When was the last time you've really, seriously asked your channel partners how you're doing as a company, and what you can do to help them grow their business?
If the answer is "not recently", it might be a good idea to reach out to your partners. Individual partners have plenty of choices in which brands they represent, and it's not a decision that's going to be solely motivated by margin. Vendors who look to cater to their partners' needs, simplify sales, and show real interest in growing everyone's business are going to be the ones highly sought after by partners.
Surveys can be a highly effective tool for building partner engagement, specifically because they help encourage partners to be part of the process. Knowing their opinions are valued will do a lot to encourage them to remain part of your ecosystem, an essential aspect to a true partnership.
Let's take a look at some of the issues here, and common questions you might want to ask.
How Often should I send a survey?
Before planning a survey, you should decide ahead of time how often you plan on sending them out to partners. This is critical since, of course, you don't want them to be a burden and/or solicit thoughtless responses.
Generally speaking, the more often you plan on sending out surveys, the shorter they should be. If you want feedback on every transaction, for example, then that survey should be extremely short and to the point, hopefully only taking a couple minutes to complete. Otherwise, sales staff with quickly get sick of filling them out and not bother.
If you don't want or need day-by-day tracking, monthly or yearly surveys might be better. Year-end surveys tend to be quite popular and, since they happen so infrequently, can be relatively detailed. These could also be more strategic in nature and delivered to managers at the partner level, rather than individual sales reps.
Should I Offer An Incentive?
Probably, although much of that is going to depend on the length of the survey. If it's going to be a long one, taking more than 15 minutes to complete, they're going to want something for their time, even if it's just a redeemable gift card.
For shorter and more frequent surveys, a points-earning system could be a better choice, especially if you already have a similar reward system in place for other activities.
Either way, most of the time, the biggest reward you can offer is simply indicating that you ARE paying attention to the surveys. Whenever you make a change to procedures or products based on feedback, make that known to your partners. You might even consider keeping the survey results public, specifically to demonstrate superior transparency. From the point of view of retailers, a vendor who's open about their internal survey results - even if they aren't always perfect - is one who has little to hide.
What Topics Should I Cover?
First, what not to cover: If you have any decent database or system of record in place, there should be no need whatsoever for demographic-style questions like "How long have you been working with us?" or "What is your job title?" This is information you should already have, and be able to link to surveys based on the respondent. Making partners fill out this sort of information repeatedly will make a vendor seem distant, unconcerned, or simply un-informed, as well as making respondents feel their time is being wasted.
At most, have a catch-all question like "Has your professional status changed significantly in the past [time span]?"
Beyond that, what to survey will be partly based on your own specific processes, but here are some general suggestions for areas to cover and get feedback on. Most questions should ask for numeric answers (ie, 1 = worst, 10=best) for easy tabulation, yes/no, or else be open-ended text boxes to solicit more candid feedback.
- Overall satisfaction (numeric)
- Ease of doing business (numeric)
- Quality of products\services offered (numeric)
- Frequency of offering our products over competitors (numeric)
- Effectiveness of software and online services (numeric)
- Quality of feedback and communication (numeric)
- Opinion of rewards programs, if offered (numeric)
- Would you recommend us to other retailers (Y/N)
- Do you foresee renewing your contract with us (Y/N)
- Do you mention our products/services outside work (Y/N)
- Best part of working with us (text)
- Worst part of working with us (text)
- Feedback you've received from customers (text)
- Areas you think we could improve (text)
- Any other comments / suggestions (text)
The examples above merely serve as a template, but it should get you started on thinking about the sort of feedback you want. Then, over months or years, the ability to benchmark data will provide a much clearer picture of what's working and what's not. A focus on continuous improvement will make you more effective at helping your partners be more successful.