Partner Portal Navigation – How to Improve and Increase Partner Usage and Resulting ROI

Most manufacturers today provide their dealer partners with websites and web applications to assist them in their business. There can be systems for sales and pricing, parts ordering and tracking, warranty processing, online training, document storage and retrieval, and other unique applications developed by the company’s IT group. But what you may not hear or see through surveys is whether your dealers are internally complaining about the “systems” and “websites” and “extranets” that they “must use” when they do business with you. And you know when they tell you “you’re difficult to do business with,” you have a problem. myloweslife.com

No one creates these systems to make it “difficult” for the user. They are all there for a good reason – usually to help with one particular process. But when more and more are added over time, it becomes increasingly difficult for dealers to keep track of these disparate resources and use them effectively. The resulting tangled web creates confusion and frustration. But it doesn’t have to be that way any longer. You can provide your dealers relief through the adoption of a True Partner Portal, and in the process increase the mindshare of your dealers’ employees, resulting in an improved ROI for everyone.

What is a Partner Portal?
Companies have tried to solve this “tangled web” problem by implementing single sign on (SSO) entry points so that dealer partners can access their sites with just one log-in. Although this certainly helps control the confusion, it is really only a Band-Aid solution for the issues that these multiple websites create. It doesn’t truly optimize the user experience and provide the benefits that a partner portal does.

Many forward-thinking companies today are starting to take advantage of a True Partner Portal. Simply defined, a partner portal is a web-based system that allows the dealer to obtain direct access to a variety of resources, like pricing and sales information, proprietary applications and technical details and support. It is typically accessed through a non-public web site and requires the use of a username and password. In this sense, it is similar to an SSO solution.

But that’s where the similarity ends. Whereas individual manufacturer systems are designed from the viewpoint of the department creating them, a True Partner Portal offers a completely different perspective. It’s looking through the eyes of the user, the dealer employee, rather than individual departments or groups in the organization. What should a dealer equipment sales person have available to present a product to a customer? What systems and information must a dealer parts counterperson have at his fingertips to efficiently do his job? What does the dealer service manager or service technician need to complete their repair? That is the perspective that a True Partner Portal can provide. These dealer employees need a solution that can bring all of the individual systems together and make it “easy” for them to do their job. Here’s a list of the some of the most important elements needed for any partner portal.

Single Sign On – As already mentioned, this is the first and most important piece of any partner portal. Individuals must be able to go to one place only to access the applications and information they need.

Role Based Personalization – If you only show people what they require to do their job, you un-complicate their lives and make them happier. Systems must be integrated and personalized so individuals can quickly find and use the applications they need.

Ease of Use – People’s expectations of “ease of use” and “ease of navigation” have increased with web technology over the years. A portal’s navigation must be simple, intuitive and based on current technologies and conventions.

Integration Hub – “Ease of use” extends to simplifying business processes; where user requests from one business system can be validated and passed on to other management systems in support of key business processes.

Strong Content Management System – A robust CMS is a must. Users must be provided a way to search, view and download the assets they need quickly and easily.

Efficient Learning Management System – The LMS must be able to launch online courses, administer instructor-led training, and manage certifications, for each role at the dealership.

Powerful On-Line Collaboration – Given today’s acceptance of social media, dealer employees are “expecting” to be able to collaborate with others at the manufacturer level or with other dealers. This is not “socializing.” It is a platform to reach out to others, to get questions answered, to learn best practices, and obtain potential solutions for problems that arise.

Robust Administrative Tools – Don’t forget about your own people. They must be able to manage the portal efficiently. Administrators need to be able to post and remove assets easily, and update and change the site without HTML or other special training. They also require reporting dashboards to access information about the people and organizations they manage.

Are You Inter-Connected?
Today a company must offer more than just “connectivity” to its dealer partners. It must have a Total Partner Portal in place that achieves “inter-connectivity” to truly make it easy for their partners to do business with them. Users today have grown up with the web and use it almost 24/7. They expect their web experiences to be efficient and simple. They want to work with a manufacturer that cares enough to provide systems that make it simple for them to do their work, especially with the increased use of mobile and tablets. When this is accomplished, the dealer employee reaches out with loyalty and mindshare, creating more sales and profits, and increased ROI for all.