Microsoft changes how it measures customers’ satisfaction with partnersDecember 18th, 2009 by Heather Clancy
BLOG UPDATED 7:44 P.M. EST (DEC. 18) TO REFLECT REQUESTED CLARIFICATIONS BY MICROSOFT
Just spoke with Julie Bennani, general manager of the Microsoft Partner Network, for the company’s Worldwide Partner Group about changes the developer is making to its customer satisfaction research process and how it relates to attaining a Gold partner designation.
For starters, customer satisfaction surveys are now a mandatory part of becoming a Microsoft Gold partner.
The changes are part of the company’s evolution of the current program into the Microsoft Partner Network.
Surveys can be sent under a number of different auspices. For example, they could be sent out jointly (identified as a project being conducted by Microsoft AND Specific Partner) or they could be sent out just branded with the Specific Partner’s name. A third-party research company will monitor which businesses and organizations are being surveyed on behalf of partners, so that they don’t get survey-weary.
Another change is that surveys are more random in the past. There is no “minimum” level of satisfaction that is required in terms of customer satisfaction ONLY that the partner complete 10 surveys for EACH area where they hold to receive a Microsoft Gold designation. So, they need 10 surveys for Security, 10 surveys for Unified Communications and so on. A particular business could be surveyed about more than one different area.
Bennani says the idea behind keeping the surveys more random is that the partner and Microsoft will receive a truer reading of customer satisfaction across a given partner’s customer base. When a partner is responsible for meeting a certain customer satisfaction level, they might be tempted to game the results a little bit by providing the research firm with a list of their “best” customers. Now, the only real requirement is that the customers are ACTIVE: That they have worked with the Microsoft partner in the 12 months prior to a given survey date.
Partners that submit to this process will receive their scores, specific comments and an analysis of how they perform against similar partners. They can also add their own custom questions. What’s more, if they are really ambitious, partners can actually run surveys on a quarterly basis to keep better tabs on how they are doing.
On the face of it, I like the idea of making customer satisfaction process part of how high a tier a partner can attain in a vendor’s channel program. Although I personally think more attention should be paid to how a partner actually does, I guess that will sort of take care of itself. I mean, how willing would YOU be to fill out a survey if someone had done a really bad job. Maybe there become degrees of Gold-ness, with Gold partners holding a higher customer satisfaction score entitled to more field benefits or more attention from partner account managers.
I also like the fact that satisfaction is being more ingrained into the partner consciousness AND that the survey process forces ongoing activity. Satisfaction is more likely to reflect a long-term relationship, rather than a one-off tactical success story.
Now that customer satisfaction surveys as a partner measurement tool have been in place for roughly seven or eight years now across the channel (not just at Microsoft), I’m betting we’ll see some more adjustments in the year to come from other vendors.