Like any relationship, partner/agent relationships can be a roller coaster. What may start off as a love fest can easily deteriorate into hard feelings and anger when expectations are not met by one side or the other. To keep the enthusiasm alive, remember these steps:
• Be proactive. Maintain open lines of communication with agents and partners. Proactive communication goes a long way toward preventing frustration among partners and their customers. Especially if you have bad news, communicating it as soon as possible reduces the impact to partners and their customers and allows for a well-planned resolution process.
• Communicate specific rationales and actionable steps. Keeping partners and agents up to speed requires disciplined, detailed practices. Business does not always flow as you expect it to, which makes it essential to continually communicate the "whys" as well as the actions being taken to resolve unexpected issues that may come up.
• Remember that partners are running their own business. Partners/agents are busy running their own business in addition to working with you. If an operational change or customer issue arises, they may not be aware of it unless you tell them. Don’t assume they are in the know.
• Keep your promises. Be conscious of keeping the promises you make and ensure that partners keep theirs. Something as simple as establishing and following through on customer contract turnaround times can go a long way in establishing trust. Be clear about standard guidelines and processes at the beginning of your relationship to avoid conflict later.
Dennis Casey Executive Vice-President Brevient Technologies Milwaukee