Customer satisfaction is not an altruistic goal. Totally satisfied customers will give your company references, referrals, case studies, more business and better margins for a fraction of the cost of gaining new customers.

Getting in-depth, actionable opinions from the majority of your most important customers is the first step. The second step is to prioritise the corporate action plan – to cash the cheque from your research.

A well-planned and carefully implemented survey which is properly followed through should result in a minimum of a 10% increase in sustainable revenue.

Best practice for obtaining feedback from your customers requires two parallel systems.

The first is a regular, event-based telephone call from your own people to the customers, at an appropriate time following the delivery of your products and services. This is to make sure that all went well and, if it didn’t, allows knowledgeable people to sort out any issues as quickly as possible. Call the recipients of your products and services who, by the way, are not necessarily the decision-makers.

The second is an occasional (every 12 – 24 months) in-depth survey of the decision-makers, looking at all your systems, disciplines and procedures, and looking for any “people” issues.  InfoQuest could help with this.

Who are your Most Important Customers?

Statistical validity is not relevant for the typical B2B customer satisfaction survey because a) the number of customers you have is not large when compared with B2C, b) the relationships are already being managed by your key account managers and c) your customers all have different needs and wants. So it’s important that you choose your most important customers to be included in your survey.

N.B. The following assumes that you are not using Activity Based Costing.

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Most people will recognise the above diagram, with customer groups A, B and C running along the x axis. Parǽto’s 80:20 theory defines the curve, with A’s being the major buyers of your goods or services and the C’s being the tail-end Charlies.

The second diagram, below, highlights what often happens in terms of the contribution from these same customer groups.

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Your A customers know the power of their spending. They buy from you as though they are buying a commodity rather than a value-added item. The extra demands made by large customers can include special packaging, special deliveries, stock-holding, extra-long credit terms, days out playing golf – all on top of extra-keen prices. These extra costs regularly turn A customers into marginal accounts.

But you need the A customers. They deliver the volumes that you need in order to gain the economies of scale – without which you couldn’t service the B customers.

My advice to clients is to carry out the C-Sat survey on the A’s and the B customers.

The survey needs to identify if any of the A customers are looking like they might take their business elsewhere, to the competition. If that happened, news of the migration might get out, leaked to the trade press, and some of your B customers might follow without knowing the full story.

And the B customers need to be surveyed so that more can be sold to them. This is where your profit comes from. This is where your sales people should be looking for references, referrals, case-studies, cross-selling, up-selling and more business.

When it comes to the C customers, these tail-end Charlies, they won’t be left out; they’ll benefit from the generic improvements you’ll be making to your systems, disciplines and procedures for the A’s and B’s.