Have you seen the EFQM (European Foundation for Quality Management) model? I was reminded of it the other day. I must admit, I’d forgotten how powerful it can be.

The model is based on nine criteria, including enablers and results, and each criteria is allocated a score of how important it is regarding the big picture and the journey towards excellence. As with all models, the power is in its ability to focus discussions and decisions.


I first came across the model when working as a consultant, twenty years ago. We’d introduced measures for managing businesses holistically, similar to and at around the same time that Norton and Kaplan introduced the Balanced Scorecard. The EFQM was another way of looking at the whole business; getting silo-managers to look beyond their narrow horizons; looking at the value chain and, wherever possible, removing all those non-value-adding activities.

At the time I remember focussing in on the Customer Results or Customer Satisfaction section. It was just one of the nine elements, and yet it accounted for 200 points – higher than any other single criteria. I’d spent virtually all my working life in B2B. I still love factories. But I’d come across very few customers. And yet here they were, on the EFQM model – the most important single element of a business.

The team were all asking the same question – how do we measure customer satisfaction in a B2B environment. In B2C it’s easy – you walk the floor, meeting, greeting and listening to your customers. But in B2B? Yes, there were surveys that were used once a year just prior to the ISO 9000 audit – but you were limited to just a few questions and only a tiny number ever came back. (By fax. Another bit of nostalgia!). Or, there were horror stories about how one big American corporation sent the surveys out with the sales reps. The sales reps sat down with the customers and they filled in the surveys together. The cherry on top of the icing was that the sales reps were paid a bonus depending on how good the survey results were.

In 1999 our research led us to InfoQuest and I’m afraid that I fell in love. What InfoQuest brought to the party was the ability to pose up to 60 questions and statements in any language; elicit a 60% fully attributed response rate; and benchmark the results against thousands of similar B2B operations. It dug deep into the customer relationships and provided hugely valuable and highly actionable feedback.

Web-based surveys have come and gone. (What value is a 10% to 15% response rate?) But the InfoQuest survey box has survived and thrives in this digital age, and I’m proud that we found it.

Best practice requires two parallel systems, of which the box is just one. But thank you to EFQM for focussing my research.

See also

How Often Should You Conduct A Customer Satisfaction Survey

The EFQM Model in Action

The Balanced Scorecard