Nowadays we’re told to sell solutions rather than features and benefits.  Sometimes it’s taken to extremes – haulage companies offer “logistics solutions”.  And most of us smile wryly when we see Waste Management Solutions emblazoned on the back of a vehicle.

First you identify the problem. Then you offer a solution. Easy.

OK. Let’s take customer feedback. If your company is of a certain size and you’re in B2B then there’s a good chance that you’re accredited to one of the quality standards in the ISO9000 family. As a result, you will have a quality procedure manual. And in that manual it states that customer feedback will be collected regularly, every 2 years or so, looked at and acted upon.

Let’s take a look at some of the problems associated with getting that feedback:-

Low response rates from web and e-mailed based surveys; skewed or downright false results when conducted by the sales team; unattributed data if the survey has been performed by a member of the MRS or ESOMAR; overly expensive if conducted over the ‘phone; only available in English or a few languages; or only asking one [or two] questions if it’s The Ultimate Question [aka Net Promoter].  But these, in the main, are the problems of the do-ers – those good people who have to organise the survey, have it taken from their budget, and report back the results.  What fascinates me are the top-level drivers for conducting a B2B customer satisfaction survey in the first place.

Some CEOs claim that customer satisfaction is the ultimate driver for their business.  Personally I think that you’ve got to be making pretty substantial profits before your shareholders will allow you to make such remarks.  More often there is a strategic underlying reason for the survey, and here are some of them: –

Due diligence

The difference between net asset value and the price paid for a business in an acquisition appears as Good Will on the balance sheet.  If we conduct a quick customer satisfaction survey for a client during the due diligence period then the assessment of the business, from the customers point[s] of view, helps not only to decide the price to be paid but also gives a clear indication as to how the first few months of new ownership will pan out.  If the customers are totally satisfied then the new owners can take their time looking at the strategic issues.  If, however, there are a significant number of dissatisfied customers then the new owner needs to act quickly on the operational front, to restore confidence and keep the existing customers – to look at a much nearer horizon.  And obviously the worth of the latter business is much lower than that of the former.

Benchmarking

We conduct a large number of surveys covering different business units of a single enterprise.  The different business units might be branches within a country, the might be different countries within a continent, or a CEO might even want to compare and contrast the different operating efficacies in a worldwide customer satisfaction survey by looking at EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa), the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) region, and the Americas.  When this is coupled to InfoQuest’s own hugely powerful benchmark scores, built up from the 100,000+ surveys we’ve conducted since 1989, world class customer satisfaction scores can be applied to any organisation.

Continuous Improvement

Some of our clients have embraced a culture of continuous improvement – possibly under the banner of Kaizen, possibly under the banner of Six Sigma, possibly just “because we know that it is best practice”.  For these clients, getting a very high satisfaction score from a face-to-face survey [see notes on the website about the Cassandra phenomenon] or an in-house telephone survey is unhelpful.  These clients are, single-mindedly, looking for ways to improve their business.  They don’t need the stroking and emotional reinforcement.  They want clues and direction as to what they can do better on their quest for the far horizon of Utopia.  When we run a post-survey workshop with a client’s senior team we are looking for a mountain of little ideas that are then prioritised [see the Brainstorm Workshop notes on the Downloads page] and linked in to the continuous improvement programme.  [The record for this is currently held by a company the manufactures rubber hoses for diesel engines – they came up with 165 ideas for increasing profitable sales based on the feedback we’d gathered for them from their customers].

There are, of course, many other “reasons” for conducting InfoQuest’s in-depth business-to-business customer satisfaction surveys.  For a discussion about the tactics or to get an idea of the costs involved – as one person put it recently; about the same as a two-page advertisement in a trade magazine that nobody reads – please contact me, John Coldwell, on +44 (0)1484 868 395.