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CompTIA ChannelCon 2021 points to CX as partner priority

In a preview of its upcoming channel industry research, IT trade association CompTIA highlighted the growing importance of customer experience among partners.

Customer issues topped the list of factors channel companies believe will dictate their success over the next two years, according to CompTIA.

At CompTIA ChannelCon 2021, the trade association previewed its annual State of the Channel survey, the complete results of which will be released next week. The surveyed channel partners cited the following factors as critical to the partner ecosystem's future health: "a desirable customer experience," recognition of changing customer dynamics and increased investment in marketing.

Those three categories outranked committing to emerging technologies and becoming the client's go-to for cybersecurity as key channel considerations.

"We need, as solution providers or MSPs or … vendors in the indirect channel, to understand that we are in the midst of a changing dynamic where it comes to customer experience," said Carolyn April, senior director of industry analysis at CompTIA. "It's about being able to provide customer experience that's going to keep your existing customers, and it's going to help you recruit new customers.

Customer experience is particularly important for MSPs, who rely on retention rates. "If you have not provided excellent customer services, you run the risk of losing [customers] when it comes time to [renew] the contract," April said.

Channel partner marketing challenges

Marketing, an area in which partners have struggled in the past, resurfaced in CompTIA's list of factors for future success. "Marketing has never been the strong suit of many channel companies," April said. That perception is understandable given the traditional channel's dependence on vendors to take the marketing lead. Today, however, partners must rely on their own brand rather than a vendor's brand.

Carolyn April, senior director, industry analysis, CompTIACarolyn April

"Marketing means that you are selling yourself now," April said. "Your brand, your reputation is what matters."

Datto's Global State of the MSP report, published in July 2021, showed marketing dethroned as the No. 1 concern among MSPs. Instead, respondents to the annual poll ranked competition as the top challenge.

Partner experience

CompTIA's survey also touched upon partner experience: how well vendors work with channel companies. Sixty-eight percent of surveyed channel firms said they encounter more discussions and activity around partner experience. A quarter of respondents cited partner experience as critical to choosing to work with a vendor, while 61% said partner experience was important but they will tolerate minor deficiencies.

"There are a lot of channel companies out there that will walk away from a vendor relationship today because they can -- even if the revenue is there," April said.

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