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Fixing Nagging Problems with RMtP

The Microsoft brand name is a big boost -- most of the time. You've told us it raises the profile of your company, it gets your foot in the door and it associates your company in customers' minds with effective products.

But there are times when that name carries baggage with customers -- and we're not talking about general references to the "Evil Empire" and such. Sometimes you find yourself talking to a customer who has a specific problem with a Microsoft product or license that pre-dates your firm's involvement or involves an area of the partner's infrastructure that you don't handle.

Enter a support program, called Response Management through Partner (RMtP), which gives partners a chance to be heroes. When a customer's efforts to resolve an issue online or through telephone support have failed, this program gives partners an avenue to escalate customer's problems and frustrations within Microsoft and get the issues resolved or acknowledged.

Todd Weatherby, general manager for the Partner Systems Analysis Team in the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group, says the most common questions involve licensing and security. "We had [partners] out there taking the heat on those things saying, 'Look, customers complain to me about licensing. I don't sell this product, but I want to help [these] guys. Where do I go?'"

The program is available to Certified and Gold Certified Partners, who can access the online form from the password-protected Microsoft Partner Portal. Under the "Support and Security" tab, RMtP is listed as "Issue Resolution" under the "support" heading.

The tool employs the same issue resolution process that Microsoft uses internally. Issues go to the Microsoft Response Management Team, which promises a reply within one business day. A complete resolution is typical within three days, according to the company.

The program is intended for certain issues and not for others. Microsoft encourages partners to use the secure, confidential form to submit customers':

  • Complaints about software bugs or product functionality problems
  • Suggestions for new product features
  • Issues with Microsoft licensing
  • Concerns about sales or marketing campaigns
  • Issues with account management

On the other hand, RMtP is not intended for questions about the Microsoft Partner Program, complaints about the Microsoft Partner Portal, pre-sales or competitive questions or post-sales deployment. Other Microsoft systems exist for those concerns.

C-Sat

Speaking of customer satisfaction, we've heard that since assuming responsibility for the Microsoft Partner Program, Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner is very interested in how satisfied customers are with partners.

While Microsoft is known as a metrics-obsessed company, Microsoft's data on customer satisfaction with partners is relatively thin. When Turner picked up responsibility for the partner program, Microsoft had customer satisfaction data on about 2,000 of its 350,000+ partner program members.

Keep an eye out for an increased push from Microsoft to find out how satisfied your customers are with your firm's services and solutions. -- S.B.

When the tool launched in 2005, Microsoft's expectations were modest. "We thought if we can do better than 50 percent in terms of actually getting a win for the customer, that would be great," Weatherby says. "It turns out there was so much misunderstanding that just clearing up the misunderstandings lets us resolve for the customer most of the time. It's up over 90 percent now."

Beyond helping customers and improving partners' stature with those customers, the tool has been useful for Microsoft as well.

Says Weatherby: "It really helps us on understanding where the breakdown is and understanding [the] complexity of our licensing system, and how we get the answers to the partners and the customers more quickly."

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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