What’s different about supporting partners?

Many thanks to Jimy Shah for suggesting this topic.
There’s a general consensus that partners are “special” and therefore deserving of special support — but since support is the land of Big is Beautiful, think twice before creating a special partner support offering, let alone a dedicated partner support organization.
Here are 6 questions to help you decide what to do, followed by 5 strategies to implement a successful partner support program.
1. What do your partners do?
Partners can be resellers, implementers, or frontline support providers (or a mix). The needs of the country distributor for Vietnam (say) are bound to be quite different from those of a firm like PwC that integrates your products in enterprise solutions, or those of your support outsourcer in India.
If you have several kinds of partners, consider that you may need several kinds of partner support programs.
2. Do partners have special needs, different from other support users’?
Perhaps your partners need immediate assistance when they are onsite swapping out hardware, or they need solution design help — if the requirements are different from those of your other users, you may just have to create special offerings.

3. What’s the technical level of partners?

Partners that are resellers often have only basic product knowledge, while partners that are responsible for implementation may be as knowledgeable as your top support talent.
4. How much control do you (support) have on partners?
Resellers are often recruited and compensated strictly for their ability to sell, so the profiles of their support users may be all over the place. At the other extreme, you should be able to dictate which outsourcer’s contacts may interact with your team, and how. If you can control the technical knowledge of the support users, or if you can charge for partner support, you can design more ambitious routing schemes.
5: What is your support model?
If you use a tiered model, a common way to accommodate technically-savvy partners is to route their issues directly to tier 2 (or 3).
6. How large is your organization?
Larger organizations can more easily be broken into specialized units. If you have a small team, refrain from creating a team dedicated to partner support.
With that, here are 5 basic moves for partner support:
  • Implement some kind of partner success management to ensure that partners are properly onboarded and managed for the long term.
  • In particular, mandate, persuade, or seduce partners to get appropriate training.
  • Flag partners in the case-tracking environment so that all support staffers can instantly identify them. (Do not require clicking to a separate screen to find that information!)
  • Whenever possible, use the same support portfolio and process for customers and partners. It’s often the case that partners’ needs are very similar to those of larger customers.
  • Measure the percentage of already-known issues. The key metric for partners is not case volume. but rather percentage of cases that are not already-known issues. If you have a partner that only logs complex cases that are almost always bugs, you have a partner that is doing their homework!

What have you done to support your partners? Please post a comment to share your experience.