Your Most Important Customers

How to Choose Which of your Customers Should be Included in your B2B Customer Satisfaction Survey


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.  This is aimed at 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.  It is this second, business process analysis review that I want to concentrate on.

The raison d’être for any B2B customer satisfaction survey should be “To increase profitable sales”.  The increases will come from three routes.

  • Reduce customer churn
    • We need to identify individual dissatisfied customers, find out what has led to the dissatisfaction and do something about it.
  • Sell more to existing customers
    • Using “share of wallet” or “percentage penetration” figures will help identify key customers who could and should be buying more from you.
  • Increase prices
    • Customers that love you will, by definition, understand and value your company’s contribution to their success.  If you go the extra mile, and your customer knows that (and values that) then that opportunity should be realised.

Statistical validity is not important for a typical B2B customer satisfaction (C-Sat) survey on the basis that a) the number of customers is not large when compared with B2C, b) the relationships are already being managed by key account managers and c) these  customers are all different anyway.  Remember, in an InfoQuest C-Sat survey we will be telling you exactly who said what, and InfoQuest has an average response rate of 70%.  So it’s important that you choose the most important customers to be included in your survey.

Take a look at these two diagrams.

Revenue curve

Most people will recognise the above Customer Profile by Revenue diagram as being similar to their own circumstance.  Parǽto’s 80:20 theory defines the curve – The A customers being the major buyers of your goods or services and the C customers being the tail-end Charlies.

Contribution curve

The second customer profile diagram highlights what often happens in terms of contribution [to the bottom line].

The A customers know the power of their spending.  It can feel like they are buying from you as though they are buying a commodity rather than a value-added item.  The extra demands from large buyers can include special packaging, special deliveries, training, 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 to keep the A customers because of what they bring to the relationship.  They deliver the volumes that you need in order to gain the economies of scale – without which you couldn’t service those profitable B customers.

My personal 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 that’s a bad thing.

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 we’re looking for references, referrals, case-studies, cross-selling, up-selling and more business.

When it comes to the C customers, those 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.

For more guidance, please also see:

The 10-step B2B Customer Satisfaction Survey Pre-Survey Check List and

Getting the most out of your B2B customer satisfaction survey – maximising the share of wallet

Or call InfoQuest on the number at the top of this page.  Ask for John Coldwell.  See how InfoQuest can provide you with more valuable ideas that will help you increase your company’s profitability. Today.

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