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Evaluating the B2B Customer Experience Effectively: Program Design is Key to Success

B2B companies have a unique challenge in evaluating customer experience. Many times the sales and business cycle is long and consists of several steps to complete the entire experience. This may be in the form of initial order placement/purchase, delivery or products and services, and final billing. Depending on the industry, there may be steps in between that don’t necessarily apply to all customers – perhaps a company that offers rentals and some customers may require service calls – so how is it possible to fully evaluate the customer experience with so many moving parts?

A well formulated and thought out feedback process will serve to be an effective tool. Thinking outside of a traditional “how did we do?” type format is the best way to approach this.

Why?

Since the B2B processes are much longer than a typical retail experience, for example, it’s best to get feedback while the experience is fresh in the minds of customers. So the logical thought may be surveying customers at each step of the process. However, that could lead to response burnout as customers may be inclined the respond to one or two requests for feedback, but will soon tire of completing feedback surveys each time they have an experience with a company.

So what’s the answer? There are three guidelines to consider to create an efficient program:

Take time to lay the foundation

Initial planning will help with this. The first thing to think about is the customer experience, from start to finish. What basic steps are involved for a customer to do business with you? If you sell products or services, that may be initial purchase order, receipt of products/services, billing processes, and resolution of any issues if they arise.

If the company rents products, that journey may look a bit different. It may start with the initial order, then to delivery of items, any service or maintenance calls if they are necessary, return of the products, final billing, and overall experience.

Survey design

Once you determine the steps of the journey, it’s easy to create separate feedback surveys to capture journey specific information. This will be effective in reviewing customer satisfaction at each step of the process – you may find that when people are dissatisfied with an overall experience, it could be due to one specific part of the journey. If you don’t know what step that is until the experience is over, it’s too late to work to improve it. However, if feedback is captured along each step of the way, it’s easier to pinpoint the weaker areas of the process and fix them quickly.

Keep the surveys as short as possible. Multiple surveys allows for fewer questions and journey specific questions to be asked. Carefully consider what information is needed to get the appropriate feedback – nothing more, nothing less – and build a short survey for each step of the journey.

Develop contact rules

What about response exhaustion? A well designed system can alleviate response rate reduction that comes with surveying the same customers at each step of the journey.

Consider setting up some initial guidelines for the feedback process. One example may look like this:

  1. Create call list segmentation for each step of the process. A list of customers who recently placed orders is compiled and used to request feedback on this step of the process. A second list is created for those who received a delivery of products/services within the last 3 weeks, and so forth.

Each contact list will reflect a different list of customers. However, depending on the business model, some companies may find themselves on one or more contact lists at one time. To alleviate this, additional parameters are needed.

  • From each list, cross reference to remove companies that fall on one or more list. From there, determine which companies have been contacted in the last six to 12 months. This takes away the chance to contact a customer too often.
  • Create a feedback cadence to request feedback at key times – not too soon after an experience but not too far out either. Some of this will depend on the size of the customer base, the length of the customer cycle, and other key factors. Ideally, customers should be contacted within one to two weeks of experience an interaction with a company.
  • Decide on a request format. Will telephone or email (or a mix of both) get the best results? Initially, test email and telephone based survey requests. Many customers are busy and do not answer calls from unknown phone numbers, but this is not always the case. Some companies find that telephone requests have a better response rate over email requests. Furthermore, they find that customers who are contacted via telephone tend to share more narrative detail regarding their experience. This unstructured commentary can yield information that would never be uncovered with a more traditional survey set up.

With so many moving pieces to the customer cycle, it can seem like an overwhelming process at first. However, once it is set up and a cadence is determined, the process can run smoothly and provide deeper insight about the entire customer experience, quickly finding strengths and areas for improvement.

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