We had some pretty big news this week – we’ve relaunched our partner portal! We replaced our legacy system for a real-time engagement and collaboration platform. Our Commercial Operations Team in collaboration with our Alliances Team built a best-in-class experience that removes the communication barriers and friction from our co-selling process.
We know many of our customers have considered projects like these, whether it’s for customers, dealers or partners, due to their ability to provide effortless self-service and engagement with key communities. In fact, 2 out of 3 service interactions can be replaced by an active community, one survey from customer experience expert Estaban Kolsky found.
We’re very proud of the transformative experience it now provides for our partners – and the team that helped make it happen. We sat down with Kelly Krumreich, VP of Commercial Operations, about how her team approached the portal and what lessons they learned along the way.
Q: Why now? Why did we revamp the portal heading into 2018?
Kelly: It was in a backlog of projects. We’ve made do with the legacy partner portal capabilities that we deployed a couple of years ago. But that simply wasn’t enough to drive the efficiencies and real-time collaboration that our business demands when working with channel partners. Our channel partners are key to our growth strategy and with exciting enhancements to our partner program being launched, it made sense to focus on this now. Salesforce has also come a long way in terms of developing better features in the Lightning Community framework that better support these objectives.
You can find out more about our goals by watching the video from our Alliances Team.
Q: How does this transform the experience for partners?
Kelly: We’re trying to remove the friction in the communication and sales process with our partners as much as possible. Co-selling efforts involved too much back and forth, creating unnecessary hassles and when it came time to registering leads and collaborating on deals.
Now, it’s completely different. We are enabling real-time collaboration and information sharing to drive growth with our partners. We’ll be able to drive a higher volume and velocity of deals with more instantaneous communications. Instead of transferring emails, moving content between inboxes, partners are matched up with a Coveo seller without barriers to their collaboration and are able to have shared visibility into total pipeline performance.
Q: Why did you decide to build the community inside Salesforce? Why Salesforce Lightning?
Kelly: It was an easy decision. We really needed the business process for our partners to be fully integrated, and since we manage our pipeline and sales operations through Salesforce it was a no-brainer to go with Salesforce Communities, especially when you consider how much Salesforce has invested to develop the use case for partner communities. We felt like we had everything we needed out-of-the-box.
We also wanted to show off our own technology and capabilities. Coveo for Salesforce is an excellent tool for these types of projects because it makes the content experience so much richer and more engaging for partners. Our goal was to remove the friction from our sales process and drive a more relevant and personalized sales enablement experience. The combination of Coveo and Salesforce Lightning Communities was a perfect fit for our needs.
Over the next 12 months, we plan to expand our community and collaboration strategy even more with Salesforce Lightning Communities. This was the initial step to to align the partner, customer and alliance experiences and to drive communication cohesively through features like Chatter Groups. Our next steps are going to focus on other needs that a partner may have, such as keeping track of commissions, existing Market Development Fund investments and tracking certifications. There’s more excitement to come!
Q: How did you approach the project overall? Any lessons learned for customers who are looking at similar projects?
Kelly: Three big things: executive sponsorship, a clear understanding of your own processes, and a change management plan.
For executive sponsorship, someone at the top needs to choose this as a priority and really understand how a community will become central to their strategic goals for partners or channels, whether it’s driving more velocity with deals, enabling partners with content, or providing real-time self-service. The executive sponsor needs to understand these goals – and be an early and consistent champion in the project.
As far as business processes go, you may be surprised at what you don’t know. You need to clearly understand how things work right now, then define your optimization objectives and be able measureme them.. Even in our own experience, we focused on registering opportunities and managing pipeline collaboratively as a starting point for “digging in” from a process perspective. Our roadmap will address other key parts of the channel business process as we assess our next priorities.
Lastly, don’t forget change management. How will you roll this out to your dealers or partners? Think about the user experience and just how much new stuff you expect them to learn. Change fatigue is real and can stop adoption dead in its tracks. Plan for change management at the beginning of the project so it’s part of your requirements, deliverables and critical success measures.
Q: Were there any surprises with the portal project along the way?
Kelly: Ha! Yes, of course there were surprises. In fact, for us, it ended up being a good surprise.
We started the project by looking at the portal as a stand-alone existing asset with its own end-user population. As we started digging into the design requirements and permissions, our technical architect, Jonathan Miller, came back to the team and pointed out that we already have a community in Salesforce with robust permissions and access levels built originally for our customers. Why not just deploy new functionality only for partners?. We were able to align two community audiences with shared content needs but different process needs on one Lightning Community infrastructure, which really speaks to the strength of the Salesforce platform.
It was a huge aha! moment. Customers and partners have similar needs. Take a developer, for example. Are the information needs going to differ that much if you are working at a partner or customer? There will be some divergent needs, of course, but we were able to maximize the shared information needs as much as possible. Unifying all of the content turned out to be a much better – and more manageable – outcome. Salesforce really handles this well. Coveo for Salesforce was the secret to success here by delivering true content unification that is then delivered to end users in a personalized way.
Q: What is unique about this portal compared to other portals?
Kelly: There are communities deployed every day in Salesforce. But many of them are missing the mark on user experience by not bringing in a powerful search solution.
Yes, having two different communities on one community infrastructure made sense from an architecture perspective – but it’s really Coveo for Salesforce that made the content and user experience work. Coveo for Salesforce took the community and experience to a whole new level. The content experience is refined and relevant to every individual user. Our content, like many of our customers, was spread out between quite a few different properties, from developer documentation to case resolution information. If we just unified it with a federated search solution, we would end up frustrating our users. Because we were able to use machine learning to automatically deliver the most relevant content in the context of the user, it works.
Interested in using the portal for yourself? Contact your Partner Manager if you have not received your log-in yet if you are already a partner. If you still need to partner with us and access our new portal, sign up here.