Customer experience (CX) and Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs are fast-growing segments of a core business strategy for B2B companies. VoC programs work well for B2B enterprises because capturing and acting on customer feedback is critical to understanding the complex decision-making process.
Due to the many people involved in the buying process, businesses must create tailored feedback mechanisms and use a variety of feedback channels. Follow up and closing the loop with stakeholders will have a significant impact on building long term customer relationships.
Critical aspects of VoC for B2B include:
- Involvement of sales: In B2B, the sales force should be highly involved in the execution of the VoC program.
- Multiple customers: The multiple influencers involved in buying decisions means there are multiple customers within a single account, all with competing priorities.
- Account value: B2B accounts are worth millions. A B2B-er can’t afford to let any account fall through the cracks.
- Loyalty measures: “Likely to recommend” measures (i.e., Net Promoter Score -- NPS) metrics can be much less relevant in a B2B climate than in B2C, for reasons we’ll discuss later.
Changing the Company Culture
The foundation of a good VoC/CX program in a B2B company requires trying to change the company culture -- both from the top down as well as from the bottom up. Marketing your program internally will go a long way toward accomplishing this.
Brand your VoC program
Promote your VoC program by giving it a memorable brand name (CompanyX Cares, Customer Champion, etc.) and use it (and an eye-catching logo) on a variety of promotional materials such as training manuals, shirts, portfolios, pens, mugs or anything that your team will use daily.
Get executive support
Though executives appreciate clever branding, the more success stories with quantifiable results you can circulate, the more support you will garner. Ideally, you will want to integrate your program into as many corporate Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) as possible (not just in the sales team’s KPIs), so be sure to involve executives throughout all divisions of the company.
Offer educational tools
Educational tools such as newsletters, training guides and videos are useful in the branding process and absolutely critical to the effectiveness and “buy in” of your program. Use them with supporting resources such as survey tools, customer templates, phone call scripts, meeting templates and team mentoring efforts.
Get grassroots support
Though executive buy-in is critical to getting a VoC program off the ground, grassroots support is just as crucial to making it a success. Without it, “push” from the top will be resented, and those who are actually implementing it won’t take the program seriously.
A Process That Works for Sales
Sales teams need support tools to nurture proper habits. They know how to sell, but they might not know how to elicit feedback (especially negative comments), listen carefully, and conscientiously and non-defensively follow up.
Here are some ideas for creating good habits and encouraging support of the VoC program:
- Encourage sales reps to provide feedback and suggestions. This creates instant buy-in by making them part of the process.
- Help them break the ice with customers by providing email templates, phone call scripts and role paying sessions.
- Give your sales team real-time access to customer feedback. Knowing they can analyze and respond to customer issues faster than the competition gives them confidence to make those important customer calls.
- Instill a strategic focus by streamlining all VoC processes. Choose the right channels to communicate with sales. Broadcast voicemails and try newsletters to keep the teams up to date -- but make them informative.
Create incentives based on survey response rates
Salespeople are the superheroes of most B2B companies. They make the rain that fuels growth. Your program should focus on the real payoff for sales: decreased churn and increased sales. If it facilitates better selling, salespeople will get engaged.
One B2B company tied survey response rates to annual goals, and the company expects reps to survey each and every customer contact. Only those sales reps who reach a predetermined response rate receive a bonus. Incentives based on response rates are much more effective than those based on engagement or NPS scores in meeting these goals because of a focus on participation versus good or bad scores.
Tie response rate to sales goals
VoC processes give customers a voice and prompt even those who are silently unhappy to voice their feedback. Better to ask for it and hear it, than find out too late. Additionally, account managers can benefit from a common source of information about how all accounts are doing, what is being heard and what is being done.
Close the loop: Facilitate customer-focused account planning
Closing the loop with individual customers and taking action at a corporate level are both good practices, but many B2B loyalty programs forget to enable action at the account level too. To enable customer focused account planning, start by making it easy for salespeople to get to know entire accounts -- which customers have and haven’t responded to surveys, their roles and their actual responses. Then provide a simple template salespeople can use to track account level issues, actions, action owners and status updates.
As an example, one B2B company asks account reps to follow up with every customer, whether they respond to a customer survey or not. If they do respond, the rep thanks the person and sets up a meeting to discuss an action plan, if necessary. If they do not respond, the account rep sets the stage by observing that this customer did not participate in sharing candid feedback and asks for a frank discussion.
Use of VoC Technology
Look for a VoC technology platform that can tie customer feedback to sales and operational data, make feedback available at all levels and incorporates a closed loop feedback system. The ultimate goal of any VoC technology is to help you provide actionable business intelligence that tells a powerful story that executives want to see regularly.
VoC programs that focus on response rates must have tools to notify busy sales teams of dissatisfied customers and potential account crises. Whether a customer has responded to a survey, proactively sent an online comment or simply requests contact, the appropriate sales rep must be immediately notified.
Take Action and Measure Results
How do you quantify results or return on investment (ROI) when evaluating the success of your VoC program? B2B companies can use revenue from business development and lifetime value (LTV) metrics such as those below as a basis for ROI:
- Repeat/expanded business among established customers
- Successful new products or services resulting from customer feedback programs
- Retention of established customers
- Recommendations/referrals from existing customers leading to new business
- Rescue and recovery of dissatisfied customers
- Revenue from improved lifetime value (LTV) of customers.
Though all types of companies share the same main objective of a VoC program -- ensuring a great customer experience every step of the way -- in a B2B company, more emphasis is needed on changing the company culture. Therefore, B2B firms need to create incentives and provide simple processes for gathering and taking action on customer feedback. Central to this is the ability for salespeople to see the value in VoC programs through improved customer relationships and retention.
Title image courtesy of VikaSuh (Shutterstock)