The channel manager is the front line player interfacing with the agent for carriers and master agencies. In my research for my panel at CVx Expo, I asked agents on LinkedIn and on a TCA tele-seminar what their thoughts were.
The No. 1 answer was responsiveness. Dave Wallace (News - Alert) of Aligned Communications wrote, “The channel managers that are timely in getting not just pricing, but answers on complicated design or post-sale support issues, are the ones that get more of my customers' business.”
Communications and accessibility are other key ingredients of responsiveness, agrees Yvonne Fry of Lines of Communications. Today, it isn’t just about voicemail or e-mail. Text, IM, even social networks are ways that CM’s can communicate with agents to keep them in the know. These same avenues allow for accessibility, which leads to responsiveness.
Product knowledge is not as critical as organizational knowledge. Ian Kieninger of AVANT wrote, “They need to be experts in navigating their own company's internal processes and politics.” It takes organizational knowledge to solve issues like repair, billing and channel conflict. A result of downsizing has been that many employees do not have relationships with other departments within the carrier. This could result in a hampered effort to resolve issues that can mean the difference between retaining and losing not just a customer, but an agent’s business.
The distinguishing feature for a CM is cognizance that the agent’s livelihood is impacted by the abilities of the CM. It is this very understanding that can lead to a successful relationship between the CM and the agent. We are in the relationship business. (All relationships rely upon communications.) Since the CM is the conduit to the carrier, the CM has to win the business – for the CM, the carrier and the agent.
The surprise is that as critical a role as the channel manager plays, there is very little training or education available.
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Edited by Stefania Viscusi