B2B customer satisfaction is about people, not entities
If you are a leader in a business, you are concerned with customer satisfaction. The tools and technology to understand customer satisfaction have changed massively in the last decade, mostly for the better. The ability for consumers to provide feedback via online forums has changed the game for many B2C product and service providers (though not always in a positive way).
Less discussed is monitoring customer satisfaction in a B2B context. There are fundamental differences to how customer satisfaction should be measured and understood when most of your customers are other businesses. We’re not interested in prescribing any particular methodology for surveying your business customers for their satisfaction (although we generally prefer Net Promoter Score for its brevity – your business customers are busy and they don’t want to answer a 20-question survey). But what you do with those results can have a big impact.
Focus on the individual, not the aggregate
The point of failure we often see is that executives tend to interpret their feedback results in the aggregate (e.g. “How does X Company feel about our product or service?”) rather than how they should interpret the results: by individual respondent. Even when your customer is a business, the business itself isn’t your customer – the people who work there are. By measuring satisfaction on the entity level, you miss important distinctions, as well as opportunities to address concerns and reinforce your value proposition. In a B2B context, there are likely only a handful of individuals at your client company that truly matter to customer satisfaction.
It is true that for certain organizations and at particular levels, a focus on the aggregate scores is warranted. The CEO of a fortune 500 should focus on the highest-level results. But chances are if you are reading this article, you are not one of those leaders – you should be digging in to your client’s satisfaction at a more granular level. Do not let your level lead you to believe that you are above getting granular with your satisfaction survey results.
Your account management team should also manage your customer satisfaction level at the individual level. When a customer gives you feedback in a survey, take that to heart, and put together an action plan around that particular individual.
Tailor your granularity
You might think that’s impossible, that you have too many clients to manage such an undertaking – and maybe you do. But there is nothing stopping you from increasing your granularity with plans tailored to your top 100 business clients or every business client in the purchasing function. There is always a way to efficiently implement a program based on individual customer feedback. Of course, your client’s level in the organization may also drive an individual customer response program.
You have an excellent resource to accomplish this goal: your account management team. Collecting feedback from their individual clients and putting together action plans around those individuals should be a primary component of their role. Otherwise, they will tend to default to solving individual client issues, while underlying causes are not addressed.
Proactively respond to feedback
Another objection we often encounter to this methodology is that not every client responds to the satisfaction survey – so what about the ones who didn’t respond? Why should we only worry about the ones who did respond? Well, the answer is kind of obvious: anyone who takes the time to respond to a customer satisfaction survey has something on their mind, and unless you proactively address their concern, it can spread and affect others in the organization. Remember the old maxim: never let perfect be the enemy of better.
Training account managers in their fundamental responsibility to manage this process is an enormous part of your role as a client leader, and focusing on your B2B client satisfaction process at the micro level will pay dividends in both coaching for your team and client satisfaction.
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