came to Dell from Cisco Systems, Dell was changing.  He took the challenge because the change was going to be radical.  Dell was getting into channel sales and there was a lot of  transformational work to be done – transformational in the sense that even though Dell had worked with the Channel in the past, there was an intent to drive this business strategically such that it grows exponentially to become a key pillar of the new Dell.   Iqbal was tasked with changing internal and external perceptions, building the required infrastructure and support systems to handle the new business model, building a partner base from scratch, and developing a program that would provide partners with real benefits.

The key focus was to make sure that partners find it easy to do business with Dell.   And the foundation of the program was built on a few key customer satisfaction concepts, which Iqbal shared and which he believes are critical, across markets and industries, when it comes to delivering value to channel partners. 

What are the 5 Immutable Laws of Partner Satisfaction from Iqbal’s perspective? Here is what he has to say:

1.   When You Ask, Listen and Act
2.   Be Selective With the Changes You Make
3.   Make it Easy and Simple
4.   Ensure Business Synergy
5.   The Frontline Is Your Guide

I will cover the first two in this blog and continue with the other three in the next issue.

1.   When You Ask, Listen and Act

There is no point in rolling out surveys or establishing feedback processes if you can’t do a good job following up.  When asking partners for their feedback, we need to be prepared to listen and to follow through on what needs to be done.  When we receive negative feedback, we let partners know that we are aware of the feedback received, then set expectations, provide a timeline, and follow up with the required action.  Clarity and transparency are the keys to an open relationship.

We can really see how our program evolved when we applied this law. 

  • After we kicked off our initial program, we conducted a series of partner satisfaction surveys to get some feedback.  The first survey findings were more around the basics such as portal login, deal processes, etc.  We took the feedback and addressed the necessary improvements on the overall process.
  • As our engagement with partners increased, we learned that each time, survey responses matured, shifting from the basics to more requests around specific training, programs, and campaigns.  The focus now was on getting more training and marketing campaigns to help partners to sell more.

The program, as it exists today, is a result of the feedback provided by our own partners.  Every year, Dell conducts a customer satisfaction survey with our partners and customers, and we have specific goals to overachieve the industry average.  Thinking ahead, there is still a lot to improve on and we look forward to the next round of surveys to understand how we take the program to the next level.

2.   Be Selective With the Changes You Make

It is key to determine how many changes need to be made to improve a program.  Focus on the few important changes that will result in the biggest impact.  Don’t create confusion by making constant small changes.   Once identified an area that needs a change, plan and strategize to make sure that there will be a positive effect.  There is nothing more frustrating than having to deal with a new change when you’ve just mastered the old process.  So in effect, offer stability and change only what offers an advantage to the channel.

With PartnerDirect the first major change happened three years after the program was initially launched.  This was an expansion where we added new levels and certifications designed to allow more flexibility and offer new levels of accreditation to deserving partners, or, those who joined the program with higher levels of competence.  This also allowed Dell to offer higher levels of support to partners who needed it. We made this change based on what we heard from partners —they were looking for strong field support, improved partner relationships, and greater opportunities for partners who develop skills that support Dell solutions. In addition, this allowed us to welcome partners from newly acquired companies viz. Compellent and Force 10 Networks in a seamless manner.

Internally, the expansion of the certification tiers across a region as diverse as APJ, meant we had to be prepared with communications, courses and certificates in several different languages, all at once. It also meant we needed to operationally prepare for welcoming partners to a new set of accreditations, refresh new branding and deliver on the promise of differentiated benefits from day one. All this put together, meant we had to mobilize everyone in the organization to deliver fast and with the partner in mind.

I am very proud of our team here in APJ. I think the team did this very well. From what I have heard from partners, they experienced a seamless transition to the new framework without any disruption or confusion.

Iqbal has more to share, but I will take a break here so that the reading doesn’t get too long and to give an opportunity to our readers to follow us and make comments, ask any questions.  In my next blog, I will cover the remaining three points. 

Following up on my previous blog post, I had a nice chat with Iqbal Marican—our Executive Director of our Asia Pacific and Japan Channel Programs Management Office – to get his insights on partner satisfaction.   Iqbal has been with Dell for the last 4 years and is one of the key members who started Dell’s PartnerDirect Program in Asia.  Iqbal walked me through the evolution of PartnerDirect, and explained how he applied his customer satisfaction concepts to shape our program in Asia.

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