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Editorial

Making Customer Surveys Count in the B2B, Industrial Worlds

5 minute read
Ken Peterson avatar
CX and CSAT can be just as important for B2B or industrial sales. After all, you're dealing with people here, too. Here’s why it all matters.

If you read my columns here, you’ll note I focus a lot on consumer insights and customer experience (CX) approaches. But guess what? CX and CSAT can be just as important for B2B or industrial sales.

Here’s why:

When Customer Satisfaction Surveys Are a Must

If you’re an industrial business that has to comply with ISO 9001 or any other derivative of an international manufacturing standard such as TS 16949 for those supplying the automotive industry, or maybe GMP for those supplying pharmaceuticals and healthcare, then running an annual customer satisfaction survey is a condition of doing business in your industry.

Any international manufacturing certification (such as ISO 9001, TS 16949, or GMP) requires regular customer satisfaction surveys, and they also require that those survey results drive the improvements in the business.

And it’s not just the ISO folks that require it. Companies who are applying for quality awards such as the Malcolm Baldrige Award also require a robust customer satisfaction survey process that yields results that actually improve the business system.

While these awards and certification boards will tell you what to do, they don’t usually tell you how to do it. What you generally need to produce is:

  • A determination on how well you’ve performed with your customers.
  • An understanding of what unmet needs your customers have that you can deliver.
  • Generate ideas for new products or services.
  • Identify new opportunities.

Related Article: The Most Important Customer Survey Question

If You Have to Do a Customer Survey Anyway, Do it Right

WARNING — make your objectives as specific as possible. You can’t put an improvement team on the task to improve something general such as “overall satisfaction” if you don’t know what specific elements are behind that.

The first objective is to determine how well you’re meeting customers’ expectations. Simply asking the question as “Rate how well has (COMPANY X) met your expectations — on a scale of 1-10" will give you nothing but garbage. Say the results came back as having an average rating of 5.8 out of 10 in meeting your customer’s expectations. What changes would you put in place to increase that score? You don’t know because you didn’t ask that. You asked a general question about their expectations instead of a specific one.

The way to solve this problem is by using an Importance/Satisfaction style question. Create a list of attributes that are important to your customer (such as having a real person answer the phone) then have them rate how important that is to them and then have them rate their level of satisfaction with YOUR company.

Use a looping function and ask them what other alternatives they use, and have them rate YOUR competitors’ performance as well. As Keiningham, et al. noted in the Wallet Allocation Rule, knowing where you stand relative to your competition is as important as improving satisfaction with your own customers. 

Learning Opportunities

These results are GOLDEN and will yield a chart that will show you exactly what’s important to your customer and to what degree you and the competition are meeting those expectations. Not only THAT, but it will also attack those other objectives of identifying new opportunities, finding unmet needs as well as generating new product and service ideas! All of that was accomplished with just one series of questions.

Related Article: 5 Ways to Optimize Your Surveys for Better Customer Experience

Industrial Customers Are Also People

Industrial consumers are people, too. They are not robots, they speak, they send an email, they hang out on Facebook, LinkedIn Groups, Twitter and use the same products and services that regular consumers do. Just because they work for an organization that sells heavy-duty machinery or some kind of widget doesn’t mean that they leave their humanity at the door.

That said, industrial purchasers actually talk to each other and refer their peers to the companies, products and services that they use. In fact, in my research, I’ve discovered that many loyal supplier relationships are formed via referral. And if you’ve ever seen industrial websites, you’d notice that search engine optimization and marketing savvy aren’t exactly what attracts customers — it’s word of mouth.

In every customer satisfaction survey that you do, include the Net Promoter Score question. “How likely are you to refer (COMPANY X) to a friend or a colleague?”

Notice that I’ve adjusted the question to read “colleague” instead of a family member. I did this because so many of my clients don’t like to use “family members” for industrial products. I disagree with this approach because I think that using that term actually connotes a certain level of goodwill.

You would NEVER refer something to a friend or family member that you didn’t think was in their best interest. To me, it connotes a higher level of trust. But use your judgment and the phrase that works best for your industry.

So, whether it’s for your CX program, to achieve/continue certification, or to win a prestigious quality award, be deliberate with your survey methodologies and leverage the customer feedback as many ways as you can.

About the author

Ken Peterson

Ken Peterson, President of CX at QuestionPro, has over two decades of experience in the marketing research, retail, technology, hospitality and transportation industries with a recent focus on financially linked business insights, SaaS deployments and CX consultation. This ties in with his long history of P&L responsibility and detailed understanding of improving business operations.