“Market leading” is such a useful term when appended to a company name. It’s an almost indefinable word. Leading can cover just about anything. Yours could be a leading business in terms of price, leaders in technology, in innovation. However, one key way to know that you’re a market leader is based on the way you treat your customers.
Q: Are you a “Market Leader in terms of Customer Service Excellence”.
A: Your customers should be the judge of that!
When is the last time you asked your customers how they feel? When is the last time you sat down and had a real discussion with them? When you, together, evaluated their business and how your company/products/services could help them be the best?
Many suppliers give unofficial “happy scores” to their customers, often this will reside in a sales representatives’ head as a nickname (“Mr Grumpy-buyer”) or as a shorthand note on a customer file. These will only flag up issues when things are going badly wrong.
You might be surprised to know that many companies have never carried out any official customer service research. And a recent survey by B2B international, showed only 14% of large B2B companies are truly customer-centric, where the customer experience is an essential part of their company culture. (1)
Why is this important?
According to B2B International: “Most companies lose 45% to 50% of their customers every five years, and winning new customers can be up to 20 times more expensive than retaining existing customers.”(2)
They go on to say that “just a 5% reduction in the customer defection rate can increase profits by 25% to 85%, depending on the industry.” Ouch.
But do you need an official customer survey to get real results?
An official customer survey, carried out by an external organisation can bring very real benefits. It can also bring very real costs. However, getting anonymous and unbiased research can really only be carried out externally.
What’s the alternative?
Anonymity aside, there is little to match the business-enhancing power of taking the time to have a real heart-to-heart conversation with your customers. And in today’s fast-paced environment getting face to face with people is such a rarity that it can set your business apart.
Carrying out your own evaluations, here are a few useful ideas:
Be clear about the purpose of the evaluation. You want honest feedback, even if it is negative.
Listen, don’t challenge or justify, or talk over. Keep asking “what else”? You want the bad stuff – that’s where you can make the biggest improvements. But you won’t get to the bad stuff if you shut your customer down. So be brave, listen up and let your customer open their heart to you.
Take a few suggestions with you – to steer the conversation and get the most from it. These can include:
Check out what your competition is doing – so you can stage questions around them:
- Are they online with a new B2B ecommerce system?
- Do they have 24/7/365 ordering available?
- Does your competition have a personal account manager for each customer?
- Do they run incentives, campaigns, offers, deals?
Remind yourself what your own company has been doing, what changes they have made recently
- Did your customers welcome the changes? Do they like them now?
- How are your products performing?
- How do your customers view the ongoing marketplace for your products?
And ask – how important are all the above in terms of your customer making the decision to buy from you?
Well you’ve taken the time to ask the questions… now you’ve got to act on the answers. This doesn’t mean you have got to agree completely with every suggestion your customers have made. But it does mean you need to make some decisions – even if these are just the decisions to defer a choice. It’s also good practice to tell clients what will be done, when and why.
Long term. Return, review, analyse.
Remember to plan your next annual customer satisfaction conversations. In the meantime keep an eye on how your changes have affected your customers spending patterns. Check in with their sales representatives. You want to measure all the results of your efforts.
Fast-tracking the solutions – don’t
Until you’ve got research and conversations from a number of customers, don’t be tempted to rush into deals and ideas that you might not want long-term. Instead, using facilitated conversations with your own staff, you can identify where even more skills and solutions already exist in-house.
Customer Satisfaction is just a start…
Meeting with your employees and engaging them with your schemes for improvement also give them ownership and more involvement. Setting up working teams to look into specific changes can also mean your company can start to lead from within. And now you’re a company leading in terms of both customer satisfaction and employee engagement.
By Aspidistra. Thought leaders in B2B ecommerce and customer service