B2B Customer Experience
measurement differs radically from B2C
Most of what you know about B2C CX must be done differently for B2B.
We are all familiar with the survey requests we consumers receive by email, and with pop-up feedback requests on websites. Despite low response rates, these are effective feedback mechanisms for two simple reasons:
- First, we, the people who receive the feedback requests, are indeed the people who make the purchase decisions.
- Second, we are all pretty much equal. My feedback to Amazon as an end customer has about the same value to Amazon as the feedback from any other end customer.
Five reasons B2B CX measurement is different
Things are not so simple in B2B. Our temptation to just push out the surveys to whatever contact list we happen to have is wrong, or at least sub-optimal. Here are five reasons:
The people who use your products or services are often not the same as the people who buy them. Think about a company that provides restaurant services to its clients. The end-users – the people who eat the food in Company X – have no role at all in the supplier selection. The CEO of X and the leadership team may have no role either. Sole responsibility may belong to a procurement manager, Sam. Sam’s only objective is that any new contract should cost less than the previous one. You need feedback from Sam, or your research will be worthless.
Who for What:
If yours is a large company with many products and services and your client is also a large company, things change again. Each of your products or services may be sold to a different part of your client company. Asking for feedback about individual products and services may be relatively easy. But whom do you ask for overall brand-level feedback?
People at your client company may change jobs. Your contact and feedback request list must be current. And beware: if you send your request by email to someone who has changed jobs they may still respond, but based on obsolete knowledge.
It may be hard for your clients to change vendors – both administratively and emotionally. Your customers want you to be successful. Those who chose your company have invested some personal reputation in the decision, particularly if the purchase is substantial. They may hesitate to give you honest negative feedback. They may be particularly reluctant if the feedback will become known to others in their organization.
The various issues are intertwined. But one that affects all the others is the relative size of customers. You must handle your largest customers differently. They know their importance and they expect to be treated as special.
You must handle your largest customers differently. They know their importance and they expect to be treated as special.
Consider the way you ask people for feedback. Should you really just send the same email to someone who spent a million dollars with you as to a person who spent $10k? (No!) Should you send a feedback request to just a single person in both companies? (Again, No!)
Differentiate your approach
Your research and improvement process is a strategic weapon that can give you a competitive edge. For your most important customers, make sure your process is more effective than what your competitors use.
The metrics must be reliable. You must keep track of how the same people respond in successive research waves. Your process must produce credible, customer-specific improvement suggestions.
Consider interviewing your top customers face-to-face. If you have a corporate executive sponsor program, think about asking the executive sponsors to do the interviews. Use the executive sponsors to agree improvement actions for that specific customer.
Our temptation to just push out the surveys to whatever contact list we happen to have is wrong, or at least sub-optimal
Use your own operational metrics
Too many CX initiatives rely only on survey data. Day-to-day operational data is usually at least as important. If you are a product company, how has your delivery performance been trending? Have the customers had a lot of warranty issues? If you are a service company, how has your performance measured up to what is specified in the service level agreement?
Weight the data for reporting
If your company has some very large customers and many much smaller ones, weight the data by revenue. But note that a statistically complex approach is difficult to explain. We suggest you present three numbers, or ideally three trends:
- The overall number or trend for all customers, without any weighting.
- The ‘Top 20’ number or trend. (This can also be ‘Top 50’ or whatever is the number of big customers that you feel deserve a special approach.)
- The number or trend for ‘the rest’, meaning everyone except the Top 20.
One last subtlety to consider
You may want to consider whether your Top 20 should be the customers you would like to have as Top 20, rather than your current list. If so, estimate how much the various customers spend on your type of products and services. Note whether they spend that money with you or with your competitors. You could pick, for example, five customers who spend very large sums with your main competitor. Use your CX measurement and improvement process to capture them.
Always remember: your measurement and improvement process can be a competitive weapon!
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OCX Cognition delivers the future of NPS. We ensure customer experience success by combining technology and data science with programmatic consulting. In our Insights section, we present a comprehensive and evolving collection of resources based on our research and expertise, collected for CX leaders committed to delivering business outcomes.