Forging honest human partnerships

Raza Baloch, head of business partners, Virgin Media Business Wholesale, explains how channel partners can forge honest and human partnerships in today’s digital world.

Reams of pages have been written about the impact AI, machine learning and tools like ChatGPT is going to have on, well, just about everything in the modern business world. There’s no doubt that these advancements will change the ways the connectivity channel works. AI is happening on a big scale across all industries and, in many ways, and it will transform life and work as we know it.

AI-powered technology will increasingly underpin customer experiences across the industry, including providing an ideal tool to gather data insights, for instance. But despite its human-like conversational capabilities, a generative AI like ChatGPT’s knowledge specialises in general information collected from the web. Although it is unquestionably a very useful tool and addition to have within your CX team, it lacks the deep, personalised knowledge that only a dedicated team member would know.

This is why, although it complements and may even advance some existing CX functions, it will never completely replace the customer service function. The processes behind AI need to be carefully designed with a mindful ecosystem of measurements that will ensure proper control, management, and a constant improvement cycle.

It will undoubtedly help in efficiently streamlining processes and elevate time management, but when it comes to communicating with channel partners effectively, digitalisation can only take us so far. A digital tool is not able to measure up to the value of personalisation and traditional, honest two-way conversations with partners. Simply put, the telco channel requires both digital advancements and personal touch to succeed.

This is mainly due to the simple fact that no two partner challenges are alike. Their issues come in all shapes and sizes and will likely differ between organisations. This is why solutions should not be treated as a once-size-fits-all approach and it’s another reason why operators should proactively demonstrate that they understand individual partner needs. There are several ways to go about this.

Authentic feedback

Collaboration and co-creation are the lifeblood of successful partnerships. They demand commitment from both sides. Operators can establish dedicated partner account teams and streamlined processes facilitated by support tools to make collaboration smooth. And they must proactively engage their channel partners in key decision-making processes, actively seeking their input and feedback on product development, service enhancements, and market strategies.

Partners bring invaluable on-the-ground insights and possess a profound understanding of customer needs and preferences. By involving them in the early stages of ideation and planning, we can tap into their expertise to develop highly relevant and customer-centric solutions. This can foster business growth for both parties.

We can make channel partners feel listened to and valued by creating a dedicated customer experience programme that is removed from the other parts of the organisation. This helps in establishing the right mechanisms to capture feedback centrally. It also ensures that partner insights are consolidated and turned into action through a clear communication plan, leading to the necessary amount of transparency required to build trust.

Operators should also provide partners with accurate, regular snapshots of developments as a response to their feedback, which can also be used to feed into the other parts of the business to improve overall partner success.

Having a holistic team as a core of your CX services allows the opportunity to create two-way conversations with channel partners. It can also significantly improve the research and development process of new products and services. Before launching new products, the dedicated CX team can introduce the new ideas to partners to seek out specific pain points and requirements needed to reach targets.

This authentic feedback can then be considered during the final product development and helps in ensuring feedback and offerings are aligned to meet partner success. Taking authentic feedback onboard may also lead to programme changes.

Co-creation and collaboration

This is co-creation and collaboration which AI alone, at least in its current form, is not able to achieve to the same degree. It can only be done with a human approach that allows for creative problem-solving, with the ability to think outside the box and come up with unique solutions to complex issues. It leads to personalised interactions with partners, tailored responses and solutions to their specific needs and preferences.

Our partners’ expectations and demands have never been higher in today’s ever-changing connectivity market. That’s why operators must lean on their relationship-building skills as much as they can, investing in partnerships that are fundamentally geared towards developing and executing large-scale network programmes that drive the UK forward. The kind of projects that meet both our partners’ and the government’s Project Gigabit ambitions.

This feature appeared in our October 2023 print issue. You can read the magazine in full here.