Gartner predicts that by 2024, more than 45% of IT spending on system infrastructure, infrastructure software and business processing outsource will shift from traditional solutions to cloud. This shift towards cloud solutions and XaaS was already disrupting the way the channel does business and has been propelled by the COVID-19 pandemic as companies adapt to the new business landscape.
As the demand for XaaS and subscriptions increases in the traditional distribution model, customer success is an important trend for the channel to adopt to drive growth in a post-pandemic world. By using a solutions lifecycle management method for achieving customer success, partners will enjoy predictable recurring revenue streams, increased profitability and enhanced customer loyalty and retention.
The key elements of solution lifecycle management
Solutions lifecycle management as a framework for customer success provides a modular approach to adding value at every stage of the lifecycle including learning, purchasing and billing, adoption and consumption, expansion, tech refresh and renewals. Here’s how each element drives customer success.
Education services play a vital role in solution adoption
Once a customer knows how to use a product to achieve their business outcomes, they are more likely to stick with it and renew when the time comes. For partners, education and training is important for designing, deploying and managing solutions. Westcon-Comstor’s multi-vendor training academy provides both partners and customers with effective and engaging training programmes to enhance solution adoption.
Westcon-Comstor also provides partner training via our e-learning platform on solutions lifecycle management and how partners can leverage Westcon-Comstor’s resources, tools and data to achieve customer success.
Continuous learning throughout the solutions lifecycle is essential to all lifecycle stages. It helps to drive adoption and makes the identification of upsell, cross sell and tech refresh opportunities easier.
Smooth purchasing and billing processes boost customer experience
This stage of lifecycle management is often one that is overlooked as it’s not as visible as the stages that follow. A recent People Metrics customer engagement study found that the billing touchpoint was a common obstacle for B2B customers and these problems led to greater churn.
This presents a great opportunity for partners to enhance the customer experience at this early stage of the relationship. Digital purchasing and billing platforms can help streamline billing processes and will contribute to customer satisfaction and set the tone for the future relationship.
Flexible financing options are also a must. Westcon-Comstor offers a consultative approach to finance which allows us to structure terms and transactions to fit each specific need. Our BlueSky platform gives partner visibility and control over the entire cloud supply chain, with periodic and consumption billing options built in.
Customers want convenience and choice and will demand flexible financing that suits their business. Vendors and partners who accommodate these requests will boost customer loyalty and retention.
Adoption and consumption are vital for customer retention
The wider and faster the adoption of a solution, the less likely a customer is to part ways with it. But adoption isn’t just about reducing customer churn, the right adoption strategy can also be the key to growth. Customers who are using a solution and seeing the value in it are likely to buy more and be more receptive to suggestions of complementary solutions.
Successful adoption lies in implementation, user onboarding and training. During implementation, it’s important to identify customer needs and their expected business outcomes for using the solution to ensure that expectations are met. User onboarding helps customers to get started with the solution and training ensures they know how to use it.
Westcon-Comstor offers vendor-certified and accredited learning services for partners and customers through our training academy. We also provide presales and enablement training across the world to ensure our partners have the capabilities to effectively drive adoption.
Partners who focus on adoption post-sale will align to the customer’s business outcomes, maximise customer lifetime value and increase customer and revenue retention.
Expansion opportunities add new customer value
Expanding a successfully adopted solution will drive better business outcomes for the customer. Expansion can be in the form of adding more licenses for a single solution or adding new solutions that add additional value to a business.
Tailoring solutions to a customer’s business needs is key to expansion. In some cases, partners may wish to lower the usage of an initial system as customer needs expand, instead working to migrate them to new solutions that better align to their goals. Alternately, expanding existing deployments to reduce costs and provide a more cohesive solution might be the better choice.
Expansion offers clear opportunities for additional business. Proactive management of the solution lifecycle until this point positions partners as trusted consultative technology advisors and can improve opportunities to expand the initial sale while adding demonstrable ROI. Further value can be added by looking at business needs within other lines of business and not just IT.
Successfully expanding a sale lengthens the customer relationship and reduces the need for new customer acquisition, while still growing revenue and securing new business.
Tech refresh offers the latest technology and innovation
Tech refresh refers to replacing existing solutions that are approaching end of life, with new and superior technology solutions. The trouble with running legacy equipment that’s no longer supported is it leaves the customer at risk of security breaches and operations hindrances. Through awareness and preparedness for impending end of life, partners can proactively manage the design, planning and implementation of new replacement solutions which reduces risk to the customer and can bring innovation by using the latest technology.
Tech refresh is not reserved for end of life products and can be initiated when a customer is reaching a renewal anniversary. As customer’s needs change regularly, ensuring that the existing solution is still fulfilling its purpose is important, as well as implementing new upgrades and features that become available within a solution can add refreshed business value. Where a solution is no longer adequate, plans can be made to replace it.
Tech refresh gives partners the opportunity to extend the customer relationship for at least another solution lifecycle, maximising the customer lifetime value and improving customer stickiness.
Proactive renewal management ensures continuation of service
The proactive management of renewals can extend the customer relationship and reduce risks such as critical business operations going offline. Missed or late renewals erode customer trust in the partner to adequately look after their needs.
Our digital distribution platforms provide the tools for online onboarding, e-learning and data services. Our partners can access all their customer data in a unified ecosystem that will help them proactively manage renewals, identify opportunities for upsell and cross sell and bring vendors and partners closer together. Partner renewal quotes are proactively generated through automation and by our specialist team and these are directly accessible by our partners through our PartnerView platform.
This insightful data, advance notification and automated quoting of renewals enables partners to manage their renewals and increase customer loyalty and retention.