Blog Post - Craig Harper-Ashton, Oct 19 2017

​How to choose the right technology partnerships

​How to choose the right technology partnerships

Craig Harper-Ashton, Multichannel Director recently spoke to IMRG about how to choose the right technology partnerships to drive sales and improve customer experience.

"Whether you’re the end consumer receiving a new book from Amazon, or a B2B buyer looking for your next business purchase, customer experience is everything. For the former, today’s consumer is more on-the-go and more demanding than ever before. If that book doesn’t come within 48 hours of it being purchased, you’re going to get disheartened and find a reason to complain.

For the latter, a B2B buyer wants only the relevant information. If you’re bombarded with email campaigns and calls that just don’t match your business needs, your experience of that company is quite clearly going to affect your purchasing decision – if you even get to that stage.

Listen, listen, listen

Listening to that customer is paramount. If your customer is telling you that your after-sales service is poor then, of course, this is the area of technology that you should focus on; this could be CRM (Customer Relationship Management), Order Management, improved post-marketing emails/campaigns for better relevance etc.

It is fairly obvious to see where the technology challenges are when you ask your customers and this should certainly drive one aspect of improved and innovative technology, in addition to more general research, trends and competitive analysis.

Once you’ve discovered what your customers think and want improvements on, it’s then about selecting the right technology partnership to increase those sales.

The four golden points of any technology partnership

There are four main aspects to consider when you’re on that all-important search for the right technology company to partner with and drive growth:

  1. Partnership – perhaps surprisingly, this word is used often in our industry, but rarely executed well. Here is the best and simplest way I can summarise it: “Don’t hire the experts and then tell them what to do.” At first glance, this doesn’t sound all that logical. I’m always surprised when technology partners (even ourselves as Salmon, a Wunderman Commerce Company, as an example) are given requirements – and very specific ones at that! You wouldn’t hire a plumber for your house and tell them exactly what you want them to do, would you? So it’s always seemed strange to me that this is common practice in IT/technology. I believe you can truly get the best partner and the best value from that partner by making your ‘requirements’ very vague. This can be as simple as: “We want to increase our sales by 25% through our ecommerce channel”. This is a perfectly valid requirement and allows the technology experts to find out the best possible way of doing that. Strangely, it’s also much easier to spot a good partner from a bad one when it’s this vague – very specific requirements tend to lead to everyone saying joyfully “yes, we can meet that requirement!”. The best partners will step up and tell you what you need to do.
  2. Right-sizing – It’s very important to get the right size partner. You want them big enough that you know they’re not going to break halfway through a project or engagement but small enough to make you very important to them. The same goes for the technology provider too – you have to be important enough to them that they not only look after you but go the extra mile or fix something when inevitably you run into hurdles and challenges.
  3. Ideas – At the end of the day, if you want to improve customer experience and sales you need ideas for how you’re going to do that – the philosophy behind the technology. Applying technology without a purpose or underlying meaning is usually pointless (but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen very often!). If your potential technology partner can’t articulate why and how it will improve CX etc. then it’s a rather easy decision in my mind.
  4. Culture – I think it’s very important that the technology provider either has a similar culture to the client or at least that the client is happy with the culture of the partner. Many people talk about this but I think far too abstractly and actually, it’s very practical. Do you like the personnel? Can you make sense of what they are saying? Do they appear to be genuinely interested and passionate about what they say they can do for you? Are they smart? In my opinion, you can normally tell if you’re going to get on fairly quickly. Working together is never easy and for anyone who says it is, I’m likely to question their experience, because there are all sorts of emotional and technical challenges along the journey. If you don’t like the cut of their jib then these challenges become difficult to get through in true partnership.

So as you’ve seen, picking the right technology partner isn’t an easy decision. You need to think about your strengths & weaknesses, their strengths & weaknesses and how you’ll work together to get the most valuable relationships.

Listening to your customer and then advocating these changes through the right partnership will improve that tricky-to-get-right customer experience and consequently embolden your sales team to achieve bigger growth."

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