You’re a smart business owner.
You keep up to date with the latest trends.
You really like the whole customer feedback idea, and maybe you’ve heard about Net Promoter but you’re just too small for it to be useful, aren’t you?
Maybe you think that as a B2B company, you don’t have enough customers to make the data collection useful.
Don’t be so sure. Customer feedback of all types and NPS, in particular, can be used effectively in businesses of all sizes, including small and medium B2B businesses.
1. Prepare For the Truth and Open Your Mind
The heading sounds very new age, but the truth is that in a small business, you are much more likely to know personally and have interacted substantially with a good proportion of your customers. So the feedback will feel much more personal.
That’s all well and fine for positive feedback but if you want honest feedback, some of it’s not going to be pretty.
And, when a customer provides negative feedback about your business the natural reaction will be to dismiss it.
You’ll tell yourself that the customer is wrong (can a customer be wrong in their opinion?), they don’t understand, it was only a specific problem on one project, they are just a grumpy, etc.
Accepting feedback that is negative hurts but if you dismiss it, you will be the one that is wrong. So, before the first survey is sent or the first phone call made, prepare yourself and start with an open mind.
2. Start Listening
The first task is to decide what and how you will listen to your clients.
What to Ask
When designing your survey there are a few key items you need to consider:
What Might be Important
Firstly you should ask questions about what might be important to your clients. Sounds simple but it’s not. See this post for more on how to uncover what might be important to your customers
Resist the Urge to Keep Adding Questions
Keep the survey as short as possible. It keeps response rates high and client annoyance low. Give yourself a limit of maybe 5 or 10 questions and stick to it. That will force you to prioritise what is important.
Aside: Some Net Promoter® proponents suggest just two questions: The “would recommend” question and an open text question. When you have large volumes of customer feedback, this approach is very effective. However, when you are only surveying a few customers, this approach has problems trying to identify the underlying issues. So you should ask a few more service attribute questions to help you determine what needs to be done.
Don’t Market to Them
As Joe Friday of Dragnet was famous for saying you want “Just the facts ma’am.” Don’t drop in few sales slanted questions: what is your budget next year, how many widgets do you need, etc. To customers, that’s changed the survey to “Oh the survey was just an excuse to sell to me.” Response rates will drop and so will trust.
Include an Outcome Question
Our favourite is the Net Promoter question but you could also use customer satisfaction.
Some people worry that the NPS requires a large sample size to be statistically significant and that is technically correct. However, you are really just looking for a good indicator of customer loyalty for the specific respondent and for that NPS is arguably the best.
My advice is not to get too hung up on the statistical analysis. Use the approach to get feedback from your clients through a standard survey process and action it. Just taking this step will put you ahead of most organisations.
Include Some Text (or Qualitative) Feedback Questions
These are critical questions as they will tell you what and how you need to change to improve. Just don’t add in too many (2 or 3 is enough) as they make the survey more complex for the respondent.
How to Listen
There are lots of ways to listen, but these days only two are really worthwhile: Internet surveys and Telephone interviews.
Have a third party (can be a contract interviewer) call key client staff at the end of engagement with your short survey. For long term clients maybe do it every six months, rotating clients so you don’t over survey them.
Make sure that you don’t call them yourself (or have one of your staff do the call). Customers have a much harder time telling you the truth in person (well over the phone), and you want to make it easy for them.
These interviews are relatively expensive you probably want to limit them to key customers.
There are lots and lots of internet survey platforms out there, and they are a good way to get feedback from larger numbers of clients at a low cost.
You can use this channel to collect feedback from a large number of individuals. Again you can survey people at the end of a key engagement, but you can also use them to collect information from customers who might have been through a one-off workshop or other important elements of the engagement.
3. Start Doing
So now you know what your customers think. It’s time to start taking action.
Review your feedback and determine how and what to change in your business to improve your performance. It may not be immediately clear what needs to be done so consider contacting customers who provided negative feedback for follow-up details.
The changes don’t have to be enormous, but they do need to occur. If you don’t make any changes to your business, you have just wasted all the time and effort expended in collecting the information.
You have also wasted your customers’ time. Not a nice thing to do.
4. Let Your Customers Know You have Heard Them
The survey is done, the results are counted, you’ve taken some action; time to relax.
Not so fast. The last thing you need to do is go back to your clients and let them know you heard them. After all, they invested time and effort to provide the feedback. The least you can do is telling them what you have done with it.