While much of the glitz and glam around customer experience has orbited around B2C organizations, Forrester believes that the imperative shift toward customer experience and subsequently, customer centricity, is creeping into the B2B space – sooner than we might expect.

Recognizably, there are inherent challenges in distributing through channel partners, not the least of which is a lack of direct contact with end customers and the complexity of trying to manage experiences that cannot ultimately be controlled. All of which pose sizable obstacles to CX professionals in such organizations. My most recent report describes six principles and examples that companies selling via channel partners should consider to better manage their prescribed end user experiences so as to align with the company’s CX strategy.

Here are several of the key collaborative principles that can help B2B companies foster better partner alignment:

·         Apply B2C tools to understand your partners.  More and more firms are creating B2B personas from stakeholder maps, co-creating customer journey and empathy maps with their channel partners, and implementing voice of the partner (VoP) programs to capture CX sentiment from their intermediaries.

·         Demonstrate the highest level of trust through co-innovation. Industries as diverse as fast food and manufacturing are engaging in co-innovation. McDonald's manages its CX via thousands of small-business entrepreneurs around the world. The franchise model allows McDonald's to co-innovate digital kiosks, dual-point service, space design, and new product concepts on a small scale and roll out the innovations with the biggest positive CX impact more broadly.

·         Celebrate and reward good practices and behaviors, not just sales. While sales organizations commonly use recognition programs, awards ceremonies, and appreciation dinners to reward channel partners for sales volume or revenue figures, they rarely use these mechanisms to reward excellent CX practices. Monetary incentives are only one part of the complex mechanisms used to transform the culture of an organization; firms also need to regularly celebrate customer-centric partners and redesign partner incentives to recognize and reward customer centricity.

Taking this a step further, where does it all fit in? Traditionally, partner relationships have focused on aligning a company with partners that can help it improve its distribution and fulfillment. While it used to be possible for businesses to passively succeed by increasing their partner footprint and winning on the coattails of their brand equity – all the while watching their revenue grow in tandem. But partner dynamics are changing in this age of the customer. As partner ecosystems continue to increase in complexity, companies need to start with the philosophical shift that puts customers at the center of the business. CX pros can then draw on the six principles I’ve described to reinvent their value proposition and unlock a previously unrecognized level of value to the customer.